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NEWS : Politics  

Sierra Leone President speaks on VP, SEA & Independent Observer Journalists
By Aruna Turay
Nov 1, 2013, 17:17
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President Koroma has addressed the matter of errant local journalists, Jonathan Leigh and Bai-Bai Sesay of Independent Observer who are currently in hot waters for an offensive publication against the President. Speaking for the first time on the matter, the President said he was contemplating what his next step will be. He pointed out that his initial and only step so far, which was a written demand for an apology, a retraction and a correction of the erroneous and offensive article, had not been acceded to. He said the criminal case currently in court was not at his behest but at the instant of citizens who felt injured badly by the report and so reported to the Police.

President was speaking on a variety of hot topical issues at a press briefing called up at State House yesterday 31st October 2013 to mark the public signing of his assent to the recently enacted Right to Access Information (RAI) bill. The President heartily praised the efforts of civil society activists like Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai for the lobbying that led to the enactment of the RAI. It was then that he subjected himself to probing from journalists.


About his relationship with his Vice-President:


I believe that I have no problem with the vice president and I will continue to give him assignments.I am running a government that is focused on the implementation of the Agenda for Prosperity and that is our focus. It is not about our personal, special relationships; we have a mandate from the people and that is what we are committed to implementing. Any other thing is secondary. What is important to us is the fulfilment of the promise and the commitment we made to our people and I am sure the vice president would subscribe to it. I am also sure that other ministers and public officials would subscribe to it. So until I say otherwise, the relationship is going on good and in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.


The President also lamented on lack of research.

My reaction to anybody and especially members of the press is that I expect that they should have done a little bit of research to know that at the end of the day the relationship between me and any member in my government is defined in the constitution. There is no ambiguity in the constitution, the executive authority of this country is vested in the president and he can carry out that authority personally or through other people, President said.


President Koroma said other than specified tasks like chairing the Committee of Prerogative of Mercy and the Police Council, every other task to be done by the Vice-President, has to be first assigned to the VP by the President and it was the prerogative of the President to decide as to whom he assigns which task to do whether it was the VP, the ministers or any other public official. He said such exercising of his prerogative is what I have been doing and what I will continue to do.


About the speculations of problems in government concerning his assignment of duties, he described them as just journalists building mountains out of nothing and said I will continue to give assignments to the vice president, I will give assignments to ministers and I will give assignments to other public officials that I appointed.


The President was asked of his relationship with Dr. Sylvia Blyden, his Special Executive Assistant (SEA) who used to be a newspaper publisher. In response, the Head of State said he enjoys a good working relationship with Sylvia Blyden and so he will not be drawn in to anything going on in her personal relationships with the media or her private life. He said when he gives assignments to Blyden, as his SEA, she carries out all assignments well.


It can be recalled that I.B. Kargbos NEW CITIZEN and a SLAJ Press Release had claimed that the President ordered for the Police not to look into Blydens complaints. Furthermore, CONCORD TIMES newspaper reported several times on their front page that the President was angry with his SEA because she reported journalists to the Police. Well at the briefing, the President did not mince his words as he responded with confidence to those issues posed at him. He first debunked the floated allegations in the media. The President expressed that Blyden, might be a victim or a beneficiary of media alliances but that in official capacity as his SEA, he had no problems with her nor would he ever try to stop her from making complaints to police if she feels aggrieved that she was abused of her rights to her reputation.


I cannot make judgment on the issues that have happened before she (Sylvia) became my Special Executive Assistant or that are happening right now in her private or personal capacity, President Koroma firmly said adding If there are any issues that I feel strongly about, I will talk to her officially about it but otherwise, I will not delve into the relationship she has or had with the media and also I will not stop her from exercising her rights as a citizen of this country in either seeking redress or otherwise.

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

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