Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 July 2020:
Three days ago, Monday 6th July 2020, parliamentarians in Sierra Leone concluded their debate on the President’s statement to parliament that he delivered on 28th May 2020.
During last Monday’s final debate, the Deputy Chief Whip – Alusine Kanneh MP of the ruling SLPP, commended President Bio for his relentless fight against COVID-19, and criticised the former regime for downplaying the fight against Ebola. He went on to say that, the fight against COVID-19 is well coordinated and inclusive.
“President Bio has done better than the previous leader,” he emphasized. He told his fellow MPs that his town – Tonkia, is currently enjoying solar electricity because of the New Direction government fulfilling its promise in the area of energy. He said the current Government under the watch of President Bio has allowed the Judiciary to be independent by dispensing justice using the lens of impartiality and fairness. Concluding, he said the Government has done remarkably well to improve the economy of the country.
Dr. Ibrahim B. Kamara MP of the APC, noted the efforts of health workers and referred to the bridges constructed by the past regime during the fight against Ebola, as the same structures the current regime is using to fight against COVID-19. He went on to say, that the COVID-19 response is very disappointing in the provision of food to some quarantine homes.
Speaking about the impacts of COVID-19, he called on Government to judiciously use the funds that have been provided by international financing institutions to reduce its impacts on the economy and the people of Sierra Leone. Referencing the former APC Government’s performance in managing the economy, he asked the current Government to invest more on agriculture.
Dominic Tshombe – SLPP MP, described the president’s statement as “a citizen oriented document”, which is geared towards the fight against poverty, corruption and indiscipline. He informed that the Government has evenly replaced and recruited over seven thousand teachers from 2018 to date. He also said that several schools have been approved under the New Direction Manifesto. He strongly condemned the past regime for trivializing issues relating to the education of the nation.
Speaking about the introduction and implementation of the free quality education, he praised the Government for increasing school enrolment and the massive recruitment of teachers. The economy, he said, started to progress steadily but was hit badly by the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, adding that in spite of this, all the sectors are doing well to avoid austerity.
He also spoke about improvements in the minimum wage, pension, employment, salary increment, water supply, and early childhood development in relation to the supply of books to schools, payment of fees, technical and vocational institutions and other deliverables. He commended the President for the robust fight against corruption.
Dr. Mark Mahmoud Kalokoh – APC MP, blamed the current regime for the low ranking of the country in the Global Hunger Index. On energy, he recalled how the past Government transformed the energy sector. Speaking about democratic tenets, he criticised the Government for using Regent Chiefs instead of substantive holders in many chiefdoms, arrest and detention, prolong vacancy of a parliamentary seat, missing biometric machines, and called on the Speaker to ensure a special investigation is carried out to prevent rigging or other forms of electoral fraud. On corruption, he condemned the ruling SLPP for several alleged corrupt malpractices, including embezzlement.
Festus Mohamed Lansana of the SLPP, thanked President Bio for creating an enabling environment for the development of the country. He said that the revenue mobilization initiatives of the current Government outweigh that of the previous Government. “Revenue has increased by Two Trillion Leones, accounting for an increase of 60%”.
Revenue to GDP ratio he said has also increased rapidly because of the political will, as he criticised the past government for use of executive orders and indiscriminate duty waivers. The appointment of a Duty Commissioner General, recruitment of additional staff, the effective and efficient use of technology in revenue collection, are major factors responsible for an increase in revenue generation for the development of the country, he told colleague MPS.
Abdul Kargbo – APC MP, called on Government to ensure that they deliver on their promises in order to avoid mentioning the same projects at every State Opening of Parliament. “I have no hope in this document because what was said in the previous Speech has not been accomplished,” he said. He criticised the Government for what he described as selective justice in dealing with past Government officials, leaving the current ones who have committed similar crimes.
The President of the Parliamentary Female Caucus, Veronica Kadie Sesay of the SLPP, commended MPs for extending thanks to President Bio, adding that the President has done a very good job for the benefit of the people of Sierra Leone.
She used the opportunity to thank the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources and the Minister of Tourism for their outstanding performances, saying President Bio deserves more accolades for appointing women of substance into high offices of State. She expressed serious disappointment towards perpetrators of rape and gender-based violence, which she described as threats to the existence, survival and development of women, children and girls in the country.
