The National Publicity and Outreach Coordinator in the Office of Government Spokesman, Mr. Abdulai Bayraytay, who is also one of the spokesmen of the Sierra Leone Government, was yesterday joined by the Minister of Energy and Power, Ambassador Henry Macauley , to articulate government’s programs and clarify recent socio-political events in the nation in a town hall-styled meeting held at the Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the United Nations in New York.
Mr. Bayraytay is in the U.S. on a diaspora outreach mission to address Sierra Leoneans and the international world on current affairs in Sierra Leone , including the post-ebola recovery plan, democracy and good governance in an interactive and constructive engagement designed to provide answers to many burning questions. MR. ALHUSINE SESAY OPENING THE MEETING An appreciable number of Sierra Leoneans and foreign diplomats turned out at the Mission to take part in the town meeting,which was described by everybody present as constructive, interactive and productive and they applauded the healthy, frank and informative exchange of views.
The opening remarks were made by the Head of Chancery, Mr. Alhusine M. Sesay, who introduced the program and explained the purposes of the outreach, while the Deputy Permanent Representative, Ambassador Amadu Koroma chaired the meeting which was addressed by the Minister of Energy, Hon. Ambassador Henry O. Macauley and Mr. Abdulai Bayraytay.
A COMPOSITE PHOTO OF SOME OF THE ATTENDEES
FROM RIGHT : AMBASSADOR MACAULEY , AMBASSADOR KOROMA AND ONE OF THE ATTENDEES
ANOTHER PHOTO OF THE ATTENDANTS
Matters addressed included an update on the energy sector, the business environment, freedom of expression and human rights, access to official information and transparency, policy on education for teenage pregnant girls, clarification on issues relating to the Ebola funds and the Government’s Ebola Recovery Pans.
The town meeting and the interviews that Mr. Bayraytay has granted the VOA and Sierra Leone-specific internet radio and TV organizations manifest the determination of President Ernest Bai Koroma and the Government to open the channels of communication between the administration and the people, including Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora, who have been classified by President Koroma as representing the fifth district of Sierra Leone .
ATTENDEES AT THE MEETING
A New York-based Sierra Leonean who attended the meeting yesterday expressed satisfaction at the commitment of President Koroma and the Government to bring the government to the people in such an effective interactive session which embellished the Government’s credentials as a democratic, transparent and accountable administration.
Other attendees told COCORIOKO that they went to the meeting with many concerns as a result of negative reports they have read in the social media and were delighted that their concerns were addressed by Ambassador Macauley and Mr. Bayraytay.
After the two public officials had addressed the meeting, there was a question-and-answer segment of the program during which attendees were given the opportunity to ask any question they wished. Many of them said they were satisfied with the way their questions were answered.
A nationally refreshing and important aspect of the interactive and outreach sessions was that an invitation to attend was extended to the Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP) and other opposition parties, as well as the organization that calls itself the Concerned Sierra Leoneans, believed to be SLPP, which organized the demonstrations at the White House , the World Bank and the United Nations.
In a public notice in the social media by the Minister Plenipotentiary to the UN, Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu, opposition leaders of parties and organizations and their supporters were formally invited to participate and were also asked to bring their questions and concerns to the meeting for a frank and interactive discussion of them , but many Sierra Leoneans were disappointed by the response of the Concerned Sierra Leoneans , most of who, are supporters and officials of the SLPP. In a press release after the invitation , the organization said that the “Concerned Sierra Leoneans sense nothing more than a cheap public relations stunt here. It is counterintuitive to have someone like Bayraytay come to the United States to discuss with Diaspora Sierra Leoneans the all-important issues of Ebola and post-Ebola recovery in our country, and democracy and good governance. ”
Sierra Leoneans , including even those who criticize the government on a regular basis, were taken aback by this response and disagreed with the Concerned Sierra Leoneans . They described the reaction of the group as anti-democratic, unprogressive and unpatriotic, and they believed that the refusal of the group to attend the town meetings undermined the credibility of its claims of being democratic and patriotic and also exposed the lack of commitment of the so-called Concerned Sierra Leoneans to engage in constructive dialogue with Government with a view to resolving issues. “They seem to be only interested in confrontation and chaos ,which is not a constructive and patriotic way of solving national issues” , many Sierra Leoneans opined.
Due to the frank, interactive and constructive outcome of the town meeting, many attendants said the Concerned Sierra Leoneans bungled a golden opportunity to be heard and be considered as part of the solutions to issues in the country . Their absence demonstrated the intransigent, unpatriotic and unserious nature of their agenda,which is inimical to peace , stability and nation-building .
The Government is however going on with the outreach program because it believes that there are many genuine Sierra Leoneans who desire cogent answers to the misinformation they are being fed in the social media and print and online newspapers.
Another government town meeting will be held in New Jersey today at the Madison Suites Hotel at Cedar Groove Avenue at 5pm