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23rd July 2018

Sacked Sierra Leone Diplomats Stranded Abroad as Repatriation Dilemma Continues!

By Abu Shaw in London (25/06/18)

This is an eyesore for Sierra Leone in the aftermath of a diplomatic embarrassment fuelled by the SLPP government of President Maada Bio.

 

Days in to State House, the new SLPP government hurriedly decided to relieve the services of all Sierra Leone diplomats including press attaches around the world. Since then, these sackings have taken a heavy toll not only on those dismissed from their posts, but has also hugely affected the government's reputation overseas as more embarrassment continue to flood in. (Photo: Press Attache Sorie Sudan sadly died last week in London whilst waiting for his repatriation benefits).

Not only has the Sierra Leone government so far failed to repatriate the sacked dilopmats and their families back home as the 1991 Constitution demands, it has more damagingly caught the attention of foreign governments where these dismissed diplomats are based.

The inability of the Sierra Leone High Commissions and Embassies abroad to settle their bills on basic services like water, electricity, telephone, rents etc. has been highlighted by the affected companies who in turn have notify the resident countries where they are doing business.

The Foreign Ministry in Sierra Leone is reported to have tabulated the correct expenses for the stranded diplomats and forwarded it to the Ministry of Finance for disbursement. But reports say it was some Finance Ministry officials who arbitrarily cut down the figures meant for the repatriation of all the sacked diplomats. It remains to be seen if President Bio is aware of all these machinations. (Photo below: Finance Minister Sahr Jusu).
 


Things went haywire recently when the Financial Secretary, according to an opposition APC party supporter Mr. Kabs Kanu, surfed on social media to announce that government has paid the repatriation expenses of former ambassadors and press, cultural and military attaches, when in fact the total amount remitted fell far short of the real expenses involved in moving out the diplomats and their families and shipping their personal belongings.

The diplomats are still complaining that they have not received a penny contrary to what the government is purporting. Below are cries from some press attaches around the world:


1. John Pa Baimba Sesay, Axed Press Attache in China Writes:


I have not received my repatriation. I saw a press release on social media informing the public that we have been given such. And as you know the real Sierra Leone situation, everyone is bound to believe this narrative.

But if what I got from most colleagues is true then it will be completely unacceptable for us to get just $6000 to ship a 40ft container, and buy five tickets? One way airlines ticket from Beijing is $1,866 for economy class. Shipping a 40 ft container is close to $9000. Government can directly contact shipping companies if they doubt what the Missions told them.

Come on aren’t we humans for God’s sake? $6000 can’t even ship a 40ft container talk less of using that to ship and buy tickets. You cannot give half of what is frankly required to leave, or are we expected to leave behind what we have acquired in our years of service abroad? I have been here for six years plus, a house to pack. Should we leave all our belongings here?
 


We took our jobs to serve our countries. We are leaving but let it be done in the acceptable way and as it has always happened. We are not criminals, we didn’t come to our various stations on our own but sent by the former APC government. (Photo above: Foreign Minister Alie Kabba, 2nd right).

Six years plus, I have never seen any of our diplomats in the Embassy treated this way. I have never seen or heard of any country even at the sub-regional level treat their diplomats this way, including political appointees. $6000 is just way way below what can take us away including shipment.


2. Pasco Temple, Dismissed Press Attache in the USA Writes:


This SLPP government takes pleasure in conducting its business on social media. Honestly, this release was on social media even before it got to some of our respective destinations. Now I know it is deliberate to play on the emotions of the populace in a bid to create bogus impression that all is well. Also to win the sympathy of the populace.

Very deceptive and misleading press release, aimed at confusing the populace. Less than ten thousand dollars was allocated to each outgoing diplomat for five air tickets including that of the principle and spouse and three children. The signatory to this statement travels to the USA at least three times a year for the past ten years to attend conferences, and he is fully aware that the cost of air ticket per person is more than $1500.00. Please check the price of air ticket to Brussels, Ethiopia, Germany, China and USA at any of our local Travel Agencies in Freetown. Please do the right thing for us to vacate. We are fed up with humiliation.