Rose Marie Bangura – APC MP, called on the Government to redouble its efforts in all sectors that will improve the lives of citizens, and criticized the Government’s bad decision of allowing pregnant girls to sit in the same classrooms with minors. She appealed to Government to evenly distribute ambulances to all the chiefdoms, as well as fix the roads across the country.
Sama Sandy – SLPP MP, said that extractive mining and agriculture are the backbone of the economy in terms of job creation, development, revenue mobilization and food security, and called on the Government to invest more in these sectors. He commended Government for proposing friendly laws aimed at improving the mining sector. He thanked donors for supporting the Government’s effort in developing the agricultural sector in order to achieve food security and food self-sufficiency. He also called on the Government on behalf of faith-based organizations to ease the restriction on congregational prayers.
Alieu Conteh – APC MP, thanked President Bio for rebranding local football in the country, but criticised the Government for concentrating only on improving football, leaving other sporting disciplines to struggle for their existence.
Yusuf Mackery MP, thanked President Bio and his Government for rebranding the image of the country by attracting support from donor partners amid COVID-19. He added that several improvements have been made in many areas including sanitation, hygiene and the peripheral health units.
Opposition Whip – Hassan Sesay APC MP, said they believe in continuity and the legacies left by the past Government in the fight against Ebola, adding that they are helping the current Government in the fight against COVID-19. He said as an opposition, they will continue to acknowledge and praise the late President Kabbah for the creation of NASSIT. He criticized the current Government for the massive sacking of people who are Sierra Leoneans, recruitment without salaries, and termination of mining licenses causing high unemployment in the country. “Too much talk with less action will not take us anywhere,” he concluded.
Leader of the opposition NGC – Dr. Kandeh Yumkella MP, said it is incumbent on all and sundry to put the president’s statement into context of COVID-19 and potential impact the pandemic has on the current and post-economic recovery. He commended the international community for the huge support to the country since the outbreak.
Dr. Yumkella called for national unity, peaceful coexistence, electoral and judicial reforms to promote development and inclusive politics. “No development will come if political tensions are high,” he said. He spoke about the need for MPs to support Government by coming up with Private Member’s Bill such as the much talked about government transitional bill he is working on.
Leader of the C4C party – Saa Emerson Lamina MP, called for a total overhaul and advancement of the review of 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone in order to have peace and security in the country, whilst referencing the Rwanda Model of inclusive governance. Speaking on the attainment of peace and development, he said it is prudent for the authorities to ensure that they stop the idea of winners take all, saying APC and SLPP are practicing divisive and regional politics amid high political tension. He commended the Government for improving budgetary allocation on education, review of mining and local government laws for the development of the country.
Leader of the Opposition – Chernor R.M Bah, APC MP, assured that they will continue to give support to Government where necessary. He expressed disappointment in the President’s speech writers for the inconsistencies in the president’s statement. He told ruling party MPs that the former government did several improvements, especially in revenue mobilization and infrastructural development.
He asked the Government to work in collaboration to improve environmental protection and forestation, especially in Freetown and other parts of the country. “Environment, Lands, Agriculture and other Ministries must work in synergy to protect the environment,” he said. He commended the current Minister of Agriculture for his proactive steps and called on the Government to work towards diversifying the economy.
He criticised the current Government for blaming the past Government for the introduction of austerity measures. He also condemned the Government for its fiscal indiscipline such as – “sacking 5 and employing 10 public workers”. He commended President Bio for continuing the implementation of the social safety net project dealing with direct cash transfers, adding it was introduced by the former APC Government.
Concluding the debate, the Acting Leader of Government Business, Bashiru Silikie SLPP MP, commended all the MPs for their brilliant contributions to the debate and called on Parliament to ensure that they take their oversight role as a priority, in order to help Government to deliver. “If Government is to succeed, this Parliament must work,” he stressed.
Speaking about the Government’s performance on the MCC benchmark, the Acting Leader of Government Business said the Government passed several indicators including civil liberty, rule of law, corruption, and good governance; adding if they all support the Government, the overall goal of sustainable development will be achieved by 2023.
He said that President Bio has received a lot of criticisms from the media but his Government is doing well for journalists, by supporting the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) with subvention, creating employment for journalists, its plans to repeal Part 5 of the criminal libel law, and a proposal to build an ultra-modern office for SLAJ.
Source Credit: Amin Kef Sesay