Delivered to the general assembly in Maryland on March 26, 2006
he highlight of today’s meeting is to explain the PMDC manifesto to you. Surrogacy is PMDC leadership’s first responsibility to the people of Sierra Leone ; we must ensure that you know the party and understand what it stands for—to ensure you understand fully, our plans to help us serve you properly. In the United States , almost all of us can read and write compared to our people back home. It is an unfortunate situation that a nation that has the earliest higher institution in West Africa also has the highest illiteracy rate. We however have our own problems here in the US —we work so hard, many of us would hardly have the time to read a sixty-page manifesto.
We plan to launch a “Meet the People Campaign” back home to explain the PMDC manifesto in the local dialects of our people in the towns and villages. Fairness cannot prevail in the absence of knowledge. Until we place the voters on a level playing ground with the leadership by clearly explaining what the PMDC stands for, we cannot ask for your votes in fairness. It would be quite unfair to you for us to ask for your votes without first providing you the tools to decide. Once you leave here today, with the host of information we would provide you, we expect you in turn, to act as surrogates for those who could not be here—please explain to them what we mean when we speak of the fierce wind of “Positive Change.”
Honorable Dauda Bangura formally introduced to you the PMDC in the last meeting. He told us; “there is a fierce wind of ‘Positive Change’ blowing over the whole nation.” Edmond Burke too once said “people will never look forward to posterity who never looks backwards to their ancestors.” Literally speaking, one cannot go forward without hindsight.
With this, permit me to highlight in retrospect, the living conditions of our people that have necessitated the change that you the people are demanding today through the PMDC. It is understood that is why you are here. The practices of the previous leaderships have:
- marginalized the people
- undermined their confidence in themselves and their country
- brought little or no change to the living standards of the average Sierra Leonean
- made the people to have no confidence in the justice system in Sierra Leone
- deprived the people of proper medical care and facilities
- created a dependency on foreign food under the UN—food security program
- inadequate and improper housing conditions
- created a dark country in contravention with God’s command; “Let there be light”, and they answered, unlike many other countries, let there be darkness. Apparently, God said to those who listened to His command; “It was good” and to us He said it was bad, for God loath darkness; darkness is bad in all its forms and shapes including shadiness.
Our leaders have treated and continue to treat Sierra Leone as David Anderson puts it; “A Sunny nation for shady people.” The list is endless if we must duel on it.
The avalanche of home grown songs such as Daddy Saj’s ‘Corruption’ Emerson’s ‘Borbor Belleh’ and ‘Swegbeh’ and ‘Big Waite Fol’ all attest to the suffering, neglect, and abuse the people of Sierra Leone have undergone under previous governments.
A PMDC government, being a people’s government, will guarantee and foster the basic values of Unity, Freedom, Justice and Equal opportunities and set a clear vision and direction for this country. PMDC stands for freedom as enshrined in the national constitution – i.e. freedom of Speech, Assembly, Association, Worship and Movement.
The PMDC thus believes in a government that truly represents the masses with the rights of the people safeguarded.
The PMDC’s ideology is:
1. the right to representative government not a government of caucus and secrecy
2. the right to individual liberties as opposed to the use of the police and judiciary for personal vendetta.
Having borne out of the frustration and disappointment of the people because of everything I have highlighted, the PMDC is determined:
- To maintain internal security to protect the people’s lives and their properties and law and order in the streets of our cities without favoritism.
- To maintain external security by policing our borders to reduce the incidents of smuggling and cross border activities like the ones in Yenga and Kambia.
- To embark on a comprehensive re-appraisal of the judiciary so that the people will have justice that has always been denied them except they belong to the top echelons of the SLPP. For example, Harry Yansaneh, I am afraid, would have to wait to get justice on the Judgment Day.
- To devolve authority to local councils to help them mobilize their communities’ resources for their own development.
- Civil Society Movements will be partners in development.
- Work with NGOs, both local and international. Their efforts would be better. coordinated to suit the needs of the respective localities in order to avoid. duplication of efforts and waste of funds and resources.
