By John Pa Baimba Sesay –China :
It was on the 17th of November that we all came together with a great decision to reelect President Ernest Bai Koroma and his Vice President for another five years of state governance. Following the election of this team, some, especially the main opposition SLPP, threatened to boycott state functions, which, from a realistic perspective, is not new in their dictionary. Their threat came as a result of what they see as grave issues to be addressed by the government. But given the sober and resounding leadership qualities of President Koroma and his government, a breakthrough was forged and now, we see all our Members of Parliament working as a team, all pushing a common agenda, having to do with the development of Sierra Leone.
PA BAIMBA SESAY
Since he was elected in 2007 and reelected about a month ago, we have seen how President Koroma and team have been trying to place Sierra Leone at her rightful position in world’s development, peace and coexistence. The shift from an Agenda for Change to an Agenda for Prosperity presents Sierra Leone with an opportunity to keep growing.
Thanks SLBC/Star Radio: I must say thanks to SLBC, specially to presenters, like Asmieu Bah, Sheku Sumilia, Doreen Kalokoh and others and also to the Management and Board and above all to the government of President Koroma for providing this type of environment for SLBC to operate freely and professionally. The leadership role that was taken by the Ministry of Information and Communication in taking SLBC to her present status should be commended, to say the least. Watching the State Opening of Parliament live on SLBC TV makes me feel proud about the development strides we are making back home. I watched my friend and Boss, Sam Sumana, take the guard of honor, with all the formalities attached to it, I see the faces of our new Members of Parliament and I see some sense of commitment and dedication to national service in them, I see all what it takes in terms of people’s desire to move Sierra Leone and above all, I see why the people of Sierra Leone actually reelected President Koroma or another team in office. It was a colorful ceremony watching our broadcaster, the SLBC, and seeing a display of dedication to service by my President and our President.
I must also register my appreciation to Star Radio for the live commentary, given that at some point that I was having problems with logging in line with SLBC, I had to go fast to Star Radio to listen to what the President was going to say. The bottom line about Sierra Leone’s media landscape is that, it has grown to a different level.
Basic facts: There are basic facts we need to know about this Parliament; there are 122 elected parliamentarians and 12 chiefs representing the twelve districts of Sierra Leone in the House of Parliament. As by law established, their primary responsibility is to enact laws, having to do with the development of Sierra Leone. They are another set, among the three arms of government. Section 73(3) of the 1991 multiparty constitution, enacted by the APC makes provision for the roles and functions of Parliament, saying it makes “laws for the peace and security order and good government of Sierra Leone…” Also, at present the governing APC party is in the majority in Parliament, which gives them the greatest power to administer the affairs of the state with not much disturbance from other parties. Prior to the recently conducted elections, we had three political parties in the House of Parliament-APC, SLPP and PMDC. But given the decision by Sierra Leoneans to sack the PMDC from power, we today, have just two parties in parliament-APC and SLPP. Also, today, we have the youngest Deputy Speaker of Parliament, in the person of Chernor Bah. Today, also in the parliament of Sierra Leone, we have got the first female leader of the opposition in parliament, in the person of Bernadette Lahai. She is, in my view a great woman of substance.
Statement by my President: I am far way in China, but trust me; I had a feel of what the President was saying in the House of Parliament, during his speech at the State Opening of Parliament. Coupled with the formalities attached to his arrival in Parliament, I was also mesmerized, that as a former MP himself, he knows what is always expected of him, each time he goes to Parliament. He some about the gains made in the Agenda for Change in tourism, agriculture, infrastructure and his plans to enhance the capacity of Sierra Leoneans, through the Agenda for Prosperity. He expressed hope that his friends on the other side will acknowledge that the days of walk out are over. He spoke about how the elections’ were the most transparent in the country history as four elections were conducted in a day.
On youths and national development, he challenged, that “No nation can move forward without the youths stepping forward…” saying, thus “I will dedicate my life to your service. I submit my administration to your participation,” As he has often stated, he spoke about his visionary approach to infrastructural development. He informed the country and the world, about the signing of an agreement with China for the construction of a new airport in the Port Loko district. President Koroma spoke of creating jobs for growth and prosperity, and especially the creation of jobs for youths all over the country. On agriculture, he believes it presents an opportunity for youth employments and spoke of plans to utilize the sector in creating jobs and employment. He spoke of increasing access to land for our people, and will encourage chiefdom youth councils to engage inn cooperative farms. Since 2007, his government identified agriculture as top priority and increased budgetary support to 10% in 20011, from a paltry 1.6% by 2007. His government will phase out substance agriculture.
