Sierra Leone Telegraph: 1 June 2018:
Leaders of Sierra Leone’s political parties in parliament, will today go head to head as the parliamentary debate on president Bio’s plans for developing Sierra Leone draws to a close.
After four days of parliamentary debate, which has tested the oratory skills of many of the country’s MPs – with a few disappointments, today has been billed as the parliamentary clash of the Titans:
In the Red corner – MP Chernor Maju Bah (Chericoco) – Parliamentary Leader of the opposition APC (Photo), and the Green corner – MP Sidie M. Tunis, Parliamentary Leader of the ruling SLPP.
Also in the ring and representing the opposition NGC party is the master of oratory himself – MP Dr. Kandeh K. Yumkella, alongside MP Saa Emerson Lamina – the Leader of C4C.
The last time the people of Sierra Leone witnessed political leaders fighting it out in a head to head debate, was at the height of the 2018 elections campaigning – the AYV TV presidential debate.
But it was all different back then, when they were merely representing their respective political parties. Today, these four leaders are in parliament having been elected to represent their respective constituencies – millions of Sierra Leoneans. (Photo: Sidie M. Tunis – leader of SLPP).
Today’s debate in parliament is about the lives and future of 7 million Sierra Leoneans. It’s about the economy, jobs, wealth creation, healthcare, education, access to electricity and water, roads construction, corruption, the rule of law, justice, and many more vital issues facing the nation.
Will these leaders disappoint their parties and the people who elected them? That remains to be seen, when parliament closes today.
But as the debate continued yesterday in parliament, with parliament across the political divide delving into president Bio’s five-year development plans, reactions to his proposals were mixed as expected.
According to report from the Parliamentary Communications Unit, MPs critically analysed and made recommendations that will enhance the success of the SLPP government’s “New Direction” Plan. (Photo: MP Dr. Yumkella – the leader of NGC).
MP Alusine Bash Kamara of the opposition APC, thanked President Bio for his State opening of Parliament address which outlined his Plans for taking the country forward, and applauded the president for what he referred to as ‘important appointments he had given to the sons and daughters of Karene District, and wished them success in their various offices’.
Speaking on the issue of low admission in schools, he said that the implementation of the 6344 system of education has increased the level of school enrolment, boost the morale of teachers by ensuring their salary goes direct into their bank accounts. He called for the establishment of a WASSCE center in Gbinti, now in Karene District.
MP Daniel B. Koroma of the APC, commended President Bio but referred to the president’s State opening of Parliament address as “being opposition focused”, and “failed to acknowledge the good work of the APC, regarding the economy, agriculture, subsidies, save for the improvement of Lungi International Airport which was described as fairly good, but needs repairs”.
He also thanked President Bio for proposing to continue the development and delivery of programmes initiated by the APC government, except for the 6344 system of education that is about to be reversed. (Photo: Leader of C4C – MP Saa Emerson Lamina).
Daniel B. Koroma spoke about the “graduation of internet penetration from 10-70%” and said that the current challenges facing the energy sector should be addressed by the Bio government, instead of blaming the bad policies or agreements signed by the APC government.
MP Paramount Chief Kangbai Joe Macavoray of Bo District, commended President Bio for his comprehensive address to Parliament, whilst referring to the president as “a man of his words”, having known him for a long time.
He called on the Ministers of Government to perform, because they are 90% responsible for the success of the President’s initiatives. He said that 90% of the people of Sierra Leone are engaged in agricultural activities, with over 300 Agricultural Business Centres under-utilized across the country.
Paramount Chief Kangbai Joe Macavoray spoke about the need for timely distribution of agricultural inputs – such as seeds and fertilisers, with the required technical knowledge. He criticised the idea of using external contractors for the building of local roads that could be done by Chiefs, and said that government must ensure that Chiefs are given this responsibility.
On the delivery of the government’s free education programme, he appealed for the involvement of Chiefs, the re-awakening of the dormant Teaching Service Commission, and the review of the Education Act of 2004.
He also spoke about the backlog of payments owed by government to Paramount Chiefs and called on Parliament to prove its mettle, in improving conditions of service for parliamentarians.
MP Bashiru Silikie of the SLPP thanked President Bio and referred to his Statement to the House as “having all the ingredients necessary for the development of the country”. He prefaced his contribution by thanking the people of Sierra Leone for electing President Bio and the SLPP to governance again.
