In the last week, I have been reading about Cessna airline one of whose fleet made the daring landing at our international airport nine days ago today without even a cock crowing or a hen cackling. Shame on our airport authorities at the time! Shame on all those remotely connected to it! And shame on our national security although I must hasten to say that Francis Munu’s handling of the situation so far has been splendid.
The swift move by the Assistant Inspector General of Police for Crimes Services to go to the crime scene, the deployment of officers to the northwest resulting in the arrests of several suspects, his characteristically cool demeanour, his ever-ready approach to avail uncompromising information and the well-measured way he manages that which should not be let out, have been stunningly impressive.
In my last piece I argued that the aircraft is so small it could not have flown in directly from Venezuela. Now here are some interesting facts about Cessna relative to my thinking. According to airlines.net, “In July 1975 Cessna announced it was developing a new piston twin suitable for airline, freight and corporate work, capable of taking off with a 1560kg (3500lb) payload from a 770m (2530ft) strip, similar in concept to the successful 402, but larger overall.”
Now, the 404-N (404 Titan) version which is similar to the Narco-plane flies a maximum range of 1,840 nautical miles, probably fitted with an extra fuel tank. Now, the distance between Venezuela’s capital Caracas and Freetown is 3,181 nautical miles. It is highly unlikely the narco-plane flew in directly from the south American country.
It is good to establish the origin of the plane, which police say is Venezuela but it helps to bring in the conspiracy theories especially in a country where cover-ups are the order of the day. In a country where diplomatic parcels have been found with cocaine inside them and only God knows what happened to that case if anything, you can understand the public feeling. In a country where consignments of cocaine have been found in the past and clarity beclouded their destiny in the hands of the police, skepticism is justified. And in a country where parochial and selfish considerations surpass the good of the nation and mankind, who will trust who?
This brings me to suggestions and even statements by some senior government officials that the narco-plane should be converted into the country’s use. Suggesting this is tragic in itself! Carrying out the suggestion destroys whatever moral fibre we have left in us as a nation. Does anyone need telling that that aircraft is drug money? Converting it into use for whatever purpose is akin to selling the seized drugs and using the money. Narco-dollar! Even if that money will be used to raise the dead, we should not get close to it let alone use it! It is morally reprehensible!
In case we need reminding, a few years ago, parcels of cocaine that drifted to our shores were collected by some individuals who sold the substance to people in Freetown. Today some of them can shamelessly tell you that they did this and that with the money. And the effect of the residual cocaine is felt and seen all over us.
If the drugs are to be incinerated, which should almost naturally be the case, the aircraft should be destroyed when or if we are able to impound it. I say IF because I hear there is such a huge, wide and long legal bottleneck attached to its impounding that it might take very long.
But amid all the talking and speculating surrounding the narco-plane is the deafening silence of the president. Presidential press secretary Sheka Tarawallie has defended his boss’s decision to remain quiet, saying he does not have to talk since his ministers are doing so. And that he would not like to talk and compromise ongoing investigations.
There is no doubt that in the persons of his Information Minister and Presidential Spokesman, President Ernest Bai Koroma is blessed with orators who can convince a beach dweller to buy their sand. But the fact still remains that his voice or words encapsulated in a press release, will make all the difference. Hear the AIG Francis Musu, as quoted by a local newspaper, paraphrased and summarized: the events of 13 July are our own version of America’s 11 September.
In that time, and on 7 July 2005 when the bombing happened in London, the US president and the British prime minister became the rallying point as their statements were all over the place. The Narco-place affair may not be as serious as those events in terms of lives lost, but in terms of the way it has exposed our inadequate security is comparable. I think it is the biggest threat to our security since armed men crossed into our country from Liberia in 1991, catching our security forces off guard.
It also depends on what the president says to compromise, or not, investigations. How about a commitment that no-one remotely connected to this will be spared. A statement from the president will allay public fear and lack of confidence that this, like previous investigations, will peter out without consequence.
In all of this there is the fundamental question of legality and human rights. Today is nine days since the arrests of a good number of the suspects. In such circumstance, the legal provision for anyone to be held without charge is ten days.
Another twist to this is the need for the quick reviewing of our laws. Police say they will be laying emphasis on the aspect of the illegal possession of arms, as some weapons were fond on the scene of the narco-plane; As well as the aspect of the damage done to the airport’s perimeter fence when the drug gang drove through it to rescue their crew.
Had we had good enough laws against drug trafficking, who would be prioritizing the case of damage to the perimeter fence? Our parliament, the law officers’ department and the bar association should spearhead this and save our and future generations from the pariah a narco-state represents and the destruction narcotics do to especially the young. By Umaru Fofana