Welcome 2012 – the need for a “New Direction” in Sierra Leone

Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 January 2012 

SLPP Scribe calling for a new direction in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leoneans woke up on Sunday, 1st January 2012 to welcome the most crucial and momentous year since the end of the rebel war.

For the first time in our budding democracy, the 2012 elections will focus on issues and personalities rather than ethnicity and family or regional sentiments – especially in the Western Area, a swing province that will hold the balance of power in the ensuing elections.

It is a straight fight between President Koroma’s “Agenda for Change” and Maada Bio’s “New Direction”.

It is also an opportunity for Sierra Leoneans to compare the records and leadership qualities of the two main candidates in this year’s polls, and decide on the future course of our nation.

The ‘Agenda for Change’, which gives priority and places great emphasis on infrastructural development, agriculture and the fight against corruption, with not much mention of prudent economic management, improved social service delivery and wealth creation; is being challenged by the Sierra Leone People’s Party’s overriding philosophy of a unified Sierra Leone enshrined in its motto: “One Country, One People.”

This prevailing principle is supported by the Party’s ideological brand of “social democracy”, which seeks to merge the effectiveness of the private sector and market economy, with an innate compassion of state intervention in protecting the vulnerable and marginalized in society, ensuring optimal production and wealth creation, while guaranteeing social justice.

The “New Direction” of a future Bio administration, will be committed to uprooting injustice in all its plenitude, alleviating poverty in our society and creating wealth for all Sierra Leoneans to enjoy.

With the proud record of being the Party that promised and brought independence to colonized Sierra Leone, peace to ravaged Sierra Leone and set our nation on the path of democratic rule and political stability, those assurances are credible and will form the core of the Party’s ideological base as a “social democratic” party under the next Bio administration.

The ‘New Direction’ as an ideal, will work assiduously towards the attainment of a progressive Sierra Leone and guided by principles and an action plan that seeks to establish:

A lean and cost effective government machinery that eradicates all existing complex legal and regulatory processes that restrict and blunt entrepreneurial initiatives;

A private sector-led growth bolstered by public-private sector partnerships to protect the vast majority of our working people, particularly our youth, consumers and small and medium scale enterprises;

A sustainable rural agricultural policy that is driven by the immense proficiency and productivity of our scientific research institutions and an amalgamation of the astuteness of our farmers and the business ingenuity of our entrepreneurs;

Quality education, health care, child care and the provision of other social services for all persons through social partnerships with strategic stakeholders;

A reasoned tax regime that emerges out of consultation and is driven by a common upliftment, mutuality of interest, recognition of our inherent interdependence, willingness on the part of all to make a little sacrifice for the common good, and maturity in pursuing the attainment of a higher purpose;

A sharpened and sustained attack on poverty and the assurance of a more productive life for the vulnerable and the marginalized, through a system of credible social safety nets;

An economic development agenda that efficiently and gainfully manages our mineral, petroleum and other resources, ensures fiscal discipline and prudence, protects the integrity of our environment and takes advantage of the fast growing green markets in recognition of the immense benefits of the rural economy;

A National Cohesion Policy that promotes national unity and stability and create equal opportunities for all Sierra Leoneans, irrespective of tribe or political affiliation and full and genuine recognition of the authority of the institution of Chieftaincy as the natural authority of provincial Sierra Leone;

A Foreign Policy that promotes our economic interest abroad with a resolute commitment to our international and regional obligations; and one that promotes peaceful relations with our neighbours and the rest of the world.

The ‘New Direction’ believes in the equality and uncensored treatment of all persons with respect to their political, social, economic, and religious relations in a multi ethnic and multi party environment.

The doctrine is committed to progressive politics, the protection of the deprived and the upliftment of the socially disadvantaged.

The significance of this belief rest in the Party’s inclination to project plans and programmes that addresses the numerous social ills presently afflicting mother Sierra Leone.

The brand of social democracy embedded in the ‘New Direction’ denotes taking seriously, issues of social advancement, especially in education, health, sanitation, water, housing, electricity and poverty alleviation as crippling barriers to progress for the vast majority of our people.

The ‘New Direction’ imposes on the political leadership the responsibility to provide for our people the basic amenities of a life at affordable cost and guarantees employment to those who are willing and able to work, particularly our youth.

It seeks to give to future generations a strong foundation in community responsibility, through strengthening and expanding each one’s contribution to the various entities of governance and institutions that dispense social justice, ensures fair play and guarantees that each citizen benefits from his or her labour – whether he or she is a cleaner, doctor, petty trader, nurse, miner or an engineer.

