FIRST ALLOTTED DAY: COMMENCEMENT OF PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

The Parliament of Sierra Leone on Monday 28th May 2018 commenced debate on the Presidential Speech delivered by His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio on the occasion of the State Opening of Parliament on Thursday 10th May 2018, to mark the commencement of the First Session of the Fifth Parliament of the Second Republic, following the First Sitting of Parliament after the conduct of the 2018 General Elections on Wednesday 25th April, this year.

In view of the contributions made by MPs during the ensuing debate, the Rt. Hon. Speaker of Parliament, Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu clarified in the interests of national cohesion and development that “the APC established the Treasury Single Account (TSA), and the SLPP Government is responsible for its vigorous implementation under the watch of President Bio”, whilst calling on MPs to be factually accurate in their submissions in respect of our international development partners who have so much interest in the operationalization of the TSA.

Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Chernor R. M Bah had informed the Speaker that himself and the Leader of Government Business, Hon. Mohamed Sidie Tunis, will keep a register of Ministers and Deputies that are witnessing the Presidential Debate, with the aim of getting firsthand information of the issues raised by MPs during the course of the debate. Therefore, Ministers and Deputies, including professional heads and senior administrative staff, are encouraged to attend and on time.

Seconding the motion, Hon. Francis Amara Kai-Samba of SLPP thanked President Bio for the Speech he graciously delivered in Parliament as constitutionally required, with the view to explaining his policies and programmes as contained in the “New Direction”. Speaking on the bleak economy inherited by the Government of President Bio, he made reference to corrective measures that had been initiated to tackle the economic malaise such as the operationalization of the Treasury Single Account, the ban on timber exports and tax exemptions, and the payment of salaries, without recourse to bank overdrafts. Applauding President Bio for separating the Education Ministries, he decried the past APC regime for failing to recruit qualified teachers and following “ghost teachers” throughout. He also acclaimed President Bio for boosting the morale of teachers who had taught for ten years and above, in respect of their siblings to access free university education, opening access to Government’s Grants-in-Aid and Student’s Loan Scheme. On health, he called for an inquiry into the handling of Ambulances purchased during the Ebola epidemic, and decried the poor management of the FHCI, resulting in a lot of maternal deaths. He criticized the much trumpeted road constructions, with bloated contracts without quality and value for money. He also reminded the Government of President Bio to do the roads in Kenema, which was deprived for being the stronghold of SLPP, whilst speaking on the need for improved and sustainable energy supply, coupled with strengthening the decentralization and devolution process, and the need for tackling water crisis, through an integrated management system.

Reacting, Hon. Abdul Kargbo said that the APC is committed to promoting the ideals of Sierra Leone and promised that they would bounce back to power after five years, whilst speaking on partnership in governance. He referred to the Speech as an attempt to demoralize former President Koroma and the reputation of the APC. He also said that “the debts incurred by the past regime were widely used for development, citing the construction of the Matotoka-Sefadu Road”, when talking on debts distress and sustainability, from the perspective of the IMF. On revenue mobilization, he praised “former President Koroma for setting the infrastructure that has seen the operation of the Treasury Single Account”, and denied the APC using bank overdrafts to pay salaries, in spite of Ebola and the drop in Iron Ore prices in 2014. He also espoused that the “New Direction” aims “to promote primary and secondary education, with the view of strangulating tertiary education”, that is critically important for the development of the country.

Hon. Abdul Karim Kamara of APC decried the Speech for “not capturing the atrocious activities after the conduct of the general elections, saying that our democracy is under attack”. He also called for SSS4 to be retained as a means of compensating for a lost term and other activities in the academic calendar, whilst speaking on youth empowerment. Speaking on economic diversification, he also called on Government to “provide energy and food for ordinary Sierra Leoneans”.

Hon. Charles Osman Abdulai of SLPP also decried the inflated cost and quality of roads constructed by the past APC government. Also speaking on the Iron Ore boom in 2013, he blamed the APC “for not making hay when the sun shines”, but were rather engaged in excessive overseas travelling. He described President Bio as a “realist” who inherited a bad economy characterized by huge internal and external debts, whilst referencing corrective measures such as discipline, professionalism and delivery. On economic diversification, he spoke on the need of improving agricultural practices, which according to him was hugely neglected by the APC, through ineffective tractorization.

Adding his voice to the debate, Hon. Saa Paul Sam of C4C commended President Bio for his initiatives under the “New Direction” and promised to work with him, with the aim of achieving his objectives. In the area of agriculture, he lauded the past government for creating good policies but did not yield good dividends for the people of Kono; instead mining was the main livelihood of the people. He also called on the new Ministers of Education to recruit qualified teachers for the successful implementation of President Bio’s free education initiative.

