The Office of National Security (ONS) yesterday ended a one day validation workshop on counter-terrorism legislation at the Senior Police Officer’s Mess Kingtom.
The workshop attracted a cross-section of the security sector which includes members of the Sierra Leone Police SLP, Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces RSLAF, Sierra Leone Correctional Services, the media and the public.
In his keynote address, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mr. Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara thanked the organizers for such a brilliant initiative geared towards the issue of counter-terrorism in the country. What crime have they committed? He rhetorically asked, referring to the victims of terrorism the world over.
The Minister mentioned the cliques and gangsters whose activities he said constitute acts of terrorism in the country which threatens peace and security, adding that this should be the concern of every peace loving Sierra Leonean. He also noted the increasing number of “Tabliques” or muslim schlors and the mushroom of churches and mosques which suggests the need for the organizers in their advocacy to engage religious leaders in relation to counter-terrorism.
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice mentioned a number of UN Conventions that have outlawed Counter-terrorism but which have not been domesticated to become part of our laws in the country. He was of the view that the new bill when enacted into law would stand the test of time in addressing the issue of counter-terrorism in the country.
He encouraged participants to take note of the interpretation of terrorism as contained in the draft bill in line with grievous bodily harm and destruction of property which are terrorist related activities. He also mentioned terrorist financing as a major concern, adding that hijacking of airplane is a form of terrorism.
The Minister thanked President Ernst Bai Koroma for giving the organizers the privilege to prepare such an important bill more especially at a time like this when terrorism is at an alarming rate. He mentioned the monolithic approach that operates in Europe in the implementation of UN Conventions without recourse to their Parliaments as opposed to the dual system in Sierra Leone by ratification through Parliament. He said he has reviewed the entire bill and was quite comfortable with the contents therein but drew the attention of participants to vessels flying the flags of convenience and asked “how do we factor this issue on counter-terrorism?”
The Chairman of the occasion, Joseph Fofana in his opening remarks opined that terrorism knows no geographical boundaries nor can it be specified to a particular nation. He noted that terrorism which has taken a toll on the North of the Continent is now threatening West Africa.
A representative from the Military maintained that terrorism undermines development; he described terrorism as any action that impinged on national security and peace. To combat terrorism, the Army Officer said they should engage in counter-insurgency and counter- intelligence activities.
A representative from the Sierra Leone Police said terrorists have made the Police their prime target and that terrorists do not give notice before they strike. He maintained that the Police should be pro-active in addressing the issue of counter-terrorism adding that the workshop was convened at the most appropriate time.