Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 May 2019:
President Julius Maada Bio’s delivery of his televised and radio broadcast state opening of parliament address, was overshadowed today by the spectacular walking out by opposition APC MPs, who are protesting against what they see as the president’s abuse of power.
But their walk out did not deter the president, whose speech today was for the consumption of citizens and the international community, as it was for the minority of MPs who stayed behind to listen.
The president spoke about his government’s achievements in his first year in office, as well as his plans for the coming years.
He said that his first year’s achievements have established a solid foundation for the sustainable development of the country, and recalled that in his maiden address to Parliament in 2018, he made a commitment to transform the economy, create a favourable ecosystem for investment and private sector growth, and most importantly to invest in human capital development by making wide-ranging institutional and governance reforms.
He spoke of a Sierra Leone that is witnessing renewed hope and confidence for citizens, investors and development partners.
“Overall, fiscal deficit GDP ratio has dropped from 8.7 percent in 2017 to 5.4 percent in 2018 as a result of ongoing efforts to control expenditure while mobilising domestic revenue. Domestic revenues collected during 2018 increased to Le 4.35 trillion or 14.0 percent of GDP compared to Le 3.34 trillion or 12.6 percent of GDP in 2017, an increase of about Le 1.0 trillion.
“From April 2018 to March 2019 the Government collected a total of 5.09 trillion of domestic revenues giving a monthly average of Le 424 billion.
“The initial ban of export on timber was lifted in October 2018. A sole exporter was designated to export 13,000 containers of timber that was estimated to be available for export at the time of the ban.
“Between October 2018 and March 2019, the total amount realised from timber export was $16.5 million. Mindful of the need for environmental management, an additional US$ 2.4 million is now allocated for reforestation,” he said.
President Bio also told Parliament that despite the gains made in fiscal reforms, the country’s currency – the Leone, has depreciated in the past twelve months.
He said that the lull in iron-ore mining and possible off-shore foreign exchange transactions are affecting the government’s ability to generate foreign exchange inflows into the official banking sector.
But he promised that iron-ore production will soon resume, and that government is looking to clamp down on offshore foreign exchange transactions and compel all remittances and foreign disbursements to be done through the domestic banking system.
Turning his attention to the previous government’s failings, he said that the former government’s strategy was characterised by divisiveness and exclusion, which led to the weakening and subverting of state governing institutions.
He reiterated his promise to launch a presidential national conference that will look at promoting diversity and rebuild national cohesion.
“I am pleased to report that Government has prepared the establishment of the Independence Commission for Peace and National Cohesion. A Green Paper has been submitted for consultation on how to achieve inclusive governance and improve on the infrastructure for peace and democratisation.
“Together, with the Green Paper on Democratic Consolidation and National Cohesion, we shall host a National Dialogue Conference to be called the Bintumani 2,” he said.
He spoke about his manifesto promise that led to the launch of the Free Quality Education programme in August 2018, which has now benefitted about 2.14 million pupils in government-owned and government-assisted primary and secondary schools.
“To demonstrate our commitment to education, my government has increased and sustained budgetary allocation to 21% in 2018 Supplementary Budget and 2019 Budget. Government has invested in school infrastructure and feeding.
“A total of Le 3 billion was provided for the provision of furniture to 90 schools most in need and another Le 3 billion for the rehabilitation of 50 schools.
“Additionally, 210,000 pupils in Koinadugu, Falaba, Kambia, Pujehun and Tonkolili are currently benefitting from the National School Feeding Programme and Le 69 billion is allocated for the remaining 11 districts.
“The 2019 budget provided for the recruitment of 5,000 additional teachers. The Teaching Service Commission has received and is processing 12,000 applications for recruitment and over 1,075 have been recruited,” he said.
You can read the full speech here:
Address by president Julius Maada Bio on the State Opening Parliament 2 May 2019
An Addendum to Ms. Aminata Conteh’s piece with reference to President Bio’s characterization of the former APC Government as divisive and exclusionist, and I may add, teetering on the brink of regionalism, tribal identification and family lineage or pedigree.
For starters, the current chief National Electoral Commissioner, Mr. M.N Conteh, commonly known as N’fa Conteh ironically share similar path to the position of authority in managing a hugely important and politically sensitive position in the country’s electoral dispensation as that of his predecessor, the right Honorable and former Minister Mrs Christiana Ayoka Mary Thorpe, (born August 16th, 1949).
A former two-term Chief Electoral Commissioner and Chairperson (a woman), in the interest of gender equality, her elevation to this sensitive position was engineered by the late President – Alhaji, Dr Kabba, an SLPP Party and President from the SLPP Party, with consultation of the Political Parties Commissioner, a matter ofcourse.
But after she ascended to this envious position, she gravitated towards the APC Party and Government and subsequently dispensed her duties with a view of promoting the APC Party and Government. Little was known of her political leanings or it was hidden out of public view in a hidden agenda.
Subsequently in the 2012 election, where there was a dispute in voting results, she singlehandedly nullified an entire district’s electoral ballot, thereby facilitating the ignominious victory of the APC party. President Kabba may not have known her political affiliation prior to appointing her, even though that should not be a criteria for selecting a Chief Electoral Commissioner in any democracy, except that you may be sympathetic to the political party that is appointing you to such position.
And now therefore, the current Chief Electoral Commissioner may be displaying similar characteristics. And now the APC party wants him removed and replaced by a similar turncoat as Mrs Christiana Ayoka Mary Thorpe. FAT CHANCE. The nation should recall the 10 years of APC governance and regurgitate their collective memory and everyone will be confronted with the saying: What goes around, comes around.