Other MPs spoke to the motion.

THIRD ALLOTTED DAY: CONTINUATION OF PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

The Parliament of Sierra Leone has Wednesday 30th May 2018 for the third successive days continued debate on the “Motion of Thanks to President Bio” for the Speech he delivered on the occasion of the State Opening of Parliament.

In view of what Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu had said earlier, presiding Speaker of the House, Hon. Segepoh Solomon Thomas has warned members of the public not to use any other device to record the proceedings of Parliament from the galleries, other than the Press which has such authority. He continued that any member of the public caught recording the proceedings of the House will be charged with contempt.

He has also summoned Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Government, including Professional Heads and senior administrative staff of MDAs to witness the Presidential Debate, failing which it will be deemed to be contemptuous.

Contributing to the debate, Hon. Hindolo M. Gevao of SLPP commended the past government for efforts made in energy, infrastructure and other areas aimed at improving the socio-economic livelihood of the people. Speaking on the use of executive powers, he decried former President Koroma “for the sacking of the former Vice President and the appointment of Victor Bockarie Foh to the Office of Vice President”. He referred to that action as “unconstitutional because both of them were deemed to have been duly elected as President and Vice President respectively”. He also blamed the past government “for not taking action against the police who shot defenseless demonstrators dead in Kono, Kabala, Freetown and other places in the country”, saying that those human rights abuses went without remedial and compensatory considerations. He called on the new Government not to follow bad precedents such as “the malicious and vexatious trials of Hon. Rado Yokie, Theresa Mbomaya et al, without justice being served”. He congratulated President Bio for his intention to overhaul the Judiciary, noting the suspension and reinstatement of Judges. On religion, he said “one Bishop Aruna was prevented from working in Makeni because he was deemed to have come from elsewhere in the country”.

Speaking on the challenges of water and sanitation in his constituency, he said the only clinic serving 43,000 constituents is yet to receive drugs from the free healthcare initiated by former President Koroma.

Hon. Osman Abdal Timbo in his submission said that the realm of politics is different from the profession of law, whilst commending President Bio for the developmental aspirations he had articulated in the Speech delivered to Parliament. In spite of some lacunae, according to him, he referred to the Speech as being “representative of the aspirations of the people”; saying that whether APC, C4C, or NGC would have won the presidential election, any of theirs could not have been different from his. He also said that “there is nothing new in the New Direction, other than continuity”, whilst speaking on education and the unbundling of the energy sector. He praised former President Koroma for laying the foundation of development and called on the SLPP for building on the programmes initiated by the past government, describing development as a “process”. He cautioned the new Government that “they will be judged by what they did and not what the APC did”. He also said that “coming events cast their shadows and that they should not be in a hurry to judge SLPP as they are only 55 days in governance”, whilst decrying “the executive orders on tax exemptions without recourse to agreements that had been signed, the booting of MPs from Parliament, the reinstatement of Dr. Sarah Bendu, the eviction of a Judge from his official vehicle, and the assault on the Mayor of Freetown”.

Hon. Quintin Salia-Konneh, an Independent MP thanked President Bio for carving out the road map for the development of the country, and described the Speech as “the best he has ever seen in Sierra Leone”. Speaking on critical examination, he called on MPs to provide insights and recommendations to assist the President to achieve his developmental aspirations. Allaying the fears expressed by some MPs on the implementation of the free education policy, he cited the minimum of 20% budgetary allocations to the Ministries of Education. He called “for the reversal of 6344 system of education because it only expanded the nominal value of students and left the real value of teachers”, and “the removal of the two shift with the view to increasing the contact hours in schools, including the approval and recruitment of trained and qualified teachers”. He also said “out of the six schools in his constituency, serving over 1000 pupils, only one had been approved”, whilst calling for the approval of schools that had been in operation for the past ten years and encouraged President Bio to personally supervise the implementation of the free education initiative.

Hon. Saa Francis Bendu of C4C commended President Bio and submitted that “his constituents had suffered for far too long in the hands of different players”. Speaking on inequality, he called for the review of the Mines and Minerals Act to enhance healthy sharing of the proceeds from mines to benefit the people and the affected communities. He also said that “they are yet to get the 60% shares from the sales of the 706 carat diamond by the past government”, whilst speaking on the challenges of water and agriculture in his constituency. He continued that “the issue of disability has been neglected for a long time now, in spite of the establishment of a Commission on Disability, which is benefiting the administrators instead of the beneficiaries”. In order to tap the potentials of persons with disability, he called on Government to open access to education at tertiary level, provide employment, and make buildings disable-friendly, whilst appealing to the Ministers of Defence and Internal Affairs “that recruitment at the security sector should be devolved and devoid of regional bias”.