The practice of Sierra Leone today is non-alignment. None alignment has become obsolete with the death of the Cold War. The question becomes; non-aligned with whom? If a nation’s foreign policy is its activities and relationships to other states, those activities and relationships must be influenced by the nation’s domestic needs and the actions of the other states. For this reason,Lord Palmerton once stated: “Nations have no permanent friends or allies. They have only permanent interests.” Thus, our foreign policy must depend on the benefit of our multi-lateral and bi-lateral agreements to our people and the actions of the organizations and other nations. This will ensure foreign nations invest in our country and our dealings with international organizations benefit our people. The PMDC will therefore maintain our agreements with multi and bi-lateral organizations and nations, seeking the interest of our people first and then the actions of the other nations and organizations. A sound foreign policy is the surest means for us to win back the respect and confidence of the International Community.
Let me emphasize here that a PMDC government will strictly adhere to, respect and abide by all treaties signed on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone . The PMDC will remain committed to the Geneva and Vienna Conventions, the UN, the African Union, the Commonwealth, the ECOWAS and the Mano River Union and all global alliance, which are committed to the pursuit of liberty and peaceful co-existence. The PMDC understands and disapproves the ill effect terrorism, in its many diverse forms, has on the rest of the world and therefore will commit itself to help fight against global terrorism to achieve a stable and peaceful world. The PMDC will ensure that compatriots in the Diaspora fully participate in national development. Such participation will extend to making them eligible to vote and be voted for at national elections. Reciprocally they will be expected to pay their taxes to meet their civic responsibility.
Our leaders, previous and present, have/spend government money without regards to the Finance Orders. They have been paying lip service to the Finance Order in a way that creates a year in year out deficit spending.
PMDC shall guarantee transparency, probity and accountability in the management of the nation’s finances; introduce fiscal policies to achieve maximum benefit to the nation and restore credibility to the National Treasury as well as other state financial institutions. Government money should not be in the pockets of ministers akin to what Howard W. French describes; “A walking bank vault with a leopard-skin cap,” referring to the late Mobutu Sese Seko, longtime dictator of Zaire .
The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) would be allowed to function to the fullest meaning of its reason or justification for existing. This means that the PMDC will allow the ACC to work without interference from government. The PMDC will not use the ACC as a witch-hunting tool against political opponents.
DEVELOPMENT AND ECONOMIC PLANNING
Paradoxically, Sierra Leone is a resource rich country that is afflicted by pervasive poverty. Vice President Solomon Berewa recently conceded that about 70% of the people of Sierra Leone live in poverty. A reggae songwriter and musical icon, late Robert Nester Marley sings “In the abundance of water the fool is thirsty.”
Economic growth in Sierra Leone will depend on two factors: the quantities of available inputs, such as capital and labor, and the productivity of those inputs. Economic growth cannot occur unless the quantity of inputs increases, productivity improves, or both. To achieve a poor people friendly economic growth requires an efficient legal system that will protect property rights and enforces equal opportunity contracts. The PMDC will develop a mechanism that will reduce the cost of transactions and promote institutional and regulatory framework that will encourage healthy competition and create jobs.
ENERGY AND POWER
In Sierra Leone , our children are in constant celebration and gloomy moods over the constant coming and going of power. This abiku [coming and going] power condition is what the PMDC is bent on changing when it comes to power through your hard work and votes. We all know that without electricity there will be no industrialization. Statistics have shown that only 35 – 40% of Sierra Leoneans have access to clean drinking water in the abundance of natural source of water—rivers and heavy rainfalls. There should be no excuse for the sporadic existence of these basic tools of development. Most industries are dependent on electricity and water to function. The mushrooming wireless phone companies you are witnessing today in Sierra Leone are simply because the technology for them to function depends less on electricity and water. It means that we are a friendly people who would easily attract investors if we have the basic tools for them to operate.
AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODUCTION
The geographical position and historical accounts of Sierra Leone naturally make it an agricultural society. Thus, we were exporters of rice and a host of many other agricultural products. It is a historical fact that we introduced rice farming in the American South.
