By KABS KANU
The Ebola outbreak in May last year, which took Sierra Leone by surprise as it did too to Liberia and Guinea, wreaked incalculable damage to the economy and stalled the government’s development initiatives , but through outstanding leadership and the goodwill and support of the international community , Sierra Leone is emerging from the relapse and Government is putting structures in place that will enable the country not only to thwart future emergencies but continue the impressive socio-economic and political transformation process set in motion by President Ernest Bai Koroma since he came to power in 2007.
PART OF THE AUDIENCE
This was the main theme of the enlightening, interactive and successful town meeting the National Publicity and Outreach Coordinator in the Office of the Government Spokesman , Mr. Abdulai Bayraytay and government officials from the Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the United Nations held with thrilled and appreciative New Jerseyans last evening .
MR. BAYRAYTAY ADDRESSING THE TOWN MEETING : FROM RIGHT : PAVI JALLOH, NAMINA KOSSAY, KABS KANU , BAYRAYTAY, AMADU KOROMA AND ABDUL RAHMAN KAMARA
The town meeting, which was held at the Madison Suites Hotel in Somerset, New Jersey drew a sizable crowd on a weekend in New Jersey when there were many other social functions, including the big 40-day memorial service for former Foreign Minister in two successive Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP ) governments, the late Mr. Maigore Kallon.
ANOTHER ROW OF ATTENDEES
Impressed by the turn out, in spite of the short notice , Mr. Bayraytay thanked attendees for making it to the town meeting , which he said gave a clear picture about how passionate they were about issues affecting their country. He said that if a long notice had been given, he was sure that the hall would have been overcrowded .
BAYRAYTAY AND KABS KANU
MR. BAYRAYTAY ADDRESSING THE APC NJ CHAPTER IN CAMERA BEFORE THE TOWN MEETING
The meeting was chaired by Sierra Leone’s Minister Plenipotentiary to the UN, Mr. Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu and moderated by Mr. Pavi Jalloh, the President of the ruling All People’s Congress ( APC ) New Jersey Chapter, while the Deputy Permanent Representative ( Political ) , Ambassador Amadu Koroma delivered a statement about the structures and the methods underlying the mobilization, collection and allocations of funds for the fight against ebola, as well as the adaptive process employed by the Ebola Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund, which was primarily responsible for the mobilization and allocation of funding from Member States, regional legislative bodies, inter-governmental or nongovernmental organizations, businesses and individuals.
ANOTHER ROW OF ATTENDEES
Also present at the meeting was the Head of Chancery of the Sierra Leone Mission to the UN , Mr. Alhusine Sesay , who has been doing a tremendous job to help coordinate and facilitate this Sierra Leone Government-sponsored outreach program in the diaspora being embarked upon by Mr. Bayraytay at the insistence of President Koroma, who desires his government to engage diasporans in open, transparent and interactive meetings to clarify matters of concern affecting the nation. Mr.Sesay, who even traveled to New Jersey to help organize the program, was highly commended by Government Spokesman Bayraytay and Minister Kabs-Kanu for his support to the outreach program.
THE AUDIENCE LISTENING KEENLY
In his presentation, Ambassador Amadu Koroma eloquently enlightened Sierra Leoneans that Government had nothing to do with the allocation and disbursement of the Ebola funds . The monies that were collected by the international community went directly to the Ebola Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund, managed by the representative of the UN Secretary General . The funds were disbursed without government interference through 13 international organizations that included the WHO, UNDP, UNCHR, FAO, UNMEER etc.
The Ambassador clarified that the UN does not give checks to State House .The allocation and disbursement were done through the 13 organizations .The organizations also worked through local NGOs , which most of the time do not work with the government. He also stressed the now well-known fact that it was President Koroma who ordered and mandated the Audit Department to audit the ebola funds . Ambassador Koroma rubbished accusations by the opposition that the APC Government pilfered the funds . He challenged anybody to name any government or APC member found culpable of embezzling the Ebola funds. No Government or APC party member was named in the Auditor’s General Report on the Ebola Funds now before the Parliament Public Accounts Committee.
YOUTH LEADER CORNELIUS MANAGES ASKING A QUESTION
AMBASSADOR AMADU KOROMA ADDRESSING THE TOWN MEETING
Mr. Bayraytay enlightened the audience about President Koroma’s post-ebola recovery program, which is built around 4 key areas : Health Care system, education, social protection and the economy. Amidst repeated cheers, the spokesman of government told about the bilateral agreement with the Government of China, culminating in the construction of the state-of -the-art Level 3 Biological Safety Laboratory at the Jui Hospital, which is best for testing samples and diagnosing ebola and all other viral hemorrhagic fevers ( VHFs) and tropical diseases ; the training of 30 doctors to deal with VHfS ,unlike the past when Sierra Leone had only one trained doctor in VHFs, in the person of the late Dr. Sheikh Khan ; the insurance scheme for all doctors and health care workers; the 200 ambulances that the Government now owns , which will soon be outsourced and a 911-type ambulance system established .
MR. JOHN SAMBA SEEKS ANSWERS TO SOME QUESTIONS
MR. FODAY MANSARAY ASKING A QUESTION
Mr. Bayraytay also informed the audience about the following : That government was now paying fees for students returning to school after the ebola hiatus and the establishment of the school feeding program ; government was not punishing girls who got pregnant and that they will return to school after delivery; Government is creating the enabling environment for the rapid recovery of the economy , resulting recently in the restart of Tonkolili Iron Ore operations by Shandong Iron and Steel Group, which will provide abundant jobs for Sierra Leoneans ; government is pursuing the Local Content Policy to ensure that a certain percentage of workers at managerial, middle and lower levels of companies are Sierra Leoneans.
BEFORE THE START : FROM LEFT-NAMINA KOSSAY, HOC ALHUSINE SESAY, BAYRAYTAY, JOHN SAMBA ETC.
In the area of energy, Mr. Bayraytay brought cheer to the town meeting when he disclosed government’s solar light program which is designed to provide electricity to every chiefdom and town in the provinces. Government will be providing and installing about 50, 000 solar lights to ensure the fulfillment of the dream. He also said that as part of Phase 2 of the Bumbuna Hydroelectricity project, Government is building a reservoir to save water and avoid the power cuts in the dry season due to the drying up of the dam.
The President of the APC NJ Chapter, Mr. Pavi Jalloh thanked Minister Kanu and officials of the Chapter for their hard work to ensure the success of the town meeting. He also thanked Ambassador Koroma , HOC Sesay and the Sierra Leone Mission for their support.
The Women’s Leader, Mrs. Namina Bomposseh Kossey was commended by Minister Kanu for facilitating the decoration of the hall and the provision of refreshments .
The Vote of Thanks was given by Mrs. Kossay who thanked the guests for attending the program and Messrs Bayraytay and Koroma for their presentation .
Attendees Santigi Koroma and Kalawa praised the Government for conceiving the idea of the diasporan outreach. Both of them described the town meeting as very enlightening because many issues were clarified .
Before the town meeting, Mr. Bayraytay held a meeting with the APC NJ Chapter in camera. He took the opportunity to acquaint them with events leading to the dismissal of former Vice-President , Alhaji Samuel Sam Sumana , from the APC. Many members who had not heard the full story were delighted with the new information they received yesterday.