Other MPs spoke to the motion.

FOURTH ALLOTTED DAY: PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE CONTINUES

The “Motion of Thanks to President Bio” dedicated to his maiden Speech to the Fifth Parliament has on Thursday 31st May 2018 been debated now for four uninterrupted days, with critical analysis and proffering of recommendations for the success of the “New Direction”.

Hon. Alusine Bash Kamara of APC thanked President Bio for the wonderful Speech he delivered to Parliament, whilst appreciating him for the important appointments he had given to the sons and daughters of Karene District, and wished them success in office. Speaking on low admission, he said the implementation of the 6344 system of education has increased the number of school enrolment; boost the morale of teachers by opening bank accounts and the increment of salaries. He also called on the Ministries of Education to consider teachers without children, but had taught for over ten years, in respect of free tertiary education, whilst speaking on the need for the establishment of a WASSCE center in Gbinti, now in Karene District by legislation.

In his contribution, Hon. Daniel B. Koroma of APC commended President Bio and referred to his Speech as “being opposition focused”, and “failed to acknowledge the good works of APC, citing the economy, agriculture, subsidies, save for the improvement of Lungi International Airport which was described as fairly good, but needs repairs”. He also thanked President Bio for continuing development programmes initiated by the past government, except for the 6344 system of education that is about to be reversed, whilst enumerating the “graduation of internet penetration from 10-70%, and the current challenges in the energy sector should be addressed instead of being blamed on bad policies or agreements”.

Hon. Paramount Chief, Kangbai Joe Macavoray of Bo District commended President Bio for his comprehensive Speech delivered to Parliament, whilst referring to him as “a man of his words”, having known him for a long time. He called on the Ministers of Government to perform because they are 90% responsible for the success of the President’s initiatives, and that 90% of the people are engaged in agricultural activities, with over 300 ABCs that are under-utilized, and also spoke on the need for a timely distribution of agricultural inputs, with the required knowledge. For roads that could be done by Chiefs, he decried the idea of importing contractors, and spoke on the need of supporting them to do those roads. Whilst talking on the implementation of the free education policy, sooner than later, he appealed for the involvement of Chiefs, the re-awakening of the dormant Teaching Service Commission, and the review of the Education Act of 2004. On the issue relating to the payment of backlogs to Paramount Chiefs, he called on Parliament to prove her mettle in the light of improving its conditions of service.

Hon. Bashiru Silikie of SLPP thanked President Bio and referred to the Speech as “having all the ingredients necessary for the development” of the country, with nothing to criticize. He also prefaced his contribution by thanking the people of Sierra Leone for electing President Bio and the SLPP to governance again. He said “in spite of the advice and recommendations advanced by the SLPP”, he reminded the “APC of campaigning Maada Bio instead of the issues bordering on bread and butter during the past elections”. He continued that “the SLPP left a lot of mobile operators among which only Orange and Africell are now operating”. He decried the past government of “implementing the toll road agreement, the sacking of the former Vice President without recourse to Parliament, the denial of law graduates to practice, and said that they would be in permanent opposition”. Unlike the last Parliament, he boasted that “under the New Direction, Ministers come and witness ensuing debates in the House”.

Hon. Moses A. Edwin of SLPP thanked President Bio and said that his contribution will hinge on “tolongbolization and paopaism”, whilst speaking on the need for professionalism, discipline, and delivery of services. Being the “third hungriest country in the world” he likened it to living “around abundance of water, yet you go thirsty”, whilst blaming past governments, “especially APC for poor agricultural outputs”, citing large arable lands for cultivation. He also said that “it is only in a tolongbonise economy, centered on voodoo and kokonomics, after a much trumpeted fastest growing economy, that they could not feed the people, and are also unable to pay teachers and contractors on time”. He also blamed energy outages on bad agreements signed by the past government.

Hon. Musa Fofanah of C4C commended President Bio and promised to speak on the platform of objectivity. He spoke largely on issues affecting the provision of clean and sustainable water supply to the people of this country. He decried SALWACO for not rehabilitating existing water infrastructure across the country, but chose to construct new ones by using fake contractors, including boreholes that are not yielding the desired results. Speaking on water gravity system in all the chiefdoms in Kono District, he continued that “they are in a state of collapse because of no repairs or rehabilitation”. Calling for support, he also said that “if the President fails, Parliament will be held accountable”.

