Purely a matter of history and evolving from good human relations exercised since days of the 1960s, whilst attending the Belle Public School (BPS) in Belle Yella, now situated in Gbarpolu County but had earlier been a part of Lofa County, it became compulsory that individuals piloting airplane, whether the Weasua Air Transport of Mr. Manuel Cuenca, the Air Reconnaisance Unit (ARU) of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), the Lutheran Church or the United Pentecostal Mission School of Kparkonu Fassama.
This was due to the fact that aside coming into contact with Renault buses, pick-ups and trucks in a year’s time, having gone to live with a grandmother in Zorzor City, Belle Yella had remained inaccessible by motor roads.
One had to trek for between five to 10 hours from there to reach other destinations, using very tiny roads that would lead to walking through streams and rivers, as well as climbing hills and mountains, with the unfortunate left to walk on bare feet; well, that’s enough!
However coming into contact with the few pilots, since airplane became the instant means to convey citizens, especially the sick, to Monrovia, Phebe or Bomi Hills, now Tubmanburg, it is saddened that whilst still recovering from malaria that barred me from attending any of the 165th Independence Day celebrations in Monrovia, I was yesterday greeted by the death of Colonel Arthur Bedell, indeed one of my earthly saviors from another detention at the Post Stockade by the late Defense Minister Gray D. Allison.
The entire scenario arose from a story provided a senior reporter at the Daily Star newspaper in 1986, the late Ephraim Johns, who came into contact with a citizen wrongly imprisoned at the headquarters of the Liberia National Police (LNP), providing him details of a crime that people had committed against him but been a poor man, he was lied against and falsely imprisoned.
Upon publication of the story which turned out to be a lead, the senior reporter was quickly found and called at the Defense Ministry to the unacknowledgement of the Managing Director that happened to have been this columnist.
Having preliminarily investigated him, I was sent for by the Defense Minister, since whatever was published in the Daily Star became my responsibility. An old “Barracks Boy,” meaning “BTC Boy” who truly knew majority of those who had come to military power, I simply walked up to the third floor of the building on Benson Street and was instantly ushered into the Conference Room where I met Generals, Lieutenant Colonels and so forth.
Having provided me a seat, the late Minister Allison questioned whether I was the Managing Director of the Daily Star and in response, I answered in the affirmative. He then asked why would I allow such a story to be published on that day, since it was against national security interest.
As though in a computerized state, though a former head of the Typesetting Department at the Daily Observer when computers could hardly be found anywhere around other than the Baptist House, I instantly and questionably responded by asking him to identify the faults in the story. Against this backdrop, the late Defense Minister became furious by demanding that the Daily Star newspaper produce its source.
Glancing at the many high-ranking military faces and threatening to have me jailed at the Post Stockade where I had already become a graduate --- thanks to Principal Kenneth Yarkpawolo Best for the experience --- unless I identify the source, I simply responded by referring the late Defense Minister to practices of the journalism profession where a reporter or editor was not allowed to dry up his source, having earlier been Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT).
At this, again, he became more furious and instructed that should I fail to provide the source of the story, he would first have the senior reporter flogged in the conference room before been taken to jail.
Asking me for the source and having contemplated on turning the whole conference into laughter, I went ahead to tell the late Defense Minister that the reporter’s source was in New Kru Town. He asked, what is his name. I said John. He further asked, which John and I said John Doe.
Still pressing his question as to where the John Doe would be found, I seriously responded that if those who wish to find John Doe could simply go and walk from house-to-house in New Kru Town, John Doe would be found. The entire table went into deep laughter, ending up with the late General Gray D. Allison simply asking that we become careful in the publication of such story, thereby excusing us.
From that very day, in 1986, the late Colonel Arthur Bedell who had resided on Broad Street, Snapper Hill and I began calling one another “John Doe” amidst laughter. He was always smartly dressed and very polite, in spite been a military pilot of distinction.
Many years out of touch as a result of the past debacle, it is saddened to hear about his recent death in the United States, with body to be flown to Liberia following arrangements by the family.
For the up-and-coming now enjoying press freedom in Liberia, let the words go forth that it did not come so easily, moreso with many having paid by their lives. Proverbially said that “how you fix your bed, so shall you lie on it,” professionalism is all that is required and these are the little things that matter yah!