See Commentary below.
Over a 4-Months Rice Supply Defence Contract...Johnís Palmine Throway Pan John Res?
By Sylvia O. Blyden
As Publisher of Sierra Leoneís largest and most widely read newspaper, I make it a job to read every single tabloid that is published in Sierra Leone; even the ones that print less than a hundred copies as compared to the thousands of copies I produce daily so it was that my attention has been drawn to numerous recent publications in both high-selling and low-selling newspapers during which two of my very good friends within the ruling APC, Mr. Alex Mansaray and Mr. Sylvanus Koroma jnr. are being named as fighting over a Ďfour monthsí Ministry of Defence Contract for supply of the one bag of rice monthly to army officers. Alex heads African-Sunshine whilst Sylvanus heads Sierra Commodities. Both gentlemen are inextricably tied to the ruling APC headed by Ernest Bai Koroma which makes it a classical tale of Johnís palmoil on Johnís rice.
There has been a lot of misinformation on the issue which has even seen a poor gentleman like Balogun Koroma (Logus) dragged into the mud for no other reason than he is a friend of Alex Mansaray. The Defence Minister Palor Conteh has also been unfairly sullied simply because he is the political head of the Ministry.
To the credit of both Alex and Sylvanus who are two of the finest Sierra Leonean gentlemen existing today, they have maintained a dignified silence as the pundits, news writers and opinion-makers churn out the huge misinformation to the Public.
I have been dismayed at the blatant false propaganda that has been churned out on the newspaper pages because, as someone who has been placed fully in the picture over the last three weeks since the debacle started and who even almost brokered a peaceful business resolution between Alex and Sylvanus insofar as the ongoing imbroglio was concerned, I know for a fact that much of what is being churned out against Alex Mansaray and African Sunshine is totally untrue.
On the other hand, it is also pretty much obvious that someone at Defence Ministry DELIBERATELY sent out the Invitation for Restricted Bid letter to Harmony Trading which entity, we all know, is now a defunct company. Such a Letter, if the intentions of the sender had been truly genuine, should have been directed to Sierra Commodities!
Sierra Commodities of Sylvanus Koroma is probably the only indigenous rice-importing company operated by a black Sierra Leonean. All other Sierra Leonean rice dealers purchase rice from Lebanese rice importers. Sylvanus Koroma employs dozens and dozens of Sierra Leoneans and his company is more than capable of handling the Army Rice contract. HOWEVER, whatever the case might be, Sylvanus Koromaís Sierra Commodities was not invited to bid.
If the same set of shareholders own two different companies and one company was invited to bid in a RESTRICTED bidding process but the other was not, it is not automatic that the uninvited one can forcibly submitted a bid and expect to be considered as a legitimate bidder because they have similar shareholders. It was an urgent restricted bid and whilst the defunct Harmony Trading was suspiciously included as an invited bidder, the functional Sierra Commodities was NOT invited but is that really the fault of Alex Mansaray?
This is why it is unfair to Alex Mansarayís African Sunshine company to say Sierra Commodities bided but were sidelined and not approved simply because of Alex Mansaray. Technically, Sylvanus Koromaís company was not invited to bid but so also were dozens of other rice dealers who were not invited to participate in the RESTRICTED bidding. Why are none of the other non-invited companies¬† complaining? The answer is simple. None of them feel cheated by the deliberate slighting of their company by serving an Invitation on the name of the current companyís now-defunct predecessor!
Sylvanus Koroma has every right to feel embittered that the Invitation Letter was sent to Harmony Trading and not to Sierra Commodities but this should not be taken out on poor Alex Mansaray by media sympathisers of Sylvanus especially as it is definitely not Sylvanus Koroma himself endorsing the attacks on Alex Mansaray. Alex Mansaray is a legitimate businessman by any measure!
As for Balogun Koroma and Palor Conteh who have found themselves dragged into the mess they had nothing to do with, they should take solace in the recent words of our Ambassador designate to Russia, Sahr John Yambasu when he told Awareness Times, that as a politician, he expects to be a victim of misinformation. My information is that Palor Conteh and Alex Mansaray are not even on good terms now for several months past but Palor Conteh has to suffer the ignomy because he is a politician. It comes with the territory. Hush ya!
My final word is that it is now time for Sylvanus and Alex to realise that their allegiance to their common goal of seeing President Ernest Bai Koroma successfully serve as President of Sierra Leone, should be bigger than any little difference over a mere four months defence rice contract. As far as I can see, it is only because the main SLPP opposition is fast asleep that this issue has gone on for so long in the media without the SLPP picking up on it and using it to embarrass the APC and the President. But this might not last for too long...
Maybe it is time wiser heads within the corridors of power knock some sense into the heads of those making all this noise over a mere four months rice contract when there are many, many more months to come...
A word to the wise! Krioman say LONTA!