The PMDC knows that agriculture should not be limited to only food production for consumption, but also the creation of jobs for farmers and farm workers thereby ensuring sustainable national economic growth. Under a PMDC government, the agricultural sector shall be restructured and adequately equipped to ensure the production of sufficient food to meet the needs of the people and boost foreign exchange reserves through export.
A PMDC government will radically reorganize the Agricultural Sector in favor of mechanization to move our farmers from the current subsistence farming to self-sufficient mechanized farming. The restructuring will also take onboard large scale live – stock rearing and fish farming as well as revamping agricultural cooperatives and Trade Fairs. This is why the PMDC intents to revisit the land tenure system. Previous governments have used the land tenure as a falsehood to claim an agrarian attribute to themselves, especially in the interest of gaining votes.
The Movement shall play a greater role to ensure that our womenfolk in the production, processing and marketing of agricultural products get the necessary legal safeguards to achieve gender parity in benefits and foster national growth and prosperity.
TRADE AND INDUSTRY
Historically, nations have struggled to survive by agricultural economy alone without manufacturing. This condition places us in an apprenticeship position in the global economy—the production of raw material for the industrialized and manufacturing economies of the world. We have to change that by embarking on not just agriculture, but also manufacturing industries. This is the only way we will not ship all of our produce abroad, but produce finish products for export as well. For example, take a small retail bag of coffee and compare it price to a bushel of coffee, only then you will wake up to the realization that we will make more money and create more jobs to strengthen the national economy by investing in manufacturing industries.
Small businesses and manpower are the engines of our economy. They create and sustain employment and provide flexibility and innovation for all sectors of the economy. PMDC will create a small business friendly economy. A Small Businesses Commissionwill be set up to examine government interventions, monitor the progress of small businesses and keep their needs on the government’s agenda.
Shortages of skilled and trained labor have slowed down the development of firms and small businesses stifling wealth creation. The PMDC therefore will create and sustain employment and provide flexibility and innovation for all sectors of the economy. The PMDC will disposition the country favorably to help reverse brain drain.
TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATION
The lack of proper transportation seriously stifles our economic development and causes a concentration of young able-bodied men and women in the diamond producing areas and the big towns thereby making havens for those the SLPP Secretary General described as raray boys. The PMDC will improve the transport and communications sector in order to boost trade and inspire productivity.
PMDC will embark upon an extensive program of road rehabilitation and construction of new roads to bring communities closer to each other and accelerate exchange of goods, services and ideas.
The postal service is in shambles; letters, especially from abroad, hardly reach their destination without being pilfered. The PMDC will make sure that the integrity of mails is restored and maintained.
In the area of telecommunications, PMDC will pursue policies to ensure advancement in technology and competitiveness in the provision of services for greater customer satisfaction at reasonable tariffs.
MARINE AND FISHERIES RESOURCES
We have a coastline of about 506km and a territorial sea frontier of 200 nautical miles, rich in seafood, yet the people cannot enjoy seafood protein in their diet.
The PMDC government will encourage innovative fishing techniques and exploitations of our rich marine resources. The PMDC will also encourage investment in the fishing industry to attract well-meaning investors, ensure/assure quality and allow monitoring and controlling of our aquatic resources.
Sierra Leone has a low literacy rate of about 31 per cent. Our children strive on badly written pamphlets instead of textbooks. Our classrooms facilities are inadequate. Our teachers are not being paid on time. Evening classes for extra money have become the norm in Sierra Leone because of slow payment of and inadequacy of teacher salaries. Basic education in Sierra Leone has become a privilege as opposed to a right. The PMDC will change this state of condition. For there will be no true progress in the absence of proper education of the population at large. Once the PMDC fully addresses the inadequacies and updates the school system, it will make it a civil or a felony infraction of the law through a parliamentary legislation on those who will not send there children to school.
