From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Sheka Tarawallie has no regrets for embarrassing President Koroma & Sierra Leone
By Abdul Karim Kabia (Fonti) +232 (33)527799
Jun 24, 2010, 17:14

The utterances of the Press Secretary of President Ernest Bai Koroma clearly indicate that Sheka Tarawallie has no regrets for embarrassing President Koroma and the Government of Sierra Leone to the international community.

After subjecting President Koroma to ridicule in the eyes of the world, especially the United Nations, the Presidential Press Secretary sees nothing wrong in what he has done and has embarked on adding more salt to the injury he had earlier caused.

It all started when Sheka Tarawallie decided to strip off President Koroma all the feathers added to his cap by the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, by issuing out a rather misleading press report.

It could be recalled that the UN Secretary General never mince his words in showering praises on President Koroma and the people of Sierra Leone. Ban Ki-Moon described President Koroma as a successful leader, adding that Sierra Leone is a country of reforms that is worth emulating.

All of these laurels on the President were speedily swept under the rugs owning to the action of a single man.

Shekito, who is supposedly the head of the State House Press Secretariat, used the State House letterhead and his official email address, to circulate a report to the whole world that Ban Ki-Moon has endorsed the proposed Inquest on the extra-judicial executions of Bambay Kamara and 28 others.

This assertion totally contradicts the position of the UN Scribe, who made clear that "such a matter should be a decision of the Government of Sierra Leone and should be addressed in accordance with the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and in the spirit of national reconciliation and peace building".

Whether or not Shekito found it difficult to understanding the simple grammar used by the UN diplomat or put out the misleading report as a deliberate ploy to bring the presidency and the country as a whole into disrepute, still remains a mystery. But one thing that has come out clearly from events in the past few days is the fact that Shekito is not prepared to take responsibility and correct his act of unprofessionalism and misconduct.

Few days after the shameful press report was issued out, the United Nations took great exception to such a false report emanating from State House; a situation that forced the Office of the President to circulate a retraction and putting the records straight through a press release signed by the Secretary to the President. The release issued on the 21st June 2010 clearly explains that Ban Ki-Moon never made any pronouncement in favor of the Bambay Kamara Inquest.

As if that was not enough embarrassment for the government and people of Sierra Leone, Sheka Tarawallie decided to lunch more offensive pronouncements on the airwaves and as a result exposing his ignorance of his duties as presidential press secretary.

He shamelessly told the state radio that he was not the author of the said press report, when the fact remains that he is supposed to be the head of that secretariat who should take responsibility for everything that comes out of there. Apart from that, how can Shekito attempt to distance himself from the said press report when he was the one who circulated it for public consumption? How can he circulate a statement from State House without cross-checking sensitive details of that nature?

His attempt to scapegoatize other staff members of the secretariat only succeeded in landing him into more trouble and exposing his real character. He strenuously explained that he was not present when Ban Ki-Moon made the statement under review, whilst shamefully adding that he was yet to ascertain whether or not Ban Ki-Moon endorsed the Inquest. This was clearly another attempt aimed at discrediting the Press Release from the Office of the President which had earlier attempted to clear the mess of the same Shekito.

Tarawallie also argued that the State House Press Secretariat was different from Sheka Tarawallie and that he should not be held responsible for a press report signed by the Press Secretariat, notwithstanding the fact that he gave the final blessing to the release and circulated it himself. To say the least, this is the most unreasonable and childish excuse I have ever heard from a government official since I came to planet earth. It is just like an Editor distancing himself from a publication he edited and published.

Or is Sheka Tarawallie trying to create the impression that the Press Secretariat is operating without a head? Even at that, what excuse will Sheka Tarawallie forward for using his official email address to circulate the nonsense he called a press report.

As if that was not enough, Shekito went ahead and circulated another press release on the 22md June 2010 where he endorsed his initial flimsy excuses he made on radio.

Additionally, he strenuously tried to deny the fact that the press release signed by the Secretary to the President was a retraction. Shekito said the release was not a RETRACTION but a CLARIFICATION. I am still finding it difficult to comprehend whatever he meant by that. He based his ‘defense’ on grounds that the press release never carries the word retraction but clarification.

What is wrong with retracting a misleading press release of that nature? The same Shekito who now sees everything wrong with retracting his blunder is the same Shekito that always storms police stations and the Independent Media Commission (IMC) to report seasoned and professional journalists for no just causes.

Most unfortunate is when Shekito decided to compare a press report from State House to the contents of local tabloids. He brazenly argued that if independent local newspapers could publish the UN Secretary General’s statement out of context, what was wrong with State House doing the same. That alone is enough to show Shekito the exit door from State House, because he has openly displayed that he did not know the difference between State House and local newspapers.

At this stage, I want Shekito to know that the UN would have refuse to make any comment on this issue even if all the local tabloids had published the same misleading report, but State House.

I think that explains in the least term for the understanding of the Press Secretary of President Ernest Koroma.

This occurrence alone speaks volume of why President Koroma has ceased to travel with Shekito on international trips.

The earlier President Koroma put a stop to this errant Press Secretary, the better for us all in Sierra Leone. Shekito is definitely not the type of Press Secretary President Koroma needs and the necessity for a change cannot be overemphasized. Hope somebody is listening.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.