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Sierra Leone.
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NEWS : Breaking News  

American Embassy to Issue Apology to Sierra Leone's Opposition Leader
By Sean Pratt (Personal Assistant [3] to the SLPP Chairman)
Jun 3, 2009, 17:39
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One of the Personal Assistants to the Opposition Leader in Sierra Leone, Mr. Sean Pratt has called for an immediate apology to be issued to his Boss, Mr. John Benjamin by the US Embassy's Public Affairs Officer, Dana Van Brandt. The Correspondence follows below this brief intor...



IT SHOULD BE HERE NOTED THAT THE REFERENCED CONCORD TIMES ARTICLE HIT THE STREETS OF FREETOWN TODAY AT ABOUT THE SAME TIME THAT TODAY'S AWARENESS TIMES EXPLOSIVE INVESTIGATIVE ARTICLE ON GLENN FEDZER ALSO HIT THE STREETS. DANA VAN BRANDT GAVE HER INTERVIEW PUBLISHED TODAY, TO CONCORD TIMES YESTERDAY. IN IT SHE FEIGNS TOTAL IGNORANCE ON THE PLIGHT OF POOR JOHN BENJAMIN. NOW, AFTER THE AWARENESS TIMES EXPLOSIVE REVELATIONS OF TODAY, SHE NOW ISSUES A PRESS RELEASE WHICH IS A COMPLETE ABOUT-FACE-TURN NOW FROM THE 'INNOCENT AS A LAMB' POSITION TO ONE OF 'YES, WE GOT A CALL FROM "WASHINGTON DC"... THE SAGA CONTINUES... 

FREETOWN OFFICE OF THE SLPP CHAIRMAN

Dear Ms. Van Brandt,

This Office is in receipt of your Interview granted to Concord Times Newspaper and published today Wednesday June 3rd 2009. We are also in receipt of your Press Release issued on today's date. Both of these referenced publications are reproduced below this email.

In the Concord Times Publication, you are quoted as having "refuted claims by the opposition SLPP Chairman that the embassy connived with some officials of the ruling APC government to deny him entry into America"
.

Furthermore, in your Press Release, you state inter alia, "It is regrettable that Mr. Benjamin used this attempt by the Embassy to extend him a courtesy as a means to accuse the United States Government of unscrupulous acts.
"

We hereby wish to VEHEMENTLY DENOUNCE any attempt to demonise the Opposition Chairman further than he has been demonised. Furrhermore, we are also hereby appealing to you to issue an IMMEDIATE retraction of your Statements that the SLPP Chairman accused the United States Government of unscrupulous acts or that the SLPP Chairman stated that the Embassy connived with officials of the ruling APC Government to deny him entry.

There have been investigative articles published by Independent Journalists like the ones in the Awareness Times and New Vision Newspapers. I suggest it might be more professional for you as a Public Affairs Official to question those investigative journalists as to the source of their information than to wildly and unjustifiably attribute such to John Benjamin when nowhere in the said investigative articles was Mr. John Benjamin quoted as the source of those investigative revelations.

You have since accepted in your Press Release that the investigative journalism was correct but how do you know that the source for the said articles was Mr. John Benjamin and not someone else? How can you make such a sweeping indictment of the Leader of the legitimate Opposition based on no credible evidence to that effect? Is this the image of America that you wish to portray? An image of America as a country where wild, unsubstantiated allegations are levied with so evidential backing? For example, how do you know that maybe one of the household helps of the Charge D'Affaires at the Embassy was not the source of the information published and now confirmed by you to be true?

This Office believes the English adage of giving a dog a bad name and whipping him comes into play here.

To end, allow us to quote the only section of the Awareness Times interview in which John Benjamin mentions the actions of the US Government officials towards him:
"The US officials were quite polite. You could tell they themselves were confused as to what they were holding me for questioning for," Benjamin informed.