“Education should be constructed on two bases: morality and prudence. Morality in order to assist virtue, and prudence in order to defend you against the vices of others. In tipping the scales toward morality, merely produce dupes and martyrs. In tipping it the other way, you produce egotistical schemers.” If the education we acquired were guided by such preceding dictum of W. S. Mervin, we would not have had Roberto da Matta’s on corruption in Sierra Leone : “Corruption is never an individual act. It always involves groups of people bound by one fundamental rule of association: an exchange of favors. This collective corruption is founded on traditional morality, well-established friendships and the opportunity at hand. It allows crimes to be practiced with impunity and is characterized by an intolerable arrogance.” Take the “ghost teacher” scandals as an example.
Inasmuch as education is very important, improper education can be dangerous to society as well, and what we have in Sierra Leone is the dangerous type of education or none at all. The few government institutions produce egotistical citizens on the other hand. Thus, we have the two extremes that produce the perfect recipe for Da Matta’s description of corruption.
The PMDC would embark on the business of breeding a new generation of educated citizens, and an aggressive adult education in civics studies. Very few Sierra Leoneans can read the entire national anthem or recite the pledges of allegiance. But majority of Sierra Leoneans can recite the entire Koran and Bible verses. Imagine if we have a balanced high morality education and proper civic education? That is exactly what the PMDC will do; to appoint people to ministerial positions who would combine the fear of God with good work ethics. Mission schools have trained, over time, many Sierra Leoneans, and we all know how well mission schools were run. The PMDC will therefore continue to encourage them to continue their good work but also encourage them to meet us half way with the bills of running their schools to allow government to focus on civic education. Government will build more government schools and will take over those mission schools who cannot meet their financial obligations.
In many other countries, parents pay dearly to send their children to mission schools, which are often called private schools because government only subsidize them. The missionaries run the schools like business. The PMDC will ensure that there are enough and well-operated free basic education institutions that would focus their attention on the agenda of training virtues leaders, and provide optional religious studies. PMDC is bent on taking grassroots approach in solving the problems that have diminished our allegiance for our country.
Good health system is virtual non-existence. As a medical doctor and having worked in the medical service in Sierra Leone , my observation is that massive efforts are expended on the public aspect of health than on the hospitals. And they are mostly World Bank projects; the polio campaign, maternal and child health etc. Though these are very necessary, they allow our health planners to concentrate more on public health at the expense of hospital health care. This causes the hospitals to deteriorate and become more like hospices than health care facilities. They are like roach motels where patients can only check in, but cannot check out. The neglect of hospital health care causes Sierra Leoneans to seek specialized medical attention in foreign countries, nonetheless that we have well-trained specialists. Most of the doctors we train in Sierra Leone leave the country upon completion because we cannot afford them.
I crave your indulgence to listen to Mrs. Theresa Ofong’s anecdote of her recent experience—she sponsored a sister here in the US from Sierra Leone for medical emergency; let her tell us how and why. You will see why hospital health is of extreme importance. Hers is better evidence, but whatever she says, PMDC will include in its “Positive Change” agenda.
Because of bad governance in Sierra Leone and continues hopeless condition for the youth population, it was sad news that our womenfolk went up to the finals in 4×400 Meters relay in the Commonwealth Games, in Australia, only to abandon the games and blend in the host society that cares for its youth at the last minute. On the other hand, they chose to do so over winning a possible gold medal because of no confidence in Sierra Leone and no allegiance to its flag. That is because of the dangerous type of education we discuss earlier that our leaders provide for our youths. The most oppressed people in the world in Cuba demonstrate more allegiance for their nation. Even those in the Diaspora are steadfast, constantly fighting, in pursuit of democracy for Cuba . What we will witness when Cuba achieves democracy is an exodus of Cubans across the Florida Keys akin to Moses’ “Let My People Go” across the Red Sea when democracy returns to Cuba .
Before I end my presentation, permit me to ask just few questions that require simple answers:
Do you want change?
Can we get change?
Do you want change through the PMDC?
Now I am confident enough to ask you for a favor:
VOTE PMDC COME 2007!
Thank you all for coming out today.