Hon. Paramount Chief, Sahr Youngai Kontanday Mbriwa II of Kono District commended President Bio and praised his free education policy aimed at human development, with a view to curbing ignorance and poverty in the country. Speaking on education as a tool of empowerment and liberation, he called on Government to clear all formal barriers to access learning, and the need to clarify the policy on free education, in respect of the obligations of stakeholders in the country. He also spoke on the need for the review of the Child Rights Act of 2007, with the view to strengthen the laws against perpetrators of teenage pregnancies in the country. He also called on the Government to improve on the provision of energy, water, long delay in dispensing justice on land cases, boundary disputes, and the construction of major roads linking Kono to neighboring Guinea and other major towns in the country.

Hon. Catherine Zainab Tarawally of APC also thanked President Bio for prioritizing education and agriculture in his Speech to Parliament. Defending the 6344 system of education due to the recommendations of the Prof. Gbamanja Commission of Inquiry, she admitted that enrolment at tertiary level has increased considerably. Describing herself as “a master farmer”, she noted the President’s vision of owning a farm before appointment to public office “as a human rights violation”, whilst calling on him to make agriculture attractive by constructing more feeder roads and to get tractors on hire-purchase.

Hon. Bernadette Wuyatta Songa of SLPP thanked President Bio and the people for solidly voting SLPP to governance and described his Speech as “holistic”. Passionately speaking on dual citizenship, which she had renounced to serve her country, she called on the Government to amend and repeal those discriminatory provisions from our law books with the tendencies of barring our Diaspora brothers and sisters from becoming Presidents, Ministers, and Members of Parliament, noting the crucibles Dr. Kandeh Yumkella had similarly gone through. She recalled that Diaspora protested before No. 10 Downing Street in London when the former Vice President was sacked “unconstitutionally”, and heaped enormous praises on the First Lady, Mrs. Fatima Bio for being a supportive wife and a champion of women’s empowerment in the country.

Hon. Abubakarr Fofanah of SLPP commended President Bio for the Speech he delivered to Parliament, and supported his policy initiative of reversing the 6344 to 6334 system of education “because the former promotes teenage pregnancies and the later reduces or eliminates incidences of such”. In effect, he said the 6334 system caters for the survival and development of the girl child, through education.

Other MPs spoke to the motion.

FIFTH AND FINAL ALLOTTED DAY: ENDS PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

The Parliament of Sierra Leone has on Friday 01st June 2018 concluded five consecutive days of debate on the “Motion of Thanks to President Bio” for his debutant Presidential Speech, delivered on the occasion of the State Opening of the First Session of the Fifth Parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone.

Congratulating MPs for their brilliant contributions during the course of the debate, the Rt. Hon. Speaker of Parliament, Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu said that “the tone and temperament in respect of the agenda for the new Parliament has been properly set in motion”. He also called on the Ministry of Finance to strengthen parliamentary oversight, with a view to discourage the “habit of receiving handouts from MDAs”, but to enhance Parliament to effectively hold the executive to account for the actualization and fulfillment of the grand vision of President Bio.

Contributing to the debate, the Leader of NGC, Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella commended President Bio for the presentation of a detailed Speech to Parliament, by clearly outlining his vision aimed at addressing the challenges he has inherited. He also called on new MPs not to be partisan and defensive of laws that had been passed, but rather be concerned with the national interest. He told the APC not to lay claims on Bumbuna because that project commenced when he was still in school, whilst saying that our development had been bedeviled by poor performance indicators and structural challenges, and re-stated the importance of effective oversight on the activities of the executive. In support of President Bio’s initiatives, he called for collective efforts, collaboration, speaking truth to power, and promised to later submit to him a document to help him succeed in his vision for free education, “which is partially in existence but has to be scaled up”. He espoused that “they will support the Government to attract additional funds for the implementation of the free education policy, saying that $41 million is a drop in the bucket and therefore not enough”. He also spoke against examination malpractices, sexually transmitted grades, and the need for high enrolment to universities, expensive university forms, and the need for online application to gain access to tertiary education. On “rankanomics”, he called on the SLPP to copy good laws, whilst speaking on under-performing and bloated contracts, and the need for seriously looking into the recommendations of the Auditor General’s Report. In respect of diversification, he also called on the Government to improve and add value on our agricultural and marine products; in particular to gain access to the EU market, and investment in horticulture, and that Government is using “$10 Million” for the importation of onions. He also called for active surveillance at our sea where we are losing over “$50 Million” to poaching and other illegal and unregulated fishing methods. Speaking on justice, he said that “it should not be used in a predatory manner”, whilst speaking on the need for the review of the laws related to dual citizenship, and the diversification of our energy sources.

