Sun Valley, Off Thomas Drive, Hill Station, Off
Monday 26th January 2009
I wish to kindly ask you to use your newspaper’s medium to disseminate on my behalf a very worrying development that has happened to me. As journalists, you will recall that as coordinator of the Women’s Movement for Peace in the Eastern Region of Sierra Leone, at the height of the war I organized the first peace march in Kenema which saw hundred of thousands of women out in the streets calling for peace. In Kono, I settled a long-term dispute between the Motor Drivers Union and the Sierra Leone Professional Drivers Association. As President of Women in Action I visited all the refugee camps in Guinea. (Forecaria, Queguedo, Zarakulay and Faramoyah regions) that hosted Sierra Leoneans providing food and clothing and giving them hope. As a founding member of Mano River Women Peace Network (MARWOPNET), I traveled to many countries in quest for peace for Sierra Leone.
I challenged late Foday Sankoh to give peace a chance in Sierra Leone. I have always been an advocate for Peace, Non-Violence and Human Rights. I was a former Deputy Speaker of the Sierra Leone Parliament for six years, former ECOWAS Member of Parliament for five years, an Eminent Person of the ECOWAS council of the Wise and a Commander of the Order of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
It is unfortunate that an eminent person of my personality should be insulted, assaulted and molested by military forces under the command of one Major Mabanta, now deployed at the residence of the State House Press Attaché; libeled and defamed by this same press officer at State House in the person of Mr. Sheka Tarawalie alias Shekito. This is not the first time he has used military forces to intimidate peaceful citizens using Thomas Drive. A previous report has been made at Military Head Quarters, Cockerill.
All of what was planted by Mr. Sheka Tarawalie in the article entitled "Malicious damage and bodily harm" in the Standard Times News Paper published on January 22nd 2009 is blatantly false, vicious, defamatory and libelous of my esteemed personality. It was a pre-emptive move by a journalist who knows fully well that he had committed wrong but was trying to cover his tracks by abusing his press friendship to vilify others that he had clearly offended. I believe that a journalist most treasured commodity is the truth but alas that is not so for your colleague Mr. Sheka Tarawalie.
I know that journalists tend to protect each other but in this case, I am appealing to you to let the public know my own side of the story as against what Mr. Sheka Tarawalie will want you all to believe as published in Standard Times Newspaper. Please kindly publicise my own side not only for me but for every citizen of this country especially our women. If a woman of my stature in this society could be assaulted in broad daylight by armed soldiers on the orders of a junior State House operative, well, what will the ordinary Sierra Leone woman expect to face under the prevailing circumstances in which we find ourselves?
I am only now able to tell my own side of the story because ever since I was brutally attacked by the armed soldiers, I have fallen seriously ill and have been unable to leave my residence except to seek for medical treatment. I am a hypertensive patient but I have controlled my hypertension successfully over the last how many years. However, the shock and trauma of the beating I received at the hands of the armed soldiers on Tuesday 20th January 2009 has left my blood pressure still rocketing uncontrollably high. I am now with a constant headache and the pains all over my body are yet to ease. I have suffered tremendous physical, emotional and psychological trauma. I am yet to come to the full realisation that indeed it will appear that despite all the gains brought forth by the combined efforts of the media, civil society and the Government to develop a free, democratic and civilised Nation, we can have the likes of Sheka Tarawalie undertaking actions that will only lead this country back to the possibility of the brutal junta days of the AFRC.
Please, in the interest of this country, I appeal to you to put aside whatever camaraderie you might have with Sheka Tarawalie and air my own side of what has transpired.
This is my own side of the story: The incident occurred on Tuesday the 20th January 2009. I arrived at Thomas Drive – the only access road to residents living in the community back of the Guma tank at Hill Station off Regent road where I also live which has been the usual access road for the past fifteen years.
I got to Thomas Drive in high spirits after having watched the inauguration of President Barack Obama. To my dismay, I noticed that there were two cane sticks crossed at the entrance of the road blocking the access of any vehicular traffic. There were two soldiers by the blockade. Upon enquiry, the soldiers informed me that they had instructions from Mr. Sheka Tarawalie alias Shekito to deny access to the inhabitants. They set fire on grass in the middle of road to prevent my vehicle from entry.
