From Awareness Times Newspaper in
60 Minutes with Dr. Harry Will in Moyamba
By Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
May 17, 2010, 14:04
Dr. Harry Will was the very first sitting Cabinet Minister in Sierra Leone to be indicted for corruption. Many have followed. His indictment was in August 1999, some eleven years ago. Harry Will was the then Minister of Agriculture, Forestry & the Environment in the former Tejan Kabbah led SLPP Government. Contrary to the propaganda that before President Ernest Koroma’s advent, no Cabinet Minister had been charged for corruption, the fact is that Dr. Harry Will was just the first of numerous other SLPP Cabinet Ministers indicted and/or investigated for corruption during President Kabbah’s term.
Infact, Dr. Harry Will was not only charged but he recalls how he was disgracefully arrested from right inside his minister office, hurled off to the Police like a common criminal and later charged to court. Prior to this, he had been one of the blue-eyed SLPP ministers who had worked like a yeoman from 1991 until the SLPP won elections in 1996. His indictment for corruption had thus shocked many!
|Dr. Harry Will shown yesterday at his Moyamba Residence; at peace with himself|
Here now comes some comparisons...
Yesterday, I spent some 60 minutes in conversation with Dr. Harry Will at his quiet residence inside Moyamba Town. It was a 60 minutes of education! He informs of how at the time he was arrested and dragged to court having been sacked that same day as Cabinet Minister of Agriculture, his colleague who was the then sitting Cabinet Minister of Lands, Housing & Country Planning at the time had been one Haja Afsatu Olayinka Kabba who was by then, a PDP representative in then SLPP-PDP Coalition Government. It is the same Afsatu now facing trial for alleged corruption as APC minister.
Haja Afsatu Kabba is not a sacred cow but is surely a ‘big fish’! Now, if people think she is the first ‘big fish’ to have had a ‘unique’ corruption trial wait until you hear all about the case of The State versus Harry Will & Others.
During yesterday’s 60 minutes, I first of all learnt of the high respect with which Harry Will holds former Cabinet Colleague Afsatu Kabba. "When in Cabinet, you learn traits of Cabinet colleagues. I left Cabinet holding Afsatu in high esteem," Dr. Harry Will told me.
During my educative time with ‘Doyen of Moyamba Politics’, he informed me to my astonishment that the corruption charges against him and his Director of Agriculture Lamin Feika, were changed no less than three times in open court! He insists that they were changed at any time the prosecution realised that the former charges would not hold up.
"My dear Sylvia, I was charged and those initial charges were dropped and that same moment of them being dropped inside the court, I was re-charged with fresh charges and later, within a few weeks of proceeding, those fresh second set charges were dropped only for me to be re-charged again with a third set of fresh charges again within the courts. It was a witch-hunt and a political vendetta," Harry Will recalled as he shook his head.
I learnt that the Defence Lawyers became extremely exasperated when all their objections were over-ruled by Justice Taju-Deen "even on clear points of law".
I learnt that one of the Lead Defence Counsels back then was no less a person than a certain Lawyer Nicholas Colin Browne-Marke who is today a Judge! It is this same Hon. Justice Browne-Marke who gave those recent interesting rulings and who over-ruled Lawyer Jenkins Johnston’s points of Law in the ongoing matter of The State versus Haja Afsatu Kabba.
Interestingly, Haja Afsatu Kabba’s own charges have been changed twice now just like Harry Will’s own was changed three times back then.
Harry Will’s convictions have since been over-turned and squashed by the Appeals Court with one of the Appeals Court Judge opining that he saw no basis for the matter(s) to have even been charged to court. However, the convictions were over-turned in March 2008, almost ten years after the convictions - with an interregnum that left Harry Will with the emotional turmoil of walking around a convicted criminal.
Dr. Will confessed yesterday that the period of his arrest and eventual conviction were of great personal turmoil to him. However, today, he comes across as a man completely at peace with himself and easily bursts into laughter. He has an infectious smile behind which lies an intellect that I came to quickly appreciate. By the time I was leaving his compound last evening, I had a better understanding of why he is called the Doyen of Moyamba Politics. The man is not only of high intellect but in a country with a paucity of political strategists, Dr. Harry Will should not be under-estimated; even at his advanced age.
Dr. Harry Will is humble but from what I have gleaned, his humiliation by the former SLPP-led Government which were aimed at them burnishing their anti-corruption credentials back in 1999 to the international world, did not yield positive dividends for the SLPP in the end. This is because although they sacrificed Harry Will who became the first sitting Cabinet Minister to be indicted for corruption, Dr. Harry Will was to later have his ‘moment’ against the person who prosecuted him when in the Year 2007, he quietly mobilised within the PMDC to destroy SLPP’s hitherto undisputed hold of Moyamba in 2007.
In 1999, Harry Will’s indictment was made known to the public via a Presidential Statement dated Sunday August 22nd 1999.
Will protested his innocence – strongly! But he was still convicted despite the lack of evidence in law thus leaving him and his supporters bitter and disgruntled with the SLPP. Today, Dr. Harry Will tells me that although he now considers himself an Elder Statesman and non-partisan in politics, back in 2007, he worked hard within the PMDC structure to ensure that the SLPP lost the elections in 2007. He is however quick to add that he is open to consultations with any of the country’s political parties as he is "currently totally non-partisan" but "an Elder Statesman who is willing to hold counsel with any Sierra Leone citizen who desires to have me help with any knowledge I may possess".
I arrived back in Freetown at around 9pm last night and quickly took to jotting down these few words about my 60 minutes with Dr. Harry Will. Indeed, it was a 60 minutes I appreciated. I learnt so much from the retired Doyen of Moyamba Politics. I also learnt that he is a big fan of the Awareness Times newspaper; which information made me like him even more. I am sure there will be more interactions between me and the great Dr. Harry Will especially as we are both now seated on the same Board pushing Computer Technology in Moyamba District. I am the Chairman of the Board and he is the Senior Adviser to the Board. He looks forward to me helping him improve his computer skills and I look forward to learning as much as possible from him about local Sierra Leone politics especially in Moyamba.
- end -
Monday 23rd August 1999 (Culled from Sierra Leone Web News of Peter Andersen): Sierra Leone’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and the Environment, Dr. Harry Will and Director of Agriculture Lamin Feika have been dismissed from their posts and charged with "corruption and related offences," according to a presidential statement issued on Sunday. Also charged was businessman Alhaji Bockarie Kakay. "Dr. Harry N. Will has been relieved of his duties as Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and the Environment and Mr. Lamin M. Feika, Director-General of Agriculture is automatically interdicted according to Civil Service regulations," the statement said. No details of the corruption allegations were provided, but the statement noted "the co-operation of the Ghanaian Government in the investigation that led to the discovery of this present instance of corruption." The statement said President Kabbah had taken the decision to dismiss and prosecute Will "notwithstanding the fact that he believes that Dr. Will is one of Sierra Leone’s best agriculturists and someone he had hoped will lead a team of committed people that will transform Sierra Leone from a country substantially dependent on foreign food aid to one that can grow food to feed its own people at affordable price," but added that the decision was taken "in the overall national interest."
Â© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.