The Resident Minister of State East Hon. William Juana Smith have reacted to an article in the African Champion newspaper dated 11th September 2008 captioned Resident minister under fire as malicious and baseless.
The Minister made this reaction during a brief meeting held with journalists at his Maxwell Khobe street office in Kenema.
Mr. Smith said some people are using the newspaper reporters to defame his character saying that he is the chairman of the provisional coordinating committee of councils in the Eastern region. He pointed out that this undermines the ethics of good Journalism.
Referring to Fayia Amara the reporter of African Champion the minister said this is not the first time the press is meeting to discus his mischief.
Some of the issues he highlighted that was written in the publication about him were that of his alleged interest and relationship with the Lebanese communities in Kenema. The Minister said he does not change friends because of politics. He said he is a minister today but tomorrow he will not be a minister, and because of such a reason he does not have to change colours because of small things. “Why should I abandon friends who have been so helpful to me in the past?” he asked? “The Lebanese don’t dish money to me in Kenema but they are my playmates.” He said some of the Lebanese are more reliable and straightforward. “Some of them were born here and they have voting rights. Before the elections some were even telling me that they will not vote for APC but that does not mean that I have to avoid them. I have not avoided J.B.Dauda; I have not avoided any other people who have been close to me, why should I have to behave in such a way” he questioned further.
Other issues cited was that of his interest of the traditional leaders and using his office as the minister to say the vote of thanks at the past inauguration ceremony of the elected chairmen and councilors instead of the Mayor of Kenema City Council.
The Minister said he didn’t know about the programme that was first distributed to the audience before they came into the hall along with the President, and that he had to use his discretion as chairman of the ceremony to appoint some one to give the vote of thanks.
The publication he added further alleged that he pays less attention to the interest of his party members. The minister disclosed that he paid all the nomination fees of all the councilors who contested here in Kenema with a receipt to the effect and also bought a public address system and paid for posters for some of the youths. Talking about the appointment of court chairmen which was also published in the newspaper with the allegation that his office is interfering into its functions the Res. Minister categorically stated that the Paramount Chief only has the right to recommend and that it is the responsibility of the Minister of Internal Affairs, Local Government and Community Development to appoint court chairmen. He said they have the right to advice because the minister does not know people here, and his duty is to advice and that is why the President sent him there. The Resident minister informed journalists that his office has a cordial relationship with paramount chiefs contrary to what was published in the newspaper that he has no respect for paramount chiefs.
“On no account have I asked any chief to join APC. I am very close to the Paramount chief of Nongowa chiefdom because we grew up here in Kenema but I have never asked him to join APC. I use to tell them that they are part of the government that is in power.” Mr Juana Smith expressed dismay over the establishment of kangaroo courts in the region emphasizing that it is reducing the revenue base of the chiefdoms. He called on Journalists to cross check their sources before publication.
He cautioned the journalist not to allow the APC, PMDC and SLPP to take any one of them and use them against the other party or person. The minister however denied entirely what the reporter Fayia Amara wrote about him, in the African Champion newspaper saying it was an allegation, he stated that people who hate to see development done in the district influenced the reporter. He told the press that the issues must be thoroughly investigated. The Vice President of SLAJ east Mohamed Vandi agreed with the minister that they as Journalists would look into the matter and find a solution through SLAJ level.