I immediately telephoned the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Alhaji I. B. Kargbo to inform him about the unfortunate incident i.e. the denial of access of my vehicle and he told me he was not in Freetown at the moment but he will make a few phone calls and get back to me. I waited for about thirty minutes without any further response from him.
I then alighted from the vehicle and proceeded on foot to see whether a pedestrian access was open so I could go to my house. It was at this point that one soldier identified later as Private Musa, assaulted me, kicked me on my injured knee, pushed my head and threw my head tie to the ground. When I asked his name he told me that if I dare ask for his name again he would stab me. At this point two other soldiers came up to me and informed me rudely that there was not even a pedestrian access to allow me through even if the pain in my foot was killing me. It was then I noticed that the road was completely sealed. They said, "We are not going to allow anyone through the fence because all of you beyond the fence are SLPP" quoting from Mr. Sheka Tarawalie.
I was so shocked, I couldn’t believe my ears that a Government official working so closely with the President could demean himself to such a disgraceful and unpatriotic level as to instigate military forces to harass peaceful citizens, intimidate and deprive them of their human rights thereby negating the President’s call for political tolerance and attitudinal change. I was carried home because I could hardly walk through a rugged and dangerous footpath inside the premises of neighbours.
I have already written to the President to request that such naked aggression and the illegal utilization of state instruments for the purpose of intimidation must be immediately addressed.
The matter has also been brought to the notice of both the Chairman and the Focal Point of the African Peer Review Mechanism in the country. Sierra Leoneans have fought too hard and for too long to develop a peaceful, law-abiding society for us to have it derailed so cheaply.
When I got home I made several phone calls to authorities. On Wednesday, the 21st, because of the pains I was experiencing, I had to be led again through the same dangerous footpath to see a doctor.
After seeing the doctor, I went to the General Manager of SALHOC Mr. Kemoh Tarawalie to report the matter of the closure of the access road. He then told me that Sheka Tarawalie has no authority to close the road. In my presence he instructed one of his staff to open the road and to write to inform Sheka Tarawalie of the intended action. Up to date the road is still closed thereby imprisoning me and the rest of the community. Residents of the community have since written letters to the Chief of Defense Staff and Mr. Kemoh Tarawalie on the matter. Unfortunately we still await response.
Indeed, one wonders where Sheka Tarawalie got the authority to misuse and abuse the military personnel which he commands at will to beat people and molest peaceful citizens irrespective of their status in society. If a press officer Mr. Sheka Tarawalie working with the President- could turn around and misinform the press and blatantly defame an Honourable Member of Parliament one wonders what information he is feeding the President with on a daily basis.
This does not auger well for democracy and good governance. Our Head of State needs an honest and matured professional who promotes the ideals of the President in this position (Press Attaché).
Even as I dictate this letter, I am still at home injured and cannot go to work because I cannot walk with my injured assaulted knee and the only vehicular access road has been blocked by Mr. Sheka Tarawalie the State House press attaché. I am in constant need of medical care following the physical and emotional trauma but yet I have to be carried through thick bush paths to enter and leave my house because no vehicle can pass to access my residence.
I am also attaching to this letter, two copies of relevant correspondence including one signed by all the 43 (forty three) Heads of Households of all the 43 (forty three) residences that have been affected by the decision of Sheka Tarawalie to use soldiers to forcibly seal off our access to our residences. As of now, 43 sets of tax-paying Sierra Leonean families including women and children no longer have vehicular access to get to their houses and now have to trek through dangerous bush paths to get to and from their homes simply because the State House Press Attaché "decrees" this. Is this right?
I sincerely pray that your newspaper will give my own side the chance to be heard and by extension, a chance for the 43 sets of affected Sierra Leoneans to also be heard.
Hon. Elizabeth Alpha – Lavalie C.O.R.S.L.
Chairman, Human Rights Committee,
Sierra Leone Parliament
Chairman S.L.P.P. Parliamentary Council
Sierra Leone Parliament
Chief of Defence (CSF)
Militar Head Quarters
Back of Guma Valley Office.
21st January, 2009
PETITION AGAINST SHEKA TARAWALLY (SHEKITO)
A SECURITY RISK