THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG: WHICH COMES FIRST??

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December 15, 2015 By: Winstanley R.Bankole Johnson

Beyond their daily avocations to eke out subsistence, the ordinary Sierra Leonean has neither interest in the intricacies of governance, nor in which Member of Parliament (MP) or Cabinet Minister travelled, the frequency, category or class they travelled in, nor in the per diem allowance they collect on each such occasion. For all we care and as long as our political class show us a modicum of respect for our tax contributions to their ambient living standards, they can travel between Jerusalem and Jericho and cover as many air miles in the process as they care to. What irks us the citizens most is the occasional brazen levels of contemptible disrespect and utter arrogance for us who voted them into office. The way they sometimes talk down to us the electorates is disgusting!! They forget too easily that before them, others were that today are no more, and that there are still others to come after them who will also one day cease to be. And life goes on!!

Respect

Perhaps on that note I should digress on what our political class fails to appreciate-: that ours is a classical example of the chicken and egg relationship, in which the rhetorical question of which of the two comes first predominates. The chicken? Or the egg?

Whilst pro-creationists believe it is the chicken that comes first, evolutionists insist the reverse holds sway.  Whichever sequence our political class believes in, it’s a fact that if we had not elected them into for example, Parliament in the first place – that is to say if us the “chickens” had not laid their eggs in the electoral poultry farm – they would never have been “hatched”, and empowered into appointing and overseeing us – in the second place. So for crying out loud those we elected owe us some amount of respect for Heaven’s sake!!

Sludge Pond

Before exposure of any scandal, no one cared or knew about how huge tax payers’ resources are purportedly wasted on any MP’s and Minister’s foreign trips. It is usually a particular Parliamentary Oversight Committee (POC) that would invariably leak the information, and with such alarming sentiments, as would whip up public outrage and interest for further detailed clarifications or justifications. And if it be so, is it too much to ask of one’s’ hired servants to account for their stewardships? I think not. Because I myself have fielded some quiet remonstrations by a seasoned Honourable MP about inflated airline tickets by government functionaries to the detriment of the very government they all claim to love and serve.

Naturally, the minute any information that had been inordinately suppressed becomes public knowledge (as they eventually do through the media), they are bound to be embellished several times over, and in manners that would make the “shit hit the ceilings”. And those who should bear the greatest responsibility for that are the managers of the “sludge pond” who, instead of living up to their sacred “oversight” responsibilities in a transparent manner, decided to shroud such purportedly legitimate matters in secrecy – to wit: the beneficiary; the purpose; the cost.

And the public or Journalists cannot be blamed either, for concluding that the only reason why those matters were initially shrouded in secrecy was because they fail to pass the integrity threshold.  Add to that the inexpedient manner in which a particular POC might have (mis)managed public dissemination of the news, which the Papers would obligingly devour with rapacity, possibly more in an attempt to assist Finance Minister Dr. Kaifalla Marah to revisit the present unacceptable expenditure patterns and re-inject fiscal discipline from a patriotic perspective, than to embarrass anybody.

“Untouchable”

Sometimes, Press reactions attributable to those in authority to some allegations – no matter how specious – have not been helpful to their causes either. Take for example-: “Yes…., I have an interest in a particular enterprise under investigations”.  And “….Yes, I’m entitled to such benefits just like any other citizen” (in addition to my other huge emoluments –Sic). Unsavoury ain’t it!!!  What, however is clearly discernible from such reactions (and open to misrepresentation) – even if not expressed from such categorical reactions – is that-: “Yes I am also untouchable”.

And in the absence of any forthright, cogent and respectful explanations, I presume it is the ensuing speculative media commentaries on such matters that has sometimes elicited the occasional wrath of POCs to be subpoenaing a few Editors for questioning, an act which pundits perceive as unbecoming of our Parliamentarians, having regard to its frequency, and against a backdrop of the enormity of their responsibilities.

In recent times, electronic media text messages on the frequency of summons issued out by Parliamentary Committees to citizens have been adverse, and suggestive that our Parliamentarians are exceeding their remits and slowly transforming themselves into a police station or “kangaroo courts”. The general perception is that unless things are nipped in the bud, we shouldn’t be surprised to wake up one day to find that a law has been enacted that empowers those in authority to construct and run their own special jail houses in order to be teaching those they are supposed to be representing a lesson or two about respect for their sublime status.  A danger attendant on that propensity is its tendency to undermine the popularity of any political party in power, like our revered All Peoples’ Congress (APC) Party.

Plank

Unlike other jurisdictions, this country regrettably lacks a mid-term political review barometer to be checking the (un)popularity of incumbent politicians, so as to know which ones to either push off the cliff much earlier or quietly asked “to walk the plank”. As at now there is really no mean gauge to checkmate their excesses in between elections. So no matter their petulance, the electorate has to wait until they are systemically exited at the next electoral cycle. I shall be doing a piece presently recommending to the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), the need for each political party represented in Parliament or Cabinet to be appointing a “Whip”, whose duty will be to be reining intemperate and petulant representatives, and whose antics are likely to bring their particular political party into disrepute.

Unaware

Fifty-four years after gaining independence as a sovereign nation state, our democratic values remain challenged by the inability of citizens to freely criticize the political class. I have questioned the seemingly unlimited judicial powers of Parliament in the past and just last week, a “Culture Radio” Reporter, in analyzing a particular day’s proceedings in Parliament quoted the learned Attorney General and Minister of Justice as “being unaware of some of the powers” Parliamentarians continue to arrogate to themselves and in the process shortchanging the established judicial and legal platforms for the purpose to wit: the Courts; the IMC –with impunity.

What’s the purpose of summoning persons before POCs on account of unfavourable reportages, when they know full well their appellate judicial limitations, or more  especially, when it isn’t  their Cabinet or Honourable Parliamentary rights and privileges that are directly being infringed upon?  Is it to intimidate, molest or suppress?  Wouldn’t it be expedient for anyone whose personality has been allegedly defamed or libeled to independently seek civil or judicial redress through the IMC or the Courts of Law respectively? How do we expect to deepen our democratic values if citizens cannot test the efficacy of our laws?

Key

I think the media and the public should be free to discuss all issues they consider of national importance and without let or hindrance, having regard to our Freedom to Access Information Laws. Transparency is the bedrock of eradicating corruption, and once transparency is suppressed (no matter in how subtle a manner it is done) we can as well forget about accountability.

To quote Peter Conze in his recent Public Lecture on Anti-Corruption Day-: “Press freedom is key in the fight against corruption”. So any attempt to suppress Press Freedoms should be resisted with as much will and ferocity as we do against evil spirits.


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