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Tension at Connaught mortuary…

SLPP protests Ebola burial for Tamba Sam

March 6, 2015  By Mohamed Massaquoi

Hundreds of supporters of the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) yesterday stormed the precincts of the Connaught Hospital mortuary in central Freetown to foil what they described as attempts to bury the remains of their fallen comrade and National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Musa Tamba Sam, “the Ebola way”.

The enraged supporters vehemently protested against the Ebola burial team taking charge of the burial of a man they considered as a “senior statesman”, describing the move as total disrespect to the former opposition lawmaker and party spokesman.

The outspoken opposition politician died at the 34 Military Hospital in Freetown in the early hours of Monday March 2 after a protracted illness. His remains were immediately taken to the Connaught Hospital mortuary where a swap test was conducted, with the cause of death said to be unrelated to the deadly Ebola virus.

The protesters complained that it was unfair for the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) to have allegedly ordered the Ebola burial team to go ahead and bury Mr. Sam even though plans were underway by the late man’s party and relatives to convey his remains to his home district of Kailahun for traditional funeral rites.

“We must take him to Kailahun because he did not die of Ebola,” an incensed SLPP supporter, Usman Lahai, spluttered outside the Connaught Hospital mortuary. “Tamba Sam was not only the Publicity Secretary of the main opposition party, the SLPP, but also a statesman who has served this country as former Member of Parliament. The ruling government is doing this simply because the late man belonged to the opposition party.”

Another protester, Fatmata Kanneh, said there had been plans for their former presidential candidate, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, to attend the burial ceremony of Hon. Sam; a move she alleged had caused the government to order the immediate burial of Sam.

“We have witnessed situations where the remains of other people are given to their family members for burial, as long as they did not die of Ebola. This is all politics by the APC simply because Hon. Tamba Sam used to challenge their bad governance policies,” said Ms. Kanneh. “We have seen friends and relatives of state officials being buried by their family members, so why is the selective justice?”

The protesters thronged the main Lightfoot Boston Street thus temporarily disrupting the normal flow of traffic.

Some of the demonstrators displaced placards with one reading: “TAMBA SAM MUST GO TO KAILAHUN”. Another reads: “WE WOULD NOT ALLOW YOU TO REMOVE HIS BLOOD FOR SALE”.

Both riot police and military officers were ordered to enforce calm at the scene of protest.

SLPP party leaders and members of parliament, including sympathizers and other family members of the late Hon. Sam trooped to the mortuary to pacify their angry supporters.

Acting Chairman of the All Political Parties Association, Mohamed Bangura, said he had been negotiating with the authorities to ensure the remains of Hon. Sam are taken to Kailahun for [a befitting] burial but to no avail.

“We have been [negotiating] since this morning. I would have been very happy to go to Kailahun and give final respect to my friend but because of the current situation in the country, it is not possible,” Bangura said.

However, the Administrative Secretary of the SLPP, Alhaji Brima Koroma, told Concord Times last evening that they had negotiated with the authorities and that it has been agreed that Hon. Sam would now be buried on Sunday.

“We had actually wanted to take him to Kailahun because that is the wish of the party and family members. We will meet as a party and take a decision,” he said.