Well meaning Sierra Leoneans became appalled on Sunday morning over the unauthorized or ‘authorized’ landing of a beech Cessna aircraft allegedly containing 703.5kg cocaine.
It was a relief when it became known that several arrests were made in relation to the cocaine bust up and also arrests of the crew of the aircraft. An affirmative action is what the people want to hear that will in several ways save the image of the country and the airport.
It was said the President was informed about the incidence when he was in The Gambia on his way to the country, and he met the aircraft at the airport. It was reported that he was very angry which I believe generated the necessary fear among the police to go all out for a successful swoop.
That besides as the investigations went on and with revelations of the involvement of people connected to the Aviation Minister and also with the explanations of the Airport Authority of the episode, the Aviation Minister Kemoh Sesay would have stepped aside or been asked by the President to do so until the investigations are successfully completed.
Let me quickly remind you that when the immediate past minister of transport under the SLPP, Prince Harding was boldly suspended by former President Kabbah and even held in custody at the Aberdeen police station for granting permission to Paramount Airline helicopter which crashed and killed several Togolese officials. It displayed the government’s sincerity in investigating the episode. He was suspended together with other senior officials at the ministry.
That was an affirmative action, a strong one unexpected of Kabbah on Prince when one considered the camaraderie between the two. Similarly so, the same exists between President Koroma and Kemoh Sesay.
The Airport Authority press release about the incident stated that the controller on duty heard a strange voice on the control Tower’s F.M118.1. The release further stated that the controller contacted the Head of Operations and upon weighing the circumstances directed that the flight be refused landing clearance. It was at that point also the release went on that the controller next contacted the General Manager for which he was comprehensively briefed about the circumstances surrounding the aircraft.
The General Manager then briefed the minister while the controller was still holding on the line on instructions and whilst the conversation was still carrying on, the flight was descending over the airport. The release explained that it was at that point that the security apparatus were alerted as it became evident that the aircraft was intending to do a forceful landing with or without clearance, so the fire vehicles were alerted for a possible barricade of the aircraft after landing.
It became apparent also that the General Manager after discussing with the Minister and having come to a consensus with the Head of Operations, directed that in the interest of technicalities, the aircraft be allowed to land on the western part of the apron but should be barricaded.
The issue of how serious it is to take action should start I believe with the Minister.
What has happened is what I refer to as Narco terrorism which is a gross violation of our territorial integrity and for which one should succinctly refer to as an invasion for which we have all the rights to repel robustly.
The image of the country is seriously under test in relation to drug trafficking. This is the time for which we should wipe out that perception held about our airport as a transit point of drugs.
It is no secret that because our airport lacks the facilities to contend with the Narco terrorism and because of other factors, these narco terrorists have succeeded in their trade and have been using it as a transit point.
Drug trafficking or a state used for that purpose are sidelined by the international community and Sierra Leone should not stand to face such snub. We are on the process of ‘image re-branding’ after our brutal war which bore many unsavoury instances. Our ‘image re-branding’ started with our acclaimed elections which have earned us a place among the international community. Let us also have it that a state which cannot control it borders and which cannot stop drug trafficking stands to be sidelined and once you are sidelined, you lose aid from the international community.
These are the issues the president should look at in the interest of the state not in the interest of party or camaraderie if we want to gain international credibility and our state not to be referred to as a narcotic state. Remember that a state that encourages terrorism is also referred to as a terrorist state and a state that is used for drug trafficking is a narcotic state or drug state.
I do not want to commit a fallacy here that because a relative of the minister is allegedly involved so the minister is also involved. No. My contention is about the circumstances that led to the authorization of the aircraft and also about the involvement of the minister in the activities of the airport. Because he was involved and the scenario came out this way he should share some responsibility as the head of the ministry for agreeing with the General Manager of the Airport Authority in authorizing the aircraft to land.
The seriousness in pursuing this cocaine should starts from there as what former President Kabbah did to Prince Harding and what also the Kenyan government did to their finance minister by asking him to step down whilst his deal is being investigated
By Ishmael Bayoh