Everything the SLPP is now being accused of was indeed perpetuated by the APC Government. President Bio, as well as the current Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and many others, are living testimonies to some of the heinous cruelty meted out to SLPP supporters.
I’m not advocating tit for tat, but when the shoe is now on the other foot, sensibilities must prevail for the sake of the country. Just remember, anyone can win election, no matter how prepared you think you may be against your opponent. Even if you have 101 game plan that may seem invincible.
Indeed. Any one can win an election, no matter how prepared you think you might be against your opponent. Great thoughts.
Murray and Aminata, thank you both for your opinions which I found fascinating. One thing we can all agree on is, our country will be strong when we work together with respect, in good faith and with sincerity. It doesn’t matter how much we agree or disagree. God Bless you both.
What issues has the President got with the APC representatives? What has this president done to the APC that they APC did not do to the SLPP Parliamentarians when they were in opposition?
The last work out from what I read about, is the petition case that is in court against certain Parliamentarians who did not meet the criteria to stand in the last General Elections? Was this not something that the last APC did successfully to the SLPP after the 2012 elections?
If I could remind you, my uncle Mr. Leonard Fofanan was rejected at the poll by our people in Bama Konta. He ended becoming Parliamentary representative of Bama Konta for five years courtesy of the APC petition against Captain (Rtd) Kanja who was rightfully represented.
The same happened to lawyer Ansu Lansana in Pendembu Kailahun district. Ours is a Common Law system where precedence in alegal decision becomes law and is enforceable. Why should the law created by an APC favoured Judge now be squashed because the shoe is now in the APC’s foot? Right meaning Sierra Leoneans should stand up for the law and nothing but the law if they want to see this country take the next step.
As far as sacking from jobs, I would state just four examples and you judge whether it was right and why what Bio has done is wrong?
Three electoral commissioners in the persons of Dr. Hindolo Momoh, Nyallay and Minah were sacked in September 2007 by President Koroma few days after he took power. Their crimes, they had asked the electoral commissioner to follow the legal system in invalidating results.
Unbeknownst to them, the electoral commissioner was a registered APC member and she knew exactly that it was not in the interest of the APC, if she had gone to the highest court to ask for permission to invalidate ballot boxes from over 400 and more polling in the opposition strong hold.
In October 2007, the Bank Governor Dr. Rogers was sacked and was not even given permission to take his personal belongings from his office. Six months later, the Kabba appointed Chief Justice Dr. Thomas was sent on leave to retirement and replaced with Umu Tejan Jalloh who was older than her predecessor.
Nassit, NACSA, and other government parastatals like SLRTC were cleaned off from all SLPP especially those seen with Mende names were removed from their jobs. At that time since the VP was a Kono, few Kono remained in their jobs. The Police was no exception. Ask DIG Somassa, Chris Charley and others who were sent out of the country never to return by president Koroma?
Now the question.
Did the SLPP make the country ungovernable as the APC MPs and their supporters would like and want us to believe?
Thank you very much Aminata for your contribution and participation on this platform. I accept your challenge by asking some very serious and reasonable questions. Please continue to participate on this all RESPECTED platform. Women are welcome.
For now, I will mention two issues among others that have led to what is now happening in parliament. First of all, the APC was not happy with the way the present SPEAKER of parliament was elected. They say, there is no way a majority party can lose the speakership battle in parliament.
Secondly, the opposition (mainly the APC and the NGC) have asked for an investigation and sacking of the NEC GENTLEMAN about the way the recent by-election in Kambia was carried out. But since then, nothing has been done. Why, nobody knows.
That is why, it is always good for a President to keep an eye on issues that will be tantamount to chaos and take immediate action, not only in parliament, but in the country as a whole. The problem with president Bio am afraid to say, is that, he does not say anything when things go wrong.
He is now the president of the whole country and he is looked upon by everyone to lead. If he continues to stay silent and not address the issues (for example the two I just mentioned), then he is going to be blamed. I hope that, I have given you a brief idea of what I meant in some of the issues.
Finally, Aminata, we must stop this revenge idea if we want to prosper as a nation. If for example, the APC were doing wrong things during their time in office, the SLPP should not return in kind. They should do what is right and teach us good governance.
VENGEANCE is very bad for our young democracy and for our country. You are a star Aminata. God bless you and I hope other women will follow and make us scratching our heads for answers and clarifications.
I do not think any sensible Sierra Leonean will disagree with the majority of the subjects in the President’s State Opening address. The question is, are the gains made sustainable without POLITICAL STABILITY? More importantly, INVESTORS will not be happy with POLITICAL INSTABILITY in the country. That will just scare them away.
In my view, the President has to sort out the problems he has with the opposition, essentially the APC if he is to get a good result with the NATIONAL DIALOGUE initiative. Remember that these MPs are representing their constituents who are the people.
What happens if the APC parliamentarians continue to walk out from anything? Their constituents and supporters love and back what they are doing. Believe me. The president will not be able to achieve his National Dialogue Initiative and many more important issues affecting the country if the APC continues to walk out or boycot.
Again, the first thing the President has to do, is to sort out the issues he has with the legislative branch, essentially the APC. The president can for example form a GOVERNMENT of NATIONAL UNITY. He can then go from there. There are times when a GOVERNMENT of NATIONAL UNITY is the answer to the impasse our country is now facing and the best solution at a given time as present.
Finally, as I said earlier, the President should take the LEAD and show LEADERSHIP and STATESMANSHIP.