From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

COMMENTS & OPINIONS
If Gloria Newman-Smart Is Dead, Then… : By Jarrah Kawusu-Konte (First Published in The Exclusive Newspaper of 17th October 2005)
By
Mar 8, 2010, 15:49

When I first met the late Mrs. Gloria Newman Smart, erstwhile Chief Immigration Officer at her office mid this year, I had the impression that she was actually a victim of circumstances. The discussion we had revealed her situation as an embattled woman who was in want of audience.


I, in the company of Ibrahim Foday one of our reporters currently in Liberia to cover the presidential elections in that war-torn country, visited the Immigration Officer to get Mrs. Gloria Newman Smart’s side of the raid on her home and office the previous day by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC).


“I was humiliated”, she told us almost in tears.

You would recall that the ACC had raided the deceased’s office on allegations that she had misappropriated $520 for 26 Sierra Leonean passports.

“Why would I want to discredit my own name for $520, my sons” she asked ruefully. At that point I noticed a photograph of her together with her children placed on her executive desk. “Is that your family?” I asked rhetorically. She replied in the affirmative.


They were a bunch of happy and contented people who do not wish to be bothered by the intrigues and chicanery of African political appointments. It was the kind of photograph that depicted a family in want of nothing else but peace and love.

 

If another photograph is taken today, she wouldn’t be in it because in response to the clarion call by President Kabbah to Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora to come back home, she returned home. Imagine the pain and grief that have come on her children and relatives. Also imagine the human resource this country has lost on her death. But this is just background information, back to the issue of the ACC raid and the reported manhandling and humiliation of the late Mrs. Gloria Newman Smart.


She told us that the ACC raided her office as if she had staged an unsuccessful coup as the officials physically abused her even though she was a woman. Continuing, she revealed her disbelief at the disrespect of the ACC people towards her person and their zest to find something incriminating against her. Thankfully, she noted, “they didn’t find anything to indict me with”.


I could still remember when she said that in six months her administration of the Immigration Department bagged government closer to Le2billion or more. We reported all of this. The press even reported the war of calumny waged against her by a Nigerian owned syndicate, which paid local officials to remove Mrs. Gloria Newman Smart as head of the Immigration Department.


Almost two weeks ago the ACC made a press release vindicating Mrs. Gloria Newman Smart of the allegations that she’d misappropriated $520 for 26 Sierra Leonean passports. Although investigations continue into the involvement of a Nigerian syndicate which allegedly masterminded the sudden death of this woman of substance, we continue to bring to light the nuances of the atmosphere in which she lived before her death.


Furthermore, we take a look at the desperation of government to remove her from office as she was sent on leave by government at a time when leave was not the issue. I recall her telling us at the meeting with her that it was in response to the personal plea by the President, Alhaji Tejan Kabbah, that she returned home to head the Immigration Department which had wallowed in so much malfeasance over the years that it requires a credible and disciplined individual to steer the ship of that office. Why was she sacrificed on the alter of political victimization and greed is the question glued on the lips of very many Sierra Leoneans including those in the Diaspora.


People want to know whether she was frustrated by the fact that, in spite of the personal intervention of the Head of State which persuaded her to return home, she could be treated as such leading to hypertension, although she was diabetic. We patiently await the pathologist’s report since up to press time we have not laid our hands on one.


The implications of the harassment and sudden departure of the late Immigration boss have far reaching ramifications. The first and immediate impact for Sierra Leone is that this country has lost a brain in the immigration sector. In her own right she was very instrumental in not only mobilizing much needed revenue for the government but also instituted benchmarks at the Immigration Department. The discipline instilled in workers particularly in finance management was second to none in the history of this country. Why was she harassed to the point of death is today anybody’s guess.


Most Sierra Leoneans would be discouraged to come home to make their own modest contributions to the national effort to push this country forward. The atmosphere in which people work abroad compared to the prevailing working environment in the country are so incompatible that the only way to survive is to do what everybody does- to be corrupt. This is one thing that is sure to discourage most well-meaning citizens of this country from returning home to lend a hand in national development.


Moreover, nine out of ten chances the children of the late Mrs. Gloria Newman Smart will never return to this country considering the way their mother was treated. It was against their wish that Mrs. Gloria Newman Smart answered the call of patriotism only to die at a time when she could have been alive had she stayed in the United Kingdom. But if she is dead today, I wonder how many more Sierra Leoneans are prepared to brave it by abandoning the bliss they are enjoying out there for the precariousness of life in this country.


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