From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Politics
'We have given Lilian Lisk's Okeky a strict last warning' - APC Explains Why Lilian Lisk Escaped Criminal Charges
By Abdul Fonti
Mar 24, 2010, 17:36

Following President Koroma’s March 4th 2010 firm "final warning" against series of specific illegal fishing activities, citizens had expected that Lilian Lisk’s Okeky Fishing Agency’s registered YAN YU 632 vessel would be dragged to court for committing series of criminal offences in the country’s territorial waters as uncovered and widely publicised by journalists and the country's Navy. Lamentably, citizen’s expectations were thwarted on Tuesday 23rd March 2010 when the Director of Fisheries, Mohamed Sesay confirmed over nationwide UN Radio that the Yan Yu 632 vessel had been released without any charge proferred.

As prescribed by the 1994 Fisheries Development and Management Act, a single crime of fishing in prohibited breeding areas, which was among the numerous criminal activities that Lilian Lisk’s vessel was caught in, is liable to a jail term of two years.

To the shock of angry Sierra Leoneans, Awareness Times newspaper revealed that the vessel had been released complete with the crew and illegally packed fish and shrimps. Many people had expressed astonishment as to whether our report had been correct until the growing grumbling forced the All People’s Congress (APC) led Government of Sierra Leone, through the Director of Fisheries, Mohamed Sesay to try to explain over the UN Radio that Lilian Lisk's crew would not be charged to court because Lisk has secretly settled the matter with the Ministry.


PRESIDENT ERNEST BAI KOROMA (The Godfather)

According to the Director, the country was showing understanding with Lilian Lisk's illegal packaging of our fish as originating from China because of the EU ban on dirty (unhygienically packaged) fish from Sierra Leone. The Director told the Nation to show understanding as the country endorsed the pulling of the wool over the eyes of the European Union.

Needless to say, there has been widespread condemnation from all over the country for such stated positions. The Fisheries Director was also condemned for seemingly defending the criminal activities of the YAN YU 632, when he informed the general public that the only penalty levied on the vessel for labeling the country’s fishes as originated from China was not a monetray penalty but a "strict and last warning".

The Fisheries Director confirmed that the YAN YU 632 vessel was impounded on the 13th March 2010 by a team of naval officers for fishing in prohibited areas.

"The next day I received an official communication that the crime for which the vessel was arrested is for fishing in the wrong area. The country’s 1994 Fisheries Development and Management Act provides that any trawler fishing in the country with a GRT of greater than 50 tons should not fish in a depth of less than 15 meters. And this vessel was arrested for fishing in an eleven meters depth" Sesay explained.

He furthered that the Joseph Koroma led Ministry of Fisheries and Marine resources decided to "overlook" the issue of the fish cartoons that were labeled to fool the world that fishes from Sierra Leone originated from China, on grounds that the vessel was only registered on the 19th February 2010 and did not have time to change its ORIGIN:CHINA packaging yet to one of ORIGIN:SIERRA LEONE.

Mohamed Sesay also argued that the cartoons were wrongly labeled because of the European Market ban on Sierra Leone’s fish product since the country’s certification procedures are not international accredited.

He said the Ministry has reiterated President Ernest Bai Koroma’s March 4 Final Presidential Warning "for the last time" prior to releasing the vessel.

The explanation of Ernest Koroma’s Fisheries Director was met with sharp criticism by various Sierra Leoneans.

People were frustrated that the APC Government has once again allowed the country’s fish mafia to go scot-free after being caught in criminal activities.

Sierra Leoneans could recall how the erstwhile Tejan Kabbah led Government of Sierra Leone dragged Lilian Lisk’s Okeky Fishing Agency for series of criminal indictments in 1996.

The citizens are now angry that the Ernest Koroma’s regime decided not to charge the Okeky Fishing Agency to court for violating the country’s conservation laws, as prescribed by the Fisheries Act of 1994. Scores of citizens believe that the APC is aiding and abetting fish criminals in the country, as confirmed by the Director of Fisheries when he informed that the only grounds for not charging the fish criminals to court was because "the vessel was only licensed recently".

Lilian Lisk’s Okeky Fishing Agency’s criminal activities were brought to the limelight when a team of determined Sierra Leonean journalists stormed the impounded YAN YU 632 vessel and exposed its unhygienic state, illegal packaging, and unlawful catching of the country’s fishes.

According to the Director of Fisheries, the fine agreed upon by the Ernest Koroma Government for Lilian Lisk to pay was transmitted on to the Director of Publis Prosecutions. Although the Director did not state the amount fined, Awareness Times has been most reliably informed that it was a mere twenty thousand dollars ($20,000).

"The Fish Mafia in Sierra Leone has won again," said Alusine Kabia.



© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.