Within five years, President Koroma commits himself to provide Cash Reserves in order to help cope with food emergencies and natural disasters, to stabilize grain prices during price hikes and will continue to provide investment incentives to the agricultural private sector including foreign direct investors. Above all, he thinks ion five years, the country will establish more Village and Community Banks country-wide and rehabilitate and construct more feeder roads to link production areas to markets. On natural resources, he thinks, the present generations should claim the blessings of these resources and see how they could benefit everyone. They must move away from talking about them, to working productively to making these resources useful. His second term will be dedicated to enhance Sierra Leone capacity to become biggest driver and beneficiary of the transformation. Campaign for transparency in design and granting of concessional license will, he believes will be increased. He assured that efforts will be directed at tackling IUU through strength surveillance system and artisanal fishermen to be protected against hazards of industrial fishing companies. He also spoke of plans towards realizing the MDGs in ensuring environmental sustainability. Plans to ensure an effective waste management system were disclosed by the President and the need to collaborate with civil society, NGOs and local radio, TV and newspapers to promote awareness raising programmes on the environment. He spoke of his plans to enhance warning and response system for disaster management. His government will promote polices for the prudent management of the country’s forestry. He also believes the public service should be strengthened, having been reformed in the first five years in governance. His government to construct a public service academy and a multiyear pay reform plan, aimed at improving conditions of service of public servant to realistic and competitive levels. He knows there are challenges, despite the reforms in the sector. The need for an improved human resource delivery system was also emphasized by the President plus the need to improve conditions service and work environment and ensure neutrality of the civil service. He said there is the need to ensure productivity mindset and improve professional standards.
The President also highlighted plans to improve on the country’s educational sector, saying more youths into vocational and technical institutions, so as to get, more skills for job placement. There will zero tolerance for underperformance and low standards in schools. His government will ensure partnership in educational management processes by getting teachers, parents and local councils civil society groups and private sector onboard. On health, he spoke of more and better quality of medical and nutrition products and technologies. Particular emphasis on equity on health service especially in meeting needs of disadvantaged groups and ensure, continued free health for children, lactating mothers, among others.
As a believer in justice, rule of law and good governance, he said, the Police will continue to uphold democratic system facilitate access to justice and secure rule of law based on accountability, transparency and non government interference . On decentralization, he would ensure it is treated with utmost importance and will roll out the new decentralization police and conclude the review of the LGA 2004.Will facilitate timely predictable and increased performance based transfers to the councils. He also spoke of plans to empower women, saying, socio cultural practices twisted the development of women in Sierra Leone and tinted gender equality scale to the disadvantage of Sierra Leone. Women have been appointed to higher positions more than any other government and ensured free health for pregnant and lactating women. Scaled up intervention with a view to ensure participation of women in the economy and politics of the country and legislation on the 30% quota of women in politics will be enacted. Women will be encouraged to enter into sectors traditionally seen for men. The impressive strides in making sierra Leone will continue, under foreign policy and those relations we have known, will be maintained.
Appeal for support: As an end note, the President sounded very political, but accommodating. He vowed to live up to the expectation of the people who elected him and his party and also challenged MPs to live up to the faith placed on them by the people of Sierra Leone,. He called them all to be faithful to the aspirations of Sierra Leoneans for good laws, fair representation, peace and development. No MPs succeeds without dialogue with the Executive and his success depends on collaboration and dialogue. Here to inauguration the dialogue and ask for your support to the actions I have been elected to take. Time for action has come, time for working together is upon us, and the issues that unite us are stronger than the issues that divide us. We have relatives, friends, schoolmate and goo neighbors in the other political parties…these deep ties are the source of our unity and cause for thanksgiving. Let us take pride in our achievements and commit ourselves to building on these achievements. We must work harder on the challenges we still face.
The President wants Sierra Leone to win and the time is now!!!