Friday, June 22, 2007

Mr. Attorney General, What About the Owners of Paramount Airlines?

News that filtered into the local and international domain about the detention of the country’s Minister of Transport and Communication, Dr. Prince Harding in one of the country’s police station in the western part of the city is not a pleasant one. The detainee himself is not a happy man as he sits there awaiting the next stage of the process. He may not know the angle or dimension the case will take, because of that, it is very certain that he is in a state of dilemma thinking aloud.

Dr. Prince Harding is not the only individual detained, but he is the only government Minister detained with respect to the Paramount Helicopter crash that perished the lives of twenty two individuals mostly Togolese and one Russian onboard the old and dilapidated Antonov craft that was not even fit to be used as a cargo flight. The Ministry’s Professional Head generally referred to as the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Bockarie is also detained on the grounds that he complied with instructions giving to him by his boss who happens to be the Minister. It is also rumoured that the Director of Civil Aviation, Mr. Ngongor is also detained. Statements from these individuals have either been obtained or in the process to be obtained from them, explaining the role each of them played that culminated into the destruction of innocent lives. It would be recalled that after the disaster on June 3rd, 2007, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mr. Fred Carew did promise both the Togolese government and its people that the owners and managers would be charged to court for negligence. The offence of negligence though criminal is not enough to set the right precedent. This is because it was not only negligence on the part of the officials of the Ministry of Transport and Communication but also conspiracy did take place. This element would conclude this piece for readers to know how the conspiracy worked that saw the Paramount Airline occupying the air space of the country that resulted into this memorable and heart breaking disaster in the history of the country’s aviation industry.

The focus of the writer at this initial stage is thus, why was Paramount Airline grounded for weeks before allowed to fly? Second, what was the outcome of the investigation of the International Civil Aviation Organization? Was the outcome taken to Cabinet or was only in the closet of the Minister until he gave instruction to his subjects to allow the scrap to fly and kill. Also, when are the owners and managers going to be detained? The issue of the offence or the type of charges to be preferred against them is a matter for the law officers department to determine, which is under the jurisdiction of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, but for the purpose of brainstorming and intellectual discourse suggestions can be made.

In response to these queries, the following have been surfaced, but first, a rambling on the findings is necessary. Did the Minister of Transport and Communication take the outcome of ICAO’s findings about Helicopters flying the airspace of Sierra Leone including Paramount Airline to Cabinet for discussion by members of Cabinet. Was the report discussed and decision arrived at that the Minister should take administrative action? This is where Dr. Harding needed professional and technical advice if his motive was patriotic. Browsing through the report as I piece this article together, the Minister should have used his chemistry and physics background to save the crash victims if nothing had clouded his mind or was not influenced by external forces or seduced by incentive that motivated him to command his Permanent Secretary to grant permission to fly against the background of the ICAO report and findings. It is no secret that Paramount Airline was grounded as a result of mechanical and technical reasons followed by complaints from the general public of poor maintenance, unreliability and other reasons that the public was frightened about. With this knowledge and coupled with the findings from ICAO Paramount Airline should have still remained on the ground.

The outcome of the report was clear, unambiguous, and to the point “…Paramount Airline does not meet international Aviation standard” This could have been the eye opener for the academic doctor to take the necessary action and prevent himself from the current embarrassment. Whether it was an oversight or deliberate action to put the rotten flight into the air he is now paying the price. The defence of the Permanent Secretary that he was instructed to grant permission to Paramount Airline to fly by the Minister could be described as premature and inadmissible in any sober court of law. As a professional, he is there to give professional advise and if his advise is not adhered to he has the option to either resign or inform the public through the media, but to say that he was instructed to do something which in his professional judgment is incorrect is not only negligence but an act that could warrant the seizure and suspension of his professional credentials and render him non- functional for a considerable period of time especially when twenty two lives had been perished as a result of that.

The arrest, detention and subsequent prosecution of the Minister, his Permanent Secretary, Mr. Bockarie and Director of Civil Aviation, Mr. Ngongor is just the beginning of the journey if justice is seen to be done. People like Bobby Dourozski, the Ukrainian hustler who knowingly brought the rotten and outdated Russian Antonov craft to Sierra Leone, using the country as a dumping ground should be behind bars at this time. But it would appear that the Attorney General, Mr. Fred Carew is delaying action for the hustler to escape? He should have been the first person, followed by the managers to be arrested and charge to court to explain why he has used the rotten Helicopter to kill twenty two innocent people after he had exploited them.

Apart from the offence of negligence, Bobby Dourozski should be charged with offences like conspiracy, murder and extortion. Legal arguments could either subscribe or dismiss these charges for want of evidence. But there are evidences to substantiate the charges and let the law office, Anti corruption do their assignment well to get the likes of this Ukrainian hustler behind bars and IPC Tours for managing a rotten Helicopter in the country.

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