From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

FEATURES
SLPP’s MONTHLY PRESS BRIEFING (No.2) Statement
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Jun 7, 2010, 18:56

Freetown May 27, 2010: This is the second edition of our monthly Press Briefing. In our inaugural edition, we presented the position of the Party on the following:

· National Constitutional Review
· The London Mining Agreement and Existing Legislations
· The Petroleum industry
· Corruption

On the Constitutional Review, we are still awaiting concrete statement from the Government on the next steps. The Minister of Information and Communications in a television debate did accept legitimacy of the Opposition and promised a statement from government on this matter.

On the London Mining Agreement, as expected, Government defended its erroneous position. London Mining through its Managing Director also wrote us a letter falsely defending its position on the matter. We shall soon send a reply to the letter.

On the Petroleum Industry, we are still awaiting concrete statement from the Government on the next steps. The Minister of Information and Communications in a television debate did concede to the authenticity of the position of the Opposition and assured us of work in progress on this matter. Regrettably, to date the public know very little of what is going on with respect to the nation’s oil. The SLPP would like to reiterate the following:

· All acquisitions of interests in the petroleum sector must be done by public tender.
· Government should publicly disclose petroleum agreements and details about licensing to public scrutiny.
· Government should establish as a matter of urgency the necessary and urgent legal and regulatory frameworks for the petroleum sector that is open to public consultation.

On Corruption, among other things, we said as follows: …. we detest and will continue to vehemently oppose selective justice and the existing prevalence of ‘untouchables’ and ‘sacred cows’ in the fight against institutional graft. In this regard we call on the Commission to thoroughly and impartially investigate and were possible charge those responsible for the NASSIT ferry debacle, the Indian Rice saga and the Income Electrix scandal which issues have suddenly taken an unjustified stillness".

In this Press briefing, we shall be presenting our position on the following:

· Diplomatic Missions
· Free Health Care Policy
· Re-Appointment of Dr. Christian Thorpe as Chairperson, National Electoral Commission
· Printing of new notes.

1. DIPLOMATIC MISSIONS

The Sierra Leone Peoples Party is most concerned and appalled at the glaring fact that our diplomatic Missions abroad are in shambles, resulting from the growing inexcusable conduct of the nation’s Heads of Foreign Missions nominated and appointed by no less a person than HE the President himself.

In China, an immoral amorous and violent relationship between the Ambassador and one of his female wards came into the open in a confrontational manner after it went disastrously wrong. Earlier on, the same diplomat had a fist fight with his deputy in the same embassy after a disagreement over how funds are spent by the Embassy. The Ambassador has now been recalled.

In Russia, the Ambassador has been recalled due to allegations of sexual harassment and multiple rape of a Sierra Leone resident by one of his step sons. The issue has festered for months under his watchful eyes, whilst he desperately endeavoured at his best to cover it up. This we have learnt resulted in the Ambassador in question being declared Persona Non Grata (PNG) by the Russian Government again with humiliating effect to our country, its people and the image of our budding democracy.

In Brussels, the Ambassador has become a fist fight champion after insulting and hitting one of his Staff and in addition he hardly represents the nation at important Conferences for example the 2009 Assembly of State Parties at the Hague. Despite several efforts to persuade him to attend, he incessantly refused to do so under the guise of lack of funds. His absence and the fact that the seats designated to our nation’s delegation remained empty throughout the deliberations did not augur well with our international partners who thought that because of the laudable role Sierra Leone has played in international criminal justice issues we should have been represented as was always the case during the erstwhile SLPP administration.

In Monrovia, Liberia, the female Envoy is equally violent and unruly. The reverend envoy is fast becoming a tyrant outside the precincts of the church, bullying and brutalizing everybody on her way again to the chagrin of our desperate people. This behavior was also replicated by the Deputy Ambassador in Guinea who allegedly also had a violent encounter with one of the Mission’s Secretaries.

The conduct of the country’s envoys is a cause for concern since they impact directly on the image of our country abroad. Violence, immorality and corruption are the complete antithesis of diplomatic behavior. The current behavior of our diplomats abroad is an indictment on the Presidents judgment of character. His Excellency’s inability to earlier detect the traits of character displayed by our diplomats before assigning them abroad is symptomatic of the Presidents inability to properly assess the state of our nation, his inability to diagnose problems in various sectors and his continued parochial approach to addressing critical national issues.

In this regard, we demand a comprehensive review by Parliament of the diplomatic appointments they had earlier approved for the President and future approvals must be thoroughly vetted, now that it is apparent that most of those previous appointments endorsed by them have proved not to have been well thought out.

2. FREE HEALTH CARE FOR LACTATING MOTHERS, PREGNANT WOMEN AND CHILDREN UNDER FIVE YEARS OLD

As at 2000, less than 300 health facilities out of the 730 pre-war facilities nationwide were functional. By 2007, the SLPP administration had rehabilitated and provided staff for about 1,000 Peripheral Health Units (PHUs). All district and tertiary hospitals (Connaught and PCMH) were rehabilitated.

