...Minister of Defence warns
By Patrick J. Kamara
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Defence has said that ‘continuous unsubstantiated report’ about the armed forces by local tabloids could instigate service men to take up arms against the government. He was speaking at the official government press conference on Thursday.
Rtd. Major Paulo Conteh was reacting to an article published in a local newspaper which reported that defence ministry officials had siphoned a whooping sum of Le.500 million, which he said was ‘baseless and unfounded.’
He alleged that many media practitioners are often in breach of their primary role to disseminate accurate and unbiased information to the public, noting that although they are open to media scrutiny, ‘It pains us when we hear the report on radio that are base on unsubstantiated facts.”
The defence minister recalled that a similar incident had happened last October when a caller who purported to be a soldier called the ‘Monologue’ programme, a popular weekend show on Star Radio, to allege that soldiers on peacekeeping missing in Somalia were not being paid for three months.
He said the Sierra Leone contingent in Somalia are paid three months advanced wages, and that it is not the responsibility of the government to provide training and deployment gears for the peacekeepers, adding unsubstantiated stories that army authorities are siphoning monies meant for men on peacekeeping could trigger a mutiny.
“It is unprofessional to publish articles without properly cross-checking it. Making such publication of such amount is bad, it will lead to mutiny,” he maintained.
The Ministry of Defence issued a one page press release this week to debunk allegations of massive graft allegedly perpetrated by military bosses, in the administration of funds meant for soldiers serving on peacekeeping missions in Somalia and Sudan respectively. The release also has a thinly veiled threat that those making the insinuations could be held liable for inciting soldiers to mutiny.
Meanwhile, the defence minister told newsmen that the continuous failure of government to bring to trial fourteen alleged mutineers, who have been in detention for more than six months after they were arrested on charges of mutiny, was due to difficulties in appointing a civilian Judge Advocate.
The disclosure by the minister is in sharp contrast to the version of the Director of Information at the Ministry of Defence, Colonel M.M. Samara, who had told Concord Times that the trial was being delayed because of lack of money.