What initially started as a gathering of friends and associates to launch a book in his honor on a low key note, suddenly took a dramatic turn when the event blossomed into an electrifying event with speaker after speaker took the stage to pay glowing tributes to the late Tom Kamara, founder and former publisher of the New Democrat Newspaper who died some 9 years ago.
Welcoming participants at the small but well organized and packaged gathering held on Friday, July 9, 2021 at the Headquarters of the Platform for Development and Peace, Old Matadi, Sinkor, one of the organizers and close associates of the late journalist, Mr. James Shilue recounted his interactions with Mr. Kamara which he described as soul lifting, rewarding and interactive. He described Mr. Kamara as a very thoughtful, fearless, truthful and nationalistic personality whose writings informed his audience of the ills in the society, especially in governance that has not fare well for the country.
“I got to know Mr. Kamara while we were all seeking asylum in the Netherlands during the turbulent time of our country’s history. The war was on and the belligerents were having free ride with the suffering masses. The country was being looted in addition to the wanton killings that were going on. Tom saw all and could not remain silent. He wrote on them and brought them to international attention, especially among top politicians, activists and development experts and they took interest in what was going on back home”, Mr. Shilue said.
He said the death of Tom Kamara was a major blow to his associates, especially him at such a crucial time in the history of the country when he was needed most to flag most of the ills that people see and don’t bother to talk about. He continued that it was against the background that the idea of immortalizing him and his work was conceived and it was agreed that a publication on him should be done.
Mr. Shilue who is the Executive Director of the Platform for Development and Peace(P4DP) and chief host of the program said the organizers got to work, got the consent of the widow, Madam Rachel Kamara and started to source funding towards the project. He said it was at the juncture that a leftist member of the Dutch Parliament, Mr. Leo Platvoet was approached and he accepted to offer assistance for the publication.
Mr. Shilue then extended thanks and appreciation to all those who worked both directly and behind the scenes to get the book published.
Earlier, Mr. Leo Platvoet, spoke via Zoom from the Netherlands, expressing excitement on completion of the publication. He said there was no other good way to remember Tom Kamara whom he described as an extraordinary person other than reading about his thoughts years after he died. “This will help Liberians to remember Tom and keep his dreams alive. It was a pleasure being part of the project and look forward to working with all of you to achieve the goal of the project”, Mr Platvoet said.
While launching the book, former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, who was also uncle to the late Kamara in a prepared text read on his behalf by Cllr. George Saah, one of his aides, said Tom was a very uncompromising journalist when it comes to truth who did not only criticize those in power, but went beyond the border of the country and took note of the evils that permeated the African continent.
“Tom Challenged the status quo with a mighty pen, with a clear intention to stamp out the evil in society. He was not a friend of dictators, tyrants or all those who exploited the common people for their selfish gain or motives. And he was never comfortable with the impunity in power, no matter who was in charge”, VP Boakai said.
VP Boakai, who was an uncle to the deceased journalist, said THIS TOO IS LIBERIA is a sarcastic way of putting different situation of Liberia in a perspective with some humor and no doubt Tom achieved the purpose of that caption of many of his articles that he wrote to express his displeasure in the happenings in society.
Mr. Boakai mentioned his advocacy and the love for his country when he said Tom was critical and upright to the extent that he raised the issue of the illegal exploitation of Liberia’s natural resources and got the attention of the Dutch Parliament. He said though Tom is late but his legacy lives on and called on his friends and associates to work harder so that it will not die.
Madam Teecee Boley, EU Information and Communication Officer read two paragraphs from one of his articles NO BELGRADE HERE to give the audience a refresher look of the style of his writing as well as have an insight of what was written in the book.
In a brief remark at the program, the President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) thanked the management of the New Democrat for keeping the dreams of Tom’s alive. He said he was an inspiration to the media profession who impacted a lot to the profession and will be highly missed.
In similar vein, Mr. Othello Garblah, President of the Publishers Association of Liberia who also worked with Tom spoke profoundly about him and his exploits in the profession especially where he helped to inspire a good number of younger journalists in the country. He said there is a difference between knowing Tom and working with him and for some of them that worked with him, it was a huge loss. He also called on all his friends and associates to help keep his imprints alive.
Two members of the Tom Kamara Foundation, Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe, President of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) and Attorney Samuel Kofi Woods, former Labor Minister also spoke at the occasion.
Cllr Gongloe said the late journalist was a unique journalist in his own class and laid the foundation for true journalism and uprightness in the profession, adding he was committed to telling the truth and a true representation of what journalists are required to do.
He said Tom was an outstanding figure who knew the issues and predicted some major events that later on came to pass. “He was prophetic, he predicted the trials of Taylor, the conviction and they all came to pass”.
He said that THIS TOO IS LIBERIA was a stylish but realistic way Tom pointed out the many contradictions that took place in the country at various intervals. He furthered that Tom used his pen wisely and mightily to flag up the evils in the society to the admiration of so many people. “It is our hope that what he started and left, will not die along with him. This is a challenge to all of us”, Cllr. Gongloe said.
For his part, Attorney Woods, who is a leading human rights activist in the country said the launching of the book to honor Tom was a moment of reawakening against the background of a country that has gotten accustomed to honoring bad people and the threat of leadership deficit is on the prowl.
He said in addition to the book in his honor, there should be a TOM KAMARA LECTURE SERIES to highlight major issues that border on fighting corruption and impunity, good governance, rule of law and entrenching democratic values in the country.
Attorney Woods said as an immediate step to immortalize the late journalist, efforts must be made to bring back and rejuvenate the New Democrat Newspaper, the institution he worked so hard to place at the top of the media practice in this country.