Hon. Hassan Sesay of APC and the Opposition Whip commended President Bio and warned that “if ideas are not put into action, it will only remain as ideological attraction”. He called for the examination of the public service that had been put together since independence, whilst speaking on energy. He also said that “the President has reneged on his promise of de-politicizing NATCOM by appointing the Chairman of SLPP to that office, having regards for APC’s Momoh Konteh, who was appointed to that office and later made Chairman for APC in Koinadugu District”, whilst saying “it was the APC that created the institutions that are now generating huge funds for SLPP, that is few days in governance”.

Reacting, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Segepoh Solomon Thomas commended President Bio and corrected “that it was the late President Tejan Kabbah who created the institutions that are generating revenues for the country”, whilst talking on the politics of truth. He also recalled the politics of fear and intimidation “when political opponents were arrested, locked up, and their seats declared vacant, allowing others to go un-opposed”. He called on MPs to serve the people well, describing the policies on health and roads as “good but were misdirected and bloated with inordinate costs”. In spite of the huge funds spent on energy, he blamed the past government for electricity outages in the country, whilst speaking on revenue mobilization, the need to improve agriculture, civic education, political tolerance, and to remove beggars and children from the streets.

Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Chernor R.M Bah thanked MPs for their fruitful deliberations and recalled his chairmanship of PAC, in line with transparency and accountability. He referred to the Auditor General as “a staff of Parliament and that the President was ill-advised to review Section 119 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone”. He also said that “if the queries of the Auditor General are directed to the ACC, then we don’t need to have the PAC in Parliament”. He also said that before 2007, one could hardly hear about the Auditor General’s Report to Parliament. He also considered himself as “someone who likes and supports women”. He said in view of the wrong painting of the economy, he referred to “austerity and fiscal discipline as one and the same”. He also spoke “on debt waivers by the Paris Club and the $1.5 Billion debt left by the late Tejan Kabbah SLPP government, and how donors lost confidence prior to the 2007 general elections”, whilst boasting of the credit worthiness of the past government. He also espoused the need to improve tourism by positively selling the country to attract investors, and replicate similar experiences in Rwanda and South Africa to the advantage of Sierra Leone. Supporting a review of the Mines and Minerals Act of 2009 enacted to replace a decree, he said it is necessary to address mines related issues since 1930, when diamond was first discovered. He also called on the Government to build on the FHCI, and boasted that “funds have been secured already from ECOWAS for the construction of a university in Kono District”. He called for national cohesion and that “special attention be paid to the military”, with a view to improving their conditions of service. He also encouraged the Government to create land banks as the land tenure system is driving investors away, saying “that the people voted President Bio to State House and the APC to head Parliament”.

Concluding the debate, the Leader of Government Business, Hon. Mohamed Sidie Tunis commended MPs for their contributions and described the debate as “very constructive and informative”. He assured Dr. Kandeh Yumkella of Government’s support to ensure that Sierra Leone gains access to the EU market. He said that the “President’s intention of de-politicizing NATCOM is not in respect of appointment, but rather to free it from “orders from above”, saying that the “APC did not benefit from debt waivers because of the mismanagement of the economy”. He expressed his support for the review of Section 119 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone to enhance prosecution by the ACC, without waiting on Parliament, recalling that the APC watered down the Auditor General’s Report on the real time audit on the management of the Ebola funds by punishing “small boys”. Speaking on Bumbuna and alternative energy, he blamed APC for electricity outages few days out of governance, despite huge funds that had been spent over the years. He also said that the APC had been spending Billion of Leones on fuel for generators and assured the public that measures are being put in place for Freetown to enjoy 24 hours electricity, whilst citing huge arrears of domestic and external debts that have been inherited by the SLPP Government. He also said that the “IMF and World Bank left the country because of the mismanagement of the economy before the 2018 general elections”. He decried the past government for the unlawful sacking of the former Vice President of Sierra Leone. He also acclaimed the President’s initiative of owning a farm before getting public appointments, promising that a blue print will be brought to Parliament for approval before the commencement of President Bio’s free education policy next academic year. He also lauded the reversal from 6344 to 6334 system of education.

Department of Public Relations

Parliament of Sierra Leone

OAU Drive, Tower Hill

Freetown

Tel: +23278495023/+23277669726/+23278426851

 

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Abu Bakarr Tarawally is a Journalist based in Freetown. He works for the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation as a radio producer. He has once served as Editor for a few newspapers in Freetown, including Sierra Express Media, The Exclusive Newspaper and his own newspaper, the Daily Express Publications. He is a teacher trainer, and loves writing and reading a lot. Email: abstarawally@gmail.com. Call +232 88601277 or +2327661303.

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