In Government Budget 2006, the SLPP administration pronounced the following policy "to increase the affordability of drugs and services, Government has made it a priority to provide free drugs for treatment of the vulnerable population, namely children under 5 years, pregnant women, women in child bearing age and destitute. Fees for surgical operations have been reduced and registration fees for outpatients have been reduced by two thirds". This policy was largely financed from the national budget. Generally, implementation was limited by inadequate budgetary resources.

On April 27, 2010, Government launched the Free Health Care Policy targeting lactating mothers, pregnant women and under fives. We join Government in expressing our people’s heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to our development partners for funding such a laudable venture.

The Policy team of the SLPP has visited several health facilities nationwide. The team will soon make public a report on the status of the facilities with respect to the Free Health Care. Preliminary investigation reveals the following:

· Inadequate drugs at all the PHUs;
· Inadequate trained doctors and nurses;
· Poor transportation for the delivery of drugs and supervision; and
· Limited health facilities

The SLPP is also very much concern about sustainability of the programme when donor resources dry up. For now, the DFID, UNFPA, Global Fund and other donors are generously supporting the initiative under different programmes and projects. We need to be clear on the future costs of the Policy and the sources of financing.

3. The Re-Appointment of Christiana Thorpe as Chairperson, National Electoral Commission

Pursuant to Section 32 sub-section 7 (a) of the Constitution, the President in a letter dated April 22, 2010, expressed an intention to re-appoint Dr. Christiana Thorpe as Chairperson, NEC after consultations with leaders of all Political Parties. In that same letter, we were invited to a meeting on April 26, 2010 with HE President Koroma to consult on this matter. The meeting did not take place. We received another letter dated May…., 2010 requesting our views in writing on this issue. On Tuesday May 25, we expressed our views to HE President Koroma on the issue.

You would recall that after the 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) expressed dissatisfaction with the cancellation of 477 polling stations mostly from our strongholds in contravention of section 78 of the Electoral Laws Act 2002. This matter was taken to Court and is now currently on appeal to the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone.

You would also recall that in the case of the nomination of Stephen Aiah Mattia as Electoral Commissioner; we did express our concerns in writing in a letter dated ……2010. Mr. President, failed to revert to us on this matter. Rather, he went ahead and placed the nomination before Parliament for approval. Although SLPP Members of Parliament in the Appointment Committee refused to participate in the deliberations, Parliament went ahead to approve the nomination. We strongly believe that the Consultative process in that case was incomplete.

Given the aforementioned reasons, the SLPP finds it inconsistent and amoral to accept the re-appointment of Ms Christiana Thorpe as Chief Electoral Commissioner.

4. PRINTING OF NEW NOTES

While the SLPP believe that Sierra Leoneans deserve to have quality notes, we are however seriously concerned about the total lack of transparency in printing and accounting for the notes to the people of

this Country. We all know that standard international practice dictates that for a Government to replace the entire notes in circulation the Central Bank must explain to the poor voters why their tax monies are used to replace existing notes. The people of this country deserves the right to know the quantity of old notes that in circulation and which are replaced, the costs or billons of Leones spent to pay for the printing.

We know that the Bank of Sierra Leone has printed trillion of Leones to replace the series of the Le1,000, Le2,000, Le5,000 and Le10,000 notes, which are now in circulation. But no one knows how many Le10,000 and Le5,000 notes or at least the Le1,000 or Le2,000 notes are printed. Critically, the citizens are not fully sensitized and do have a gist of what is printed. Because the Government is bent on perpetuating corrupt practices to their advantage, they live their voters into total darkest. This has resulted to the current confusion ranging all over the country and our people in the villages are issued fake notes while the police harass them for receiving notes that they have no knowledge of. If Presidential Close Protection Guards are alleged to be involved in kidnapping an investor in a Freetown hotel, is it impossible for the guards to conspire with Bank officers to issue fake notes to the poor people and in turn extort more money? We are now requesting and at the same urging the Governor to tell the people of this country:

i) The amount of the old notes that are replaced;
ii) The amount of new notes that are printed and what are the series:
iii) How was spent to pay the printing agency?
iv) Why huge colossal sum was wasted on printing bogus notes instead of supporting the Free Health Care or appalling educational system?

If the people are not privileged to these answers, how do you know, if billions are printed to promote elections for the APC Government? We therefore call on you; the citizens, the 4th Estate, civil society groups and the international development partners to join the SLPP to ensure that the Central Bank and Government are transparent with and accountable to the people in the printing the currency, the Leone. They have no justifiable reason to have spent unnecessarily huge money to print currency while the Bank have made perpetual loss of over Le18 billion in the last three years of the APC rule.

The SLPP consider this a complete economic collapse and reversal of the strong economic gains handed over to President Ernest Bai Koroma APC Government.



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