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Sierra Leone News: Mind your public and private lives

Around election time, people demand constitutional and statutory sanity and adherence while giving a blind eye to the numerous violations of the very laws that are supposed to safeguard us as a nation. It’s a curious occurrence. In the last elections we saw so many disputations by lawyers that led to injunctions and attempted injunctions, which nearly derailed the official election timetable and threatened our democratic credentials. Up to six months before the March 2018 elections there were issues being discussed like the Constitutional Review; the Executive Powers of the Presidency; election violence; the re-districting; the amalgamation of chiefdoms; the controversy over which body has the mandate to register people for voting; the funding of the elections and even the pronouncement of the election date. It was a hot time for hot debates. For their part, the previous Parliament left quite a few issues hanging while they spent sleepless nights in the well of Parliament trying to put through obnoxious laws like bringing down the mandatory 55% of votes a Presidential candidate should rally in a run-off to win. Even as I write, there are some unresolved issues. Some of these relate or affect the current Parliament: the issue of dual citizenship and the controversial Constituency Facilitation Fee/Constituency Development Fund. All these will wait for another day and we will look at the issue of public and private lives. In a grossly deprived society like ours where the bulk of citizens are below the poverty line, the general populace sees the people in power in a very harsh light. Harshness because there exists a very huge trust gap between the state actors and the rest of the citizens. One major point of controversy is the public and private lives of people in authority especially political authority.  Generally, people live two separate lives; one private and the other public. People live private lives with their family, loved ones and dear friends. It is mostly with people bound by blood, love, long periods of shared experience or a great devotion to religion. On the other hand, a public life is lived beyond the home and where sometimes one is not well known except in cases like as teacher or a nurse. With public life you have many kinds of persons seeking some sort of cooperative existence without the binding forces of family. In some societies, the difference has totally disappeared. In Sierra Leone the two lives are considered different by most people while there are a small minority of highly enlightened ones who think their private lives has nothing much to do with their public lives and they have a right as individuals to decide what they want to do with their life. All this is closely linked with the issue of public service and public officials. Very close to the last general elections the issue of who were public officials came strongly to the fore. When it comes to determining which category of public officials that should resign 12 months to general elections, our laws remain ambiguous and ambivalent. This is evident of the huge debates before the last elections; even lawyers could not agree on this issue. This Parliament really needs to pay attention to the report of the Constitution Review Committee. We expect people in authority to behave in the most morally acceptable manner. I have seen parents using obscene language on their kids and think it is quite okay to do so. Can you imagine! Normally, people do not want their private life known to many people. Our private life has some influence on our public life. The values we have will reflect on our actions. A good example is the kind of things people post on social media. There the very religious ones who always post nothing but religious tracts or prayers. It is very important that we have a good private life so that it will also show on our public life. In reality, one person can hardly be two different people. The issue is very controversial; many people are now living their private life in a public fashion. With technology now in great use it is difficult for one’s private life to remain private. When, for example, a minister goes against the traffic, he is easily noticed unlike an ordinary citizen. There are many things that people prefer to be hidden; there are a lot of things people will prefer to keep to themselves. At the level of governance in Sierra Leone, a distinction between the public and private spheres of life and state action is geared towards the enhancement of private life. As people we must have private space. Individuality could be meaningless without our ability to freely behave as individuals. This is why some years back when a recording of a young lady’s sexual act with somebody was out into the public, a lot of us frowned on the scenario as immoral and indecent. That was then, but now nudity is being exhibited in a manner never imagined. Now the Nigerian Films under the Real Nolly group have sex as its centrepiece. Today, blues videos are sold on the streets although in a discreet manner especially during the Month of Ramadan. There are a small group of people who do not care a hoot revealing their deepest and most intimate secrets. On the other hand there are those who pretend actions that are not part of them but just to please the public. Whichever side of the argument one takes, it is common that many people want to work in establishments that provide a sense of purpose. Organizations with people-centered culture and bound to be very promotional. Many of our establishments are yet to inculcate core values that promote leadership, open communication, trust, change responsiveness and resilience. If our public offices are not performing satisfactorily, it could be that they are yet to increase their levels of workplace spirituality, ethics, and moral fitness. These have direct correlation to sustainability. The conversation on private and public life may yield diverse opinions but what is certain is that they both influence each other. The fact of life is that although you may keep quite a lot of things secret to one’s self, but who you are in your private life will somehow reflect on your public life. The way of the world is to arraign our vices and degradation against us while our virtues pass unnoticed.


By Beny Sam

Tuesday October 23, 2018.

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