The Sierra Leone Web



It is always a source of great pleasure for me to be invited to officially open or launch businesses run by Sierra Leoneans. Like I have always stressed, this country is ours and it is therefore our responsibility to develop it.

While my government will do everything possible to attract foreign investors, every effort will be made to encourage Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad to contribute to invest in their motherland, including the use of their expertise. I am happy to note that my call is not falling on deaf ears as is now demonstrated by Sierra Leoneans including the proprietors of this enterprise.

As a government, we will continue to do everything we possibly can to create and maintain the enabling environment for investors both foreign and indigenous because we know that the economic development of any country depends to a very large extent on the development and productivity of the private sector.

There exist in the country enormous investment opportunities that cry out for exploitation. Most sectors of our economy remain untouched by investors while huge gaps remain in others that have already been ventured into, including Tourism, Fishery and Agriculture among many others.

Mr Shaw and his colleagues have chosen to go into the mass communication sector. We hope you are coming into this sector not only with the necessary equipment but also the trained manpower that will make a difference.

When my government first came to power in 1996, I promised to run an open administration that will encourage freedom of speech and expression through the print and electronic media.

In the ensuing period, the number of newspapers has increased from about ten to more than forty today and radio stations from about five to about twenty.

The intention of my government then was to create an atmosphere of healthy debate on issues of national importance. An atmosphere where the views of the governed and the government could be heard through a constructive and sincere exchange of ideas designed to develop our country.

However, to our disappointment what has developed over the years is a situation in which healthy debate has given way to personal vilification and vendetta. In effect, the development of a culture of "Bring Him or Her Down" syndrome which spawns retrogression instead of development.

I have encouraged and will continue to encourage any information that will expose corruption by public officials if done responsibly and with sincerity of purpose. If a public official is corrupt, say it by all means but please provide proof. It is not enough to say Public Officials are corrupt based purely on rumours without any proof.

My advice to members of the press therefore, is, "investigate your stories properly and get your facts straight before going to press or on the air." I say so because unfounded reports about corruption among public officials will succeed in not only damaging the image of those officials unnecessarily but will at the same time drag the image of the country in the mud. No serious investor will go to a country where everybody is said to be corrupt.

As a government, our record speaks for itself. In the fight against corruption, we have established and strengthened institutions including the Anti Corruption Commission and the Auditor-General's Department that deal with the menace of corruption in our society, and indeed prominent public officials have been prosecuted and those found guilty, dealt with according to law.

We fully acknowledge the vital role that the press plays in national development. It serves as a bridge between the government and the governed; therefore, it must adopt a two-way traffic system of carrying out its functions. By that I mean, it must inform the people about what the government is doing while at the same time inform government about the feeling of the people or what the people think about the government by way of feedback. The press must strive to balance the journalism of diagnosis and the journalism of prescriptions. When you detect an anomaly in society, do not only criticize but also make suggestions as to how the situation could be rectified. Nobody has monopoly over knowledge. We will look at your suggestions and bring onboard those that could be implemented.

If you hear rumours about corrupt practices anywhere, go and find out. If you go with sincerity of purpose without any tendency to blackmail, I am sure people will cooperate with you.

Once again let me assure you the proprietors of this station and indeed all potential investors of my government's commitment to protecting all investors who operate within the laws of this country.

I thank you.