By Cocorioko Reporter :
Sierra Leone’s Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Hon. Sheka Tarawalli, rocked New Jersey with laughter on Tuesday evening while addressing a high-powered All People’s Congress ( APC ) Meeting in Somerset, New Jersey. In a hearty moment, the hilarious minister joked that he did not know that he would have had the distinction of speaking to audiences in the United States before the opposition Presidential candidate, Julius Maada Bio, whose supporters in the U.S painted the internet green while lining up many speaking engagements for him in the U.S. in June. While Bio failed to come to the U.S, the minister said he had already addressed audiences in Maryland and New Jersey.
Bio’s failure to honour the massive programs planned for him in America was attributed to his continued failure to get an entry U.S. visa because of his appalling human rights records while serving a military junta that ruled Sierra Leone from 1992-96. Minister Tarawalli was apparently mocking the SLPP Presidential candidate for his failure to accomplish what seems to to be the easiest task for President Ernest Koroma and officials of the APC–Entering the U.S. The minister’s jibe sent the hall rocking with laughter as the audience absorbed the absurdity of a presidential candidate of a sovereign country who is unable to enter the U.S.
During the meeting held at Bennet Lane , Somerset, at the residence of Mr.Foday Mansaray, the Deputy Minister delivered a masterpiece as he kept the audience captive for almost two hours outlining all the achievements of President Ernest Bai Koroma and the APC.
He assured the audience that the upcoming Presidential, Legislative and Local Council elections will be free, fair and credible. The Minister said that free and fair elections are the palm oil with which Sierra Leone’s politics are eaten under the democratic governance of President Ernest Koroma. He joked that there will be no need for anybody to be choked by bones as they eat it because politics is not war. He assured his captive audience that security will be very tight during the elections to ensure that there is no violence and the APC Government, he disclosed, will be deploying about 1, 500 soldiers all over the country under the program called Military Assistance to Civilian Power ( MACP).
Minister Tarawallie also clarified the issue of the tons of ammunition bought by the APC Government that the former Executive Secretary to the UN Secretary General, Mr. Michael Von Schullenberg , spoke about in the UN Security Council after he learnt that he was about to be replaced . Mr. Tarawalli explained it was wrong for the ERSG to have given the impression that the arms were bought for the oncoming elections. He disclosed that the arms and ammunition were bought years ago when it became known that the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office (UNIPSIL ) would be winding down gradually and were only delivered last year.
He said Sierra Leone is a very rich country, with diamonds, gold, bauxite and iron ore , with oil soon to follow. Because of the abundant mineral resources at the country’s disposal, Sierra Leone is vulnerable to encroachment on her territory by other nations eyeing her resources and thus the government had a duty to secure her territorial integrity . “You all know that if you are rich, thieves will attempt to break into your home and steal your riches. You have to protect your home from these dangers” , he emphasized, stating that it was the same dilemma faced by the Government, which also had the duty to protect the lives and properties of citizens and foreigners. He complained that the reason for the purchase of the weapons was deliberately misconstrued and misrepresented for political capital , though it was meant to defend the nation. The Government, he stressed , did not need such arms and ammunition for the elections because the polls are going to be peaceful, thanks to the structures so far put in place by the government to combat violence or lawlessness.
He stated that the biometric system of registration and voting, for their part, will ensure that there is no over-voting in the forthcoming elections and also there is no possibility of the results being rigged. Therefore, Sierra Leoneans should look forward to free, fair and credible elections.
The Minister lauded President Koroma for his socio-economic and political developments . He emphasized the point that the President does not discriminate between any region and implements his development projects all over the country, even in the strongholds of the opposition. He said that because of this, President Koroma is popular in all parts of the country. He noted that whenever President Koroma went to Kailahun and Kenema, more people came out to welcome him than in Makeni because of the manner he had developed their regions. He predicted that President Koroma will capture Kailahun, the leading SLPP stronghold, because only the APC Government has brought development to that region and the people will show their appreciation .
