November 14, 2017 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara &Ransford Felix
The Sierra Leone Police (SLP) reportedly refused to lease National Publicity Secretary of the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Lahai Lawrence Leema, following his interrogation for alleged public order offences.
National Secretary General of the SLPP, Umaru Napoleon Koroma, told Concord Times in a telephone interview last night that their Publicity Secretary may spend the night at the Criminal Investigations Department as the police could not finish questioning him.
Police invited Leema last Friday after a complaint was made against him by one Joseph Kowa, a staff at the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), on allegations that he forcefully entered one of their studios, interrupted a programme, and assaulted him and others.
Riot police officers were yesterday deployed around the vicinity of CID headquarters apparently to prevent sympathisers and supporters of the opposition party from entering into CID premises.
Yet Leema was accompanied by party stalwarts, a group of lawyers, the party’s chairman, secretary-general and some supporters.
His appearance at the CID headquarters caused some tension, with journalists refused entry into the building.
Outside CID headquarters, police armoured vehicles and armed personnel were stationed outside to prevent hundreds of party supporters, who displayed placards inscribed ‘I.G. Munu is this APC Police or Sierra Leone Police’, ‘suppression of the opposition is not democratic’, ‘more time more trouble’ from gaining access into the building.
Last week Monday (6th November), the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) issued a press release alleging that Leema had gatecrashed their New England studios, shouting invectives, demanding a right to reply as Franklyn Rogers, a defector from the opposition who now serves as publicity secretary for the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC), made unsubstantiated claims against standard bearer of the SLPP, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio.
The opposition party had planned to accompany their youthful publicity secretary to the CID, but the police issued a release over the weekend that only four people would be allowed to accompany him.
National Women’s Leader, Fatmata Sawaneh, told journalists outside CID headquarters that their spokesperson has not committed a crime that warranted such a huge police deployment.
She noted that Leema’s alleged action was not novel as former Minister of Information, Alpha Khanu, had barged into SLBC studios to refute an allegation made against President Ernest Koroma in the run up to the 2012 elections.
She also claimed that Inspector General of Police Francis Munu had also entered the 98.1 studio uninvited, to debunk allegation of police brutality.
“We are not going to allow us to be victimised any longer. The police force has metamorphosed into APC police. The police is pushing us to the wall. IG [Munu] refers to us as idlers, we are not. I would lead a peaceful protest if Leema is not released. A political action calls for a political reaction,” she said.
Leema was escorted to the CID at noon yesterday and until late last night police had not finished interrogating him.