Now, Ms. Dana Van Brandt, unless you can provide this office with any other quoted source where John Benjamin says anything else concerning the United States Embassy or the United States Government, we hereby await your immediate retraction and an immediate and sincere unreserved apology to the SLPP Leader.

On a personal note, as one of the immediate Close Protection Bodyguards to former American Ambassador Melrose here in Sierra Leone and who helped evacuate him from the Embassy during the AFRC/RUF pogrom, kindly allow me to state that my former high perceptions of what a United States Embassy represents has been sharply disappointing today. You have been disappointing madam.

I remain,
Yours truly,
Sean Pratt
Personal Assistant (3) to John Benjamin in Freetown.
Telephone: +232-33-404422
Telephone: +232-30-404422




CONCORD TIMES PUBLICATION OF WEDNESDAY JUNE 3RD 2009:
US Embassy Refutes SLPP Claim
Public Affairs Officer of the United States Embassy Tuesday refuted claims by the opposition SLPP Chairman that the embassy connived with some officials of the ruling APC government to deny him entry into America.
We did not connive with anyone to prevent John Benjamin from entering into the US, Danna Van Brandt told Concord Times.
Newspaper reports yesterday alleged that the SLPP National Chairman John Oponjo Benjamin was detained for almost five hours by officials of the Department of Homeland Security, US Customs and Border Protection at Dulles International Airport to answer to human rights abuses in his country.
The reports claimed that some senior state operatives hoodwinked the US authorities into believing that Benjamin had human rights issues to clear for which he should be denied entry into the US.
It is not true. Individuals are admissible or not admissible based on United States laws. The government of Sierra Leone has no influence over these laws, she said.
Brandt said the government of Sierra Leone cannot dictate to the US who to allow or not to allow entry into the country, adding that, Membership in or leadership of political parties in Sierra Leone is not a ground for refusal of entry.
She said the US is not interfering into the politics of the country, stressing that the US Embassy would always preach political unity.
Fighting between parties is disappointing, as our embassy has tried hard to promote political unity, Brandt maintained.
However, the Public Affairs Officer declined to comment on whether Mr. Benjamin was indeed detained for five hours. It is our privacy law, I cant comment on it, she said.
Minister of Information and Communications, who also doubles as the government spokesperson, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo told Concord Times that the president is serious about the opposition leaders treatment, noting that Sierra Leonean politicians should not be subjected to the treatment level meted out on the politician.
Kargbo said the president sees Benjamin as a good national politician, and that government has nothing to do with the embarrassment he may have suffered.
We will investigate through our Foreign Affairs Ministry



PRESS RELEASE FROM DANA VAN BRANDT:

Embassy of the United States of America
Public Affairs Office

PRESS RELEASE

Freetown
Contact: PAO Danna Van Brandt Tel: 022-515-000 or 076-515-000


The United States Embassy wishes to comment on inaccurate statements involving the travel of John O. Benjamin to the United States. Prior to Mr. Benjamins departure, the Embassy received information from Washington that Mr. Benjamin would face difficulty if he tried to enter the United States at this time. Given Mr. Benjamins role as Opposition Leader, and aware of inconvenience to other Sierra Leoneans who faced similar situations, the Charg dAffaires informed Mr. Benjamin of the reasons for the expected difficulty, and suggested that it might be beneficial to postpone his travel until his entry status was further evaluated.

Mr. Benjamin subsequently departed Sierra Leone for the United States, faced a difficult entry, and a final decision on his status is pending. It is regrettable that Mr. Benjamin used this attempt by the Embassy to extend him a courtesy as a means to accuse the United States Government of unscrupulous acts. Assertions that the Embassy provided this information to Mr. Benjamin for motivations other than concern for his convenience are patently false.

Admissibility or inadmissibility to the United States is determined exclusively in accordance with United States law. Membership in or leadership of a Sierra Leonean political party is not a ground for inadmissibility. The Embassy reaffirms its commitment to supporting Sierra Leone in its efforts to maintain political stability, unity, and progress.

## End


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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