By Oswald Hanciles :
At State House today at about 6.30 p.m., the All Political Parties Association – APPA (whose membership comprise all registered political parties in the country) met with President Ernest Bai Koroma, and presented a Position Paper in which they asked the President to relax provisions in the ‘Ebola State of Emergency’; and the President responded that he would have to “hold consultations with local and international experts on Ebola” before he would make a “public pronouncement” on the issues they had raised; and in the same breathe, the President challenged the political parties, “Let us all be monitors to monitor what government is doing to mitigate the adverse effects of the Ebola outbreak on the people…”
President Koroma disclosed that government’s free schooling programme for all school-going pupils in non-private schools is being abused by a few teachers and school administrators who are burdening parents with extra charges in schools. The President also pointed out that government has started a Social Protection for Farmers programme in 150,000 households in the country – and this also could be abused by those implementing them, if they are not monitored. Brimming with self-confidence, President Koroma assured the political parties that “the economy would soon start growing fast again like it was before the Ebola outbreak” .
On the specific issues raised by APPA that the State of Emergency from 6a.m. to 6p.m. for commercial businesses should be relaxed to 10p.m. – especially for okada riders, and restaurant and night club operators whose businesses have been hardest hit – President Koroma asked for caution. He reminded the group that a couple of months ago, the stringent ‘no movement among districts’ law was relaxed; and that led to a single Ebola case crossing the country and reaching Freetown, resulting in 54 people being infected with Ebola, and 42 Ebola deaths.
President Koroma drew the attention of the group to the spasmodic Ebola infections at Moa Wharf in Freetown, and at Kambia District over the past month or so – reversing the countdown of the country to Zero Ebola case; and asked, “Is it time to lift the restrictions?”.
The State of Emergency has not been imposed because of political problems, or, war; and, there is still that freedom of expression in the country that the country has become renowned for; but, Ebola demands “special treatment”, hence the emergency, President Koroma appealed.
The members of APPA were praised by the President for their readiness to dialogue with the governing party, making Sierra Leone a symbol of political tolerance: “We are ahead in terms of political discourse among political parties. All the political parties collaborated and cooperated in the fight against the Ebola. This admirable trend should be sustained – and cooperation among us would be the keyword henceforth….”
The UDM Chairman, who is also Chairman of APPA, Mohamed Bangura, had earlier said that under his leadership APPA would prefer “dialogue” with the ruling party rather than confrontational politics that is unlikely to yield any positive results.
The meeting was also attended by the Vice President, Victor Bockarie Foh.
The SLPP was represented by Hon. Edward A. Soloku, (Regional Vice Chairman, Southern Province; who said he represented the Chairman of SLPP, Chief Samano Kapen); and Ambassador Alie B. Kamara (Assistant National Secretary General of the SLPP).
The PMDC of Charles Margai was represented by Moses R. Wulleh (Administrative Secretary)
The UNPP was by Gabriel Samuka (National Chairman); and the PDP-Sorbeh was represented by Gibrilla Kamara (Leader) and Alhaji Ben Kamara (Ag. National Secretary General).
Also present were the RUFP’s Keilfala Kosia (Acting Chairman); and the NDA’s Abdulai Barrie (Acting National Secretary General), and Augusta James-Teima (Acting National Chairman).
The PLP had representation in Hon. Dr. Kandeh Balia Conteh (Leader and Chairman); while Victor King represented the CDP (as Acting National Secretary General), and Prince Coker was there for the CDP (as National Chairman)
Justice Tholla Thompson, Chairman of the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), who had presented the All Political Parties Association (APPA) to President Ernest Bai Koroma gave the Vote of Thanks and urged APPA to give the President a little bit of time to come up with a relevant response to their suggestions.