This notion of social equity must infiltrate into the various organs of state, especially those charged with dispensing justice to every person. It will seek to guarantee the security of every citizen – whether it is in a one room apartment in the slums of Kroo Bay or in a mansion on the hills overlooking Freetown.

This is what the ‘New Direction’ is all about. It will be the foundation stone of the programmes for the nation when the SLPP assume office in December 2012 by the grace of GOD.

It is on this rock of ideas and social commitment that a ‘New Direction’ will be based and which will help us build a ‘Progressive Sierra Leone’ for our people who are today suffering under a government bereft of ideas, trapped in corruption, nepotism, regionalism, inertia, incompetence, mendacity, mediocrity and selfish self-aggrandisement.

A future Maada Bio administration will take serious heed of the fact that Sierra Leone’s furthermost governance challenges of all time are; the building of a cohesive state, respect and upholding the rule of law, promoting equity and justice, and establishing proficient institutions for effective service delivery in all social services sectors.

Between 1961 and 1967 and between 1996 and 2007, the SLPP in governance adopted an inclusive approach to governance, established and strengthened institutions of governance, reviewed our antiquated laws, enacted new legislations and developed systems that guarantees the rights and aspirations of every citizen.

Today, we stand on the precipice of reversing these gains that were on the brink of adequately addressing the challenges of our time.

In just over four years in power, Sierra Leone, under President Koroma’s leadership is more divided along regional and tribal grounds than ever before in our nation’s history.

Our people are poorer, the economy is getting worse by the day, and rather than providing solutions to the growing hardship and poor living standards of the vast majority of Sierra Leoneans, president Koroma’s government continues to ceaselessly blame their inadequacies in this area on the global economic downturn.

Political violence is now becoming most prevalent and the APC Government has never been genuine in addressing this national malaise.

Our educational system, which before November 2007 was on track to restore our past glory as the ‘Athens of Africa’, now stands in the abyss with our dismal performance at the last West Africa Senior School Certificate Exams (WASSCE) and every public exam since 2008.

Corruption continues to be endemic and embarrassing to the nation, as state functionaries from top to bottom are openly involved in unbridled corruption and our leaders failing to govern by example.

Selective justice is also now the order of the day, with numerous sacred cows within the Koroma administration.

Lawlessness – especially among the young is widespread, and the Police Force which we reformed at the dawn of our new found peace, now needs overhauling to meet this new challenge.

SLPP’s 2012 ‘New Direction’ Manifesto, will put to rest the above concerns by the citizenry and will more than adequately respond to a number of critical issues confronting our nation, resulting from the following existing facts:

Our historic under-development

The growing youth unemployment and marginalization of women

The nature of the global economy which confines our nation to a raw material producing corner, and literally confiscates the fruits of our labour in a market place defined as free by the wealthy nations which ignore their own definitions

A dwindling natural resource base

A reluctant foreign investor mood which sees Africa as a major risk area for long-term investment, except for the type that will exploit resources, make a quick kill, take the money and run

An economy that is donor driven

A world whose attention and resources have been shifted from a concentration on the war on AIDS, malaria and the problems of Africa’s economic development to the war on terror, relegating Africa’s problems and concerns to the background.

In conclusion, 2012 provides Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans a golden opportunity to choose a “New Direction.”

After 50 years of independence the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council elections in 2012 are about putting the youth at the centre of development and in the driving seat, to seek a ‘New Direction’ for the motherland.

We continue to live in abject poverty in a country that started mining diamonds in 1930, rutile in the 70’s and gold and bauxite for ever so long. Yet our health care and education continues to be largely funded by foreign donors.

Our education system, which was the pride of West Africa, has sunk to the bottom of the rankings in the last four years.

Now, fifty years since independence and over 4 years of APC misrule, less than 5% of our children pass the West Africa School Certificate Exams (WASCE); while Universities postpone exams for lack of paper and lecturers are perpetually on industrial actions – seeking improved conditions of service from a reneging Government.

Many families are today not sure where the next meal is coming from; low wages of workers promised to be changed by the APC have perpetuated poverty and hopelessness.

Our youth continue to be among the most deprived and unemployed in the world, just as our country continue to be among the most unsafe to give birth to children.

Fellow Sierra Leoneans, rest assured genuine changes to our national polity and economic fortunes will definitely come with the “New Direction”; so make sure you register to vote, you vote wisely and with your conscience.

Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie (SLPP Secretary General)

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