3. Mariama Coker, Sacked Press Attache in Liberia Writes:

 
Big time disgrace ever in the history of Sierra Leone diplomatic world. They have not paid anything yet. Government said they have remitted payments to the bank but no body has informed me officially about it. Today is June 15 in Liberia and is holiday. The said money have not reached me at all.


An Apologetic SLPP Supporter Lahai Writes:


Mr. Johnny Lahai, a decent-minded, objective, fair and liberal supporter of the SLPP government, in his response to complaints on Facebook by the former Press Attache at the Sierra Leone Embassy in Washington DC, Mr. Pasco Temple, also raised the spectre that President Bio may not have been adequately briefed by officials about the methods used, if any, in determining the repatriation costs of the diplomats.

"I apologise on behalf of my party and government. We are sorry for the inconvenience. As diplomats you all served our country with distinction. Thank you. I am sure President Bio will be briefed on this very problem, and he will take the necessary steps. President Bio is not here to hurt anyone. He is your president too. May God bless you, and heal your hurts, and may He also bless our president and government and above all, Sierra Leone. Amen," he added.


SLPP Journalists Commented on the Plights of Recalled Diplomats!


Journalist Mr. Sorie Fofana, an ardent SLPP fan writes: "A Public Notice dated 14th June 2018, was issued by the Financial Secretary, Mr. Sahr Lahai Jusu. In that Public Notice, the general public was informed that the sum of Le2,412,734,976 (Two billion four hundred and twelve million, seven hundred and thirty four Leones and nine hundred and seventy six cents) had been remitted to our overseas missions for the repatriation cost of former Ambassadors and Press, Cultural, Economic and Security Attaches. (Photo below: SLPP Journalist Sorie Fofana, right, posed with President Julius Maada Bio). 
 


"Barely few hours after the publication of that Public Notice on social media, some former Ambassadors and Press Attaches took to the same social media platform, claiming that they had not received a dime as repatriation cost from the Ministry of Finance.

"Few hours later, some other set of recalled diplomats took to social media to concede that indeed some amount of money had been remitted for the sole purpose of their repatriation but that the money was not enough for that purpose.

"At least, most of them claimed that they have a spouse, three children (under the age of 18) and were entitled to the payment for a 40ft container to bring home their personal belongings including one vehicle.

"A senior diplomat even argued that his name and the names of some of his colleagues had been deleted from the salary/wages vouchers for the month of June. All the Ambassadors affected by the Executive Order to recall them have written a letter to President Bio, requesting his intervention.

"A senior official in the Ministry of Finance argued that even though they were entitled to travel with their spouses and three children (under the age of 18), some of them travelled alone but claimed the allowances due to three children under the age of 18. Both parties have stubbornly refused to compromise.

"Way Forward to Resolve the Impasse! The Director General of Foreign Affairs should ensure that the welfare of all diplomats in our foreign missions is properly taken care of. He should also ensure that all recalled diplomats either return home or their repatriation packages are given to them in full.

"We should not treat those who have served our country in our foreign missions shabbily. That will dent the image of our country and give a bad name to the new government.

"Let us find an amicable settlement to this issue as soon as we possibly can. We cannot allow this issue to drag on endlessly. The Ministers of Finance and Foreign Affairs should get together and find an amicable settlement to this issue.

"We call on all parties concerned to take politics out of this issue and do the necessary. Some of these recalled diplomats are not even entitled to a severance allowance or a gratuity payments. Let us therefore give them their entitlements and allow them to return home in dignity and with great fanfare.

"The current plight of recalled diplomats is, to say the least, appalling. We have to do something as a government to put an end to the stalemate between the Ministry of Finance and recalled diplomats," Sorie Fofana, Global Times Newspaper concludes.

As we go to press, the diplomats are even worried that the government may not pay their salaries for June, although they had been made to continue in their posts beyond June 15th.

TRIBUTE: ALPHA SHAW


1958 -1980

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