KABS KANU REPORTS :
It was a very important and informative Town Hall meeting , coming at a time when people had many concerns, apprehensions and misunderstanding about the state of the nation and the political processes leading to another crucial presidential, legislative and local council elections next year.
MR. BAYRAYTAY ADDRESSING THE TOWN MEETING
President Ernest Koroma, cognisant of the importance of information, enlightenment and the involvement of the people, even diasporans , in the governance of the nation , decided to send no less a man than his own eloquent Spokesman, Mr. Abdulai Bayraytay, to hold town meetings in North America to help prepare diasporans for the political metamorphosis in the horizon.
THE AUDIENCE LISTENING CAREFULLY
The Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the United Nations , realizing the importance of ensuring that the right information filtered to the people , who are an essential component of governance, provided full support and worked with key government functionaries living in New Jersey, led by the Minister Plenipotentiary Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu , APC-New Jersey President Alimamy Turay , Organizing Secretary Donald Cline-Thomas and others to ensure the success of the Town hall meeting. Consequently, the Permanent Representative, Ambassador Adikalie Foday Sumah himself , traveled all the way from New York , with one of his ambassadors , Deputy Permanent Representative for Legal Affairs, Mr. Felix Koroma , the Head of Chancery Mr. Sheku Mesali , Counselor Victor Sheriff etc. to New Jersey to grace the occasion, which was held at the Caribbean Palace , Somerset , at Franklin Township.
THE HIGH TABLE BEFORE THE START : SECOND FROM RIGHT AMBASSADOR SUMMAH ; THIRD FROM RIGHT MR. BAYRAYTAY; AT THE FAR END AMBASSADOR FELIX KOROMA AND FAR LEFT MINISTER KABS-KANU
It turned to be a successful interaction between representatives of the governors and the people , during which the Presidential Spokesman used his remarkable powers of eloquence and masterful dissemination off essential facts to quell the doubts, misunderstanding and apprehension of the people. A captive audience representing a cross-section of the New Jersey community listened keenly and at the end asked useful questions, which were competently addressed by the Presidential Spokesman .
WHAT THE PEOPLE AT THE TOWN HALL MEETING WERE TOLD BY MR. BAYRAYTAY
- One of the reasons the Truth and Reconciliation Commission ( TRC ) found for the cause of the war was the disconnect between the governing political class and the people. President Koroma established the Office of the Presidential Spokesman to address that disconnect . Thus, the President sent him to the diaspora to clarify issues and brief them on matters of national concern.
MR.BAYRAYTAY ( FAR RIGHT ) POSES WITH NJ -APC WOMEN’S LEADER MS. ELIZABETH THORONKA AND MR. DONALD CLINE-THOMAS WHO DID A GREAT JOB TO HELP SET UP THE PROGRAM
- Sierra Leone is going through a transition with elections coming and there are lots of conspiracy theories floating around that President Koroma wants to hold on to power. But President Koroma has said from Day One that he had never been interested in seeking a third term. President Koroma has never been a born-again democrat. Rather, he has been a bona fide democrat from the word Go.Therefore, his intention from the onset is to respect the constitution , abide by the term limits and exit power honorably after the elections on March 7, 2018.
- The Law provided for three weeks voters registration, but to ensure that nobody was left out it was extended for another two weeks. The extension of the voters registration by two weeks paid dividend as 95% of the 3.5 million people . The civic registration, which will begin in June , will help the Government accrue citizens data and also help the government effectively deliver social services . It will also address the problem of ghost workers. The government will use the data to establish something like the social security numbers in the diaspora.
- There are lots of challenges for the elections. $48 million will be needed for the conduct of the elections. Determined to ensure that nothing stopped or delayed the elections, the government showed its commitment by allocating $28 million. A month ago, the President also convened a meeting of donor partners at State House and made a strong appeal to them to support the process because he did not want a minute added to his tenure .
- The UN has told the government that this time they will not be helping to supervise the elections. The UN Peacekeeping Commission told the government that the decision has been taken because the UN is satisfied with the manner that President Koroma is handling the process.
- MR. PHILIP MOKUWA, A RESIDENT OF NEW JERSEY ASKING QUESTIONS
- Sierra Leoneans should be proud that the Global Peace Index adjudged Sierra Leone one of the most peaceful nations in the world, coming 43rd overall. This feat should be appreciated because it answers our turbulent past.
- In 2014, the IMF said that Sierra Leone had the second fastest growing economy in the world. Mining and investments were booming, but the twin effects of Ebola and the drop in the price of iron ore in the international commodity market derailed the progress.
- When the economic downturn came, the government refused to agree to a Structural Adjustment Program ( SAP ) , which would have entitled the dismissal and compulsory retirement of workers, which would have brought more hardship. Rather, the government decided on an EXPENDITURE RATIONALIZATION PROGRAM, to cut expenses . The government did not only retain workers but has been able to pay salaries regularly and early.
- Through the Office of the First Lady, Sierra Leone now has dialysis machines at Connaught Hospital , through the Government of Israel. Sierra Leoneans were sent to Israel to learn how to use the machines and now patients who need dialysis no longer have to be sent abroad.
- Every region in Sierra Leone is a stronghold of President Koroma. Therefore, the President develops all regions, not just one. The DFID, impressed at the progress being made came and bolstered the government with $43 million to boost rural electrification . Therefore, the government is going to expand electricity in Bo and Kenema. The government is also about to give 24-hour electricity to the tourist areas around Aberdeen . The Bandajuma-Liberian border highway construction is at an advanced stage.
- Government did not owe Njala University and did not cause the chaos. They did not account for the initial Le. 8 billion given them and they came and asked for an additional Le 25 billion. Additionally, since Njala is a private college, the government had asked the administration to bill the students and the government said it will pay and overwrite the bill. The administration never played their own part.
- MR. BAYRAYTAY POSES WITH AMBASSADOR SUMAH AND STAFF OF THE PERMANENT MISSION OF SIERRA LEONE TO THE UN
- Corruption is a conspicuous challenge but it was this government of President Koroma that gave the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) teeth and prosecutorial powers to fight corruption .
- To boost agriculture and limit the huge amount spent importing rice, Government is encouraging local farmers to increase local production . Professor Monty Jones , the Agriculture Minister , has presented cheques totaling Le300, 000, 000 (three hundred million Leones) to farmers in the Western Rural, Kenema, Port Loko and Kambia Districts respectively as incentives to help them increase production. Sierra Leone is now threshing and packaging her own locally produced rice. Therefore, the country does not depend solely on imported rice anymore.
- The problems of keeping Freetown clean are acute . The Government contracted garbage collection and disposal to MASADA , and they were being paid by the Freetown City Council. FCC owed them and accepted that it was so because they were not collecting garbage at all the agreed points. President Koroma became directly involved and suggested that other players be brought in. Therefore 1, 000 youths are going to be employed to help collect garbage.
- Fourah Bay College studentsare not on the campus presently because the college is undergoing a massive reconstruction. Government has accrued funding from the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) to reconstruct the dorms and expand the infrastructure.
- Asked by Mr. Mohamed Majid Kamara to grade the government, Mr. Bayraytay said he will give the government A- , instead of A+ to make room for growth.