Minister Tarawalli justified President Koroma’s infrastructural developments. He argued that whatever development projects are implemented, if the roads are terrible , these development projects will not be meaningful .Farmers , for instance, would not be able to get their produce to the markets. He said that when the roads are good, produce will reach the towns, villages and the capital on time , and this will boost the supply and availability of food.
On education, the Minister spoke about the incentives the APC Government has provided since it came to power , to motivate teachers. He said that the Government has built more schools and boosted the number of children now in school. He disclosed that the government would not only be rebuilding and rehabilitating the students dorms at Fourah Bay College, but that more hostels will be constructed to tackle the students’ accomodation problems for once. He indicated that the APC Government plans to make the FBC campus the envy of other African nations.
He spoke glowingly about Sierra Leone’s abundant fish and marine resources and the commendable efforts being made by Government to make sure that the country fully utilizes these resources. He told the audience that Government has constructed depots in the major cities around the country to boost supply of fish and marine resources.
The Minister also told his audience that he was certain that Sierra Leone would soon join the company of oil producing nations. Though the study on the market value of the oil is still being conducted , there are indications that the oil will be of appreciable value to make Sierra Leone an oil-producing nation.
Still on the extensive road construction being undertaken by the government , the Hon. Minister assured his audience that the chronic traffic jam in the capital of Freetown will soon be a thing of the past when construction is completed on the four-lane road that cuts through the back of the Pademba Road Prisons to Blackhall Road, bypassing Kissy Street, Kissy Road and the East End. He said that construction work has also started on the Peninsular Road which will also improve traffic and the movement of people and services when completed.
With regards to travelling to the neighbouring Republic of Guinea, the Minister disclosed that it is now a smooth journey that takes about three hours , compared to the past, when it was a whole day’s journey. While assuring the people present at the meeting that government was doing everything to tackle the menace of street traders who block traffic in the capital, he however vigorously dispelled the allegation by a member of the audience that the problem was also manifest at the newly constructed Wilkinson Road. The Minister insisted that traffic was moving smoothly at the new four-lane highway. He demonstrated this fact by referring to an article in COCORIOKO recently which had a photo of traffic moving with consumate ease at Wilkinson Road.
The Minister also boasted about the outstanding human rights records of President Ernest Bai Koroma and the APC Government. He told his audience what they already knew that since the government came to power in 2007, not a single journalist or politician had been arrested for criticizing the Government.He said that there were over 50 newspapers in the country, most of them opposition papers but journalists are free to express their views without any fear of arrest. He also noted that there had been no treason trials as in the past and nobody had been executed for politics. President Koroma, he went on, has brought pride to himself, the APC and the country.
Minister Tarawalli also highlighted the tremendous international respect and trust enjoyed by President Koroma. He said that Dr. Koroma is the Chairman of the AU Committee of 10 states on UN Security Council Reform and was called upon both by the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States ( ECOWAS ) to mediate the crisis in the Ivory Coast two years ago.
NEW JERSEY ALAGBAS : FROM RIGHT : MESSRS ALIRU BAKARR, SOLOMON VANDY, PAVI JALLOH, DAUDA BANGURA ,ALLIE BADARA, KALAWA , PASTOR KUYATEH, KABS KANU, MINKAILU JALLOH , HARDY GABISI AND FODAY MANSARAY. DEPUTY MINISTER SHEKA TARAWALLI IN HAT ON FRONT ROW
The program was called to order by the Minister Plenipotentiary to the Sierra Leone Permanent Mission to the UN, Rev. Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu , who welcomed all present and said that the Deputy Minister of Information was invited to New Jersey by him and Mr. Foday Mansaray , in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Community in New Jersey to address them about latest events back home and allay fears they may have about the forthcoming elections because of the vile propaganda being peddled by the opposition. He then called on the Secretary General of the APC New Jersey Chapter, Mr. Dauda Shekou Bangura , to introduce the members of the APC and distinguished members of the Sierra Leone Community present.
The President of the New Jersey APC Chapter , Mr. Allie Badara Kamara welcomed the Deputy Minister to the program on behalf of the party , while at the end of the program, Mr. Foday Mansaray gave the vote of thanks.