Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 May 2019:
Parliamentarians yesterday concluded their deliberations into the president’s State Opening of Parliament address delivered several weeks ago.
The Leader of the NGC party, Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Yumkella MP, commended President Bio for the detailed speech he delivered to Parliament, which he said took “four arduous hours”, suggesting that it should be truncated in future to save time and the detailed copy be circulated for the consideration of Members of Parliament.
Yumkella said he could not agree more with President Bio, when he said that the necessary space must be created for the Diasporas to participate in Sierra Leone’s democratic process, by being able to vote from outside of the country during elections.
Speaking about the government’s budget mentioned in the president’s statement, Yumkella said “it is still not in good shape, due to debt servicing and the payment of salaries and wages that is hugely affecting education and healthcare in the country”.
But he commended the government for introducing measures that have resulted in a surge in revenue mobilization, bring in an additional Le 1 Trillion.
On government procurement, he spoke against over-pricing which is undermining the future of the children of Sierra Leone and the need to control Government expenditure.
Yumkella also praised the government for payment of $1.5 Billion of debt inherited from the past APC government and for re-engaging the IMF to support development programmes in the country.
Speaking about the need for effective monitoring and supervision of the education sector, he called on Government to declare war on corruption in education, evidenced by examination mal-practices and the use of technology to prevent corruption.
On electoral reforms, he called on Government to introduce quota system for women representation as is the case in Rwanda.
He spoke about the need for capacity building for MPs, including help with research, provision of suitable office space, adding that “if Parliament fails in its duties, this country will wreck”.
He concluded by calling on Parliament to enact a Transition Law as in Ghana and Kenya, which ensures that public officials appointed by the president, are not disadvantaged and treated unjustly, when a new president and government takes over.
Also contributing to the debate, Emerson Lamina MP (Photo), who is Leader of C4C party, commended President Bio for his detailed and comprehensive address to Parliament.
Speaking about the economy, he said that “President Bio inherited a dismal economy”, but “judging from the efforts he has made, the economy would soon yield dividends for the people of Sierra Leone”.
He also praised the Government for the monthly repayment of internal and external debts that run into Billions of Leones, adding that the Government has mobilized $200 Million to boost the country’s agriculture sector.
Emerson Lamina also spoke about the need for improving road network between Kono and Guinea so as to transform the District into an international gateway for business.
Speaking about the Government’s earnings from mining export, he praised the Government for the passing of the Extractives Revenue Bill into law, and the recent launch of three mining policies – geo-data and artisanal mining policies and the review of the Mines and Minerals Act.
Commenting on national cohesion, he said that “for the past ten years society has been characterized with divisive and toxic politics, mistrust and corruption”. He recalled that the verdict on the illegal sacking of Alhaji Sam Sumana cast a slur and a serious dent on the image of the judiciary, adding that in 2017 the Supreme Court of Kenya overturned the elections result and ordered a re-run.
He called on the Government to review the White Paper on the constitutional review process for onward consideration by Parliament.
Emilia Lolloh Tongi, who is sitting as an independent MP from Kailahun District, commended President Bio for his statement to Parliament, adding that “Rome was not built in a day”, as he praised the Government for the mobilization of resources to boost agriculture, especially with the creation of 25 Agricultural Business Centres.
She questioned the students loan scheme, saying that one could hardly get employed after graduation.
Deputy Speaker of Parliament – Segepoh Solomon Thomas MP, also commended President Bio for his statement to the House, saying that the president’s policy objectives will be quantified into budgetary terms for implementation.
He said that the austerity measures introduced by the last APC government, gravely impacted the salaries of MPs and civil servants, whilst praising the current Government for its effective revenue mobilization.
He also said that the people of Sierra Leone are impressed with the introduction of the Free Quality Education (FQE) and advised the opposition not to play politics with education, adding that the FQE will enable the SLPP to score more than 60% of the votes in the 2023 general elections.
Speaking in favour of expunging seditious libel from the law books, which the last government had promised but failed to deliver, he suggested that it should be replaced with civil litigation to protect the reputation of citizens from defamation and other excesses of the media and society.
Acting Leader of the Opposition, Ibrahim Ben Kargbo MP (Photo), commended President Bio for his statement to Parliament, but said that the APC party demands respect because of its large support across the country.
He praised the former APC government for constructing quality roads from Kenema to Pendembu and Port Loko to Kambia, adding that over-taxation is crippling businesses in the country.
He blamed the Government for the deteriorating state of electricity supply in the country, saying that the last APC government gave electricity to Bo and Kenema.
He also called for concerted effort, aimed at all political parties working together, as well as the need for acceptance of truth where mistakes had been made.
He said that the former president, Ernest Bai Koroma could not attend the conference on national cohesion because his personal security has been withdrawn.
He decried the ongoing deforestation activities taking place in the country, which he said could lead to dire consequences, such as acute water shortage, if not curbed.
Concluding the debate, the Leader of Government Business, Sidie M. Tunis MP, commended President Bio for what he described as his detailed address to Parliament in light of the existing situation in the country.
He said that in spite of the walk-out of parliament by the opposition APC, he wanted to thank the Speaker of Parliament for allowing the APC to participate in the debate.
He denied accusations made by the APC of a rapid deterioration in electricity supply in the country, saying that in fact there has been an upsurge in the customer base of EDSA from 175,000 to 195,000.
He praised President Bio for initiating Bintumani 1, 2 and 3 to promote national cohesion, and decried the APC for failing to take part in the recently concluded Bintumani 3 conference. (Photo: Sidi Tunis MP).
He also questioned the role of the country’s Bar Association, accusing its president – Basita Michael, of making strong statements about the election of the Speaker of the House and the dismissal of public officials, but failed to speak out against the raping of SLPP women in 2007, the sacking of the Central Bank Governor and the unconstitutional sacking of the former vice-president.
He said that institutions such as the Bar Association should remove themselves from politics.
He spoke about a recent report by the IMF, which he said praises the SLPP Government for its effective management of the economy and the extended credit facility. He promised that by the end of this year, the currency exchange rates difficulty faced by the country, will be a thing of the past.
He called on the opposition to cooperate and work with the Government for the development of the country, and not to subject themselves to manipulation and control from external forces.