9 May 2011

Sierra Leone: 'We Did Not Reject Any Parents'- Justice Showers Commission

Freetown — The Justice Adeliza Showers Judicial Commission of Inquiry investigating the adoption of some 29 children by the local non-governmental organization Help A Needy Child International Sierra Leone (HANCI-SL), has refuted a Concord Times newspaper publication that alleged the commission had rejected [some parents from giving testimonies].

The Thursday April 7, 2011 publication appeared on the Concord Times front page with the headline: "As Commission of Inquiry rejects parents... Adopted child jets in". The newspaper editor was called upon by the commission to comment on the said publication, as the commissioners highlighted some portions in the story they considered inaccurate.

Chairperson of the commission, Justice Adeliza Showers, first commended the editor for the publication, which she said enabled them to establish that one of the adopted children did visit the country. But she was however not happy with certain aspects of the story, which according to her, could amount to contempt and also prejudicial to the work of the commission.

"We are not rejecting any parents who want to give testify to the commission, in fact we are encouraging more people who know something about this issue to come forward and help the commission with vital information," said Justice Showers.

She described as erroneous claims by the publication that "most parents had been faking either by fainting or crying" while testifying before the commission.

The story also accused one Abu Bakarr Kargbo and Inspector Abdulai Scale of threatening parents with arrest and detention "should they work contrary to what they had detailed them to say before the commission".

According to Inspector Scale, his job at the commission was to provide security for the commissioners, workers and all witnesses and to protect life and property. "My job is not to interview witnesses as being alleged, I am commander in charge of security here and I have no business in telling people what to say at the inquiry," he said.

"As a professional police officer I know my responsibilities and my limitations; so I've never threatened or had private conservations with any person testifying before this commission. Two of us are attached to the commission - myself and PC 8975 Bangura I.S. - and our only mandate here is to provide security and protect life and property," Inspector Scale reiterated.

For his part, Abu Bakarr Kargbo also denied he was tutoring parents as to what they should say before the commission, saying "they are all mature people who have been in this saga for the past 13 to 14 years, so they can well recount all that had happened though they cannot read and write".

He added: "Most of the parents testifying at the commission are from different parts of the country like Binkolo, Mile 91, Kamakwie and Makeni; so how can all of them be tutored by me when I was not around at the time the children were adopted. I only met some of them at this commission."

Kargbo said he didn't have the authority to determine who should testify before the commission as it was being alleged, noting that "all parents whose children were adopted have the right to testify".

He also dismissed allegation that he was boasting of political backing, saying the claims were a calculated attempt to smear his reputation.

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