He reminded the “APC of focussing their campaigning on Maada Bio, instead of the issues bordering on bread and butter during the past elections”. He said that the previous SLPP government “left a lot of mobile operators in place – among which, only Orange and Africell are now operating”.
He decried the previous APC government for “implementing the toll road agreement, the sacking of the former Vice President without recourse to Parliament, the denial of law graduates to practice”, for which he said that “APC would be in permanent opposition”.
Unlike the last Parliament, he boasted that “under the New Direction, Ministers now come and witness debates in the House”.
MP Moses A. Edwin of the SLPP, thanked President Bio and said that the president’s Development Plan reflects the difference between “tolongbolization and paopaism”. He called for professionalism, discipline in the delivery of services.
Describing Sierra Leone as the “third hungriest country in the world”, which he likened to “living amidst the abundance of water, yet thirsty”, he blamed past governments, “especially APC for poor agricultural outputs”, despite the availability of large arable lands for cultivation.
He also said that “it is only in a tolongbonised economy, centered on voodoo and kokonomics, after a much trumpeted fastest growing economy, that they could not feed the people, and unable to pay teachers and contractors on time”. He also blamed energy outages on bad agreements signed by the past government.
MP Musa Fofanah of C4C commended President Bio and promised to speak on the platform of objectivity. He spoke largely on issues affecting the provision of clean and sustainable water supply to the people of this country.
He criticised SALWACO for not rehabilitating existing water infrastructure across the country but chose to construct new ones by using fake contractors and creating boreholes that are not yielding the desired results.
He spoke about water gravity system in all the chiefdoms in Kono District and said that “they are in a state of collapse because of no repairs or rehabilitation”. Calling for support, he said that “if the President fails, Parliament will be held accountable”.
MP Paramount Chief, Sahr Youngai Kontanday Mbriwa II of Kono District commended President Bio and praised his proposed free education programme, aimed at human development, with a view to curbing ignorance and poverty in the country.
He described education as a tool for empowerment and liberation, and called on the government to remove all formal barriers hampering access to learning. But he said there is need to clarify the policy on free education, in respect of the obligations of stakeholders in the country.
He said there is need also for a review of the Child Rights Act of 2007, with the view to strengthen the laws against perpetrators of teenage pregnancies in the country.
He called on the Government to improve on the provision of energy, water, long delays in dispensing justice on land cases, boundary disputes, and the construction of major roads linking Kono to neighbouring Guinea and other major towns in the country.
MP Catherine Zainab Tarawally of the opposition APC, also thanked President Bio (Photo) for prioritizing education and agriculture in his statement to the House. Defending the 6344 system of education established by the recommendation of the Prof. Gbamanja Commission of Inquiry, she admitted that enrolment at tertiary level has increased considerably.
Describing herself as “a master farmer”, she noted the President’s vision of owning a farm before appointment to public office “as a human rights violation”, whilst calling on him to make agriculture attractive by constructing more feeder roads and to get tractors on hire-purchase.
MP Bernadette Wuyatta Songa of the ruling SLPP thanked President Bio and the people for solidly voting SLPP to governance and described the president’s speech as “holistic”. She spoke passionately about the issue of dual citizenship, which she said she had renounced in order to serve her country.
She called on the Government to amend and repeal those discriminatory provisions from the law books which bar Diaspora brothers and sisters from becoming President, Minister, and Member of Parliament.
She recalled the agony Dr. Kandeh Yumkella had similarly gone through. She said that Diasporans protested at No. 10 Downing Street in London when the former Vice President was sacked “unconstitutionally”.
She heaped enormous praise on the First Lady, Mrs. Fatima Bio for being a supportive wife and a champion of women’s empowerment in the country.
MP Abubakarr Fofanah of the SLPP commended President Bio for his speech, and said he supports the president’s policy initiative of reversing the 6344 to 6334 system of education “because the former promotes teenage pregnancies and the later reduces or eliminates such incidence”. In effect, he said the 6334 system caters for the survival and development of the girl child, through education.
After several other MPs have spoken on the motion to accept the president’s statement to the House, the session was brought to a close and adjourned to today – Friday, 1st of June 2018, when the debate shall be drawn to a final close with the four parliamentary leaders going head to head. The Sierra Leone Telegraph will bring you all the reports.