The Milton Margai College of Education and Technology (MMCET) polytechnic on Wednesday 27th November 2019 continued with its Sholade Adams Public Lectures at the Great Hall of the Goderich campus with Mr. Joe Pemagbi, Country Director of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) as the guest speaker.
He observed that with citizens’ right to access information, the internet and the social media, the level of civic awareness is now high in the country, the reason Sierra Leone will never be the same again and enlightened that the free quality education presents the paradigm shift.
Dilating on the topic, ‘Ploughing the Democratic Dividends’ he enlightened that Sierra Leone is still experimenting democracy because we are still working on it underscoring that there is no perfect democracy in the world, that democracy is all about caring, giving power and addressing the needs of the people, that in a democracy people have the right to express their views, associate and belong to political parties of their choice, seek information but observed that in most democracies, people only concentrate on their rights and not responsibilities.
Mr. Joe Pemagbi furthered that Sierra Leone must change the trajectory, that sovereignty belongs to the people, that after 58-60 years of independence, what do we have to show as a nation affirming that Sierra Leone lacks basic services like reliable electricity and water supply, quality education and health care underscoring that democracy is not just about voting at elections but also transparency and accountability as well as asking duty bearers about their stewardship.
The guest speaker also articulated that in developed societies, citizens regularly engage their politicians, that citizens present their views and concerns to their Members of Parliament through petitions and quoted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Report as highlighting that the major reasons for the civil war in Sierra Leone were corruption, nepotism, greed, successive political elites plundering state resources, degenerated and demoralized educational system and injustice but is optimistic that the newly-introduced free quality education would reverse the trend.
The Country Director of (OSIWA) continued that Sierra Leone cannot advance without strong democratic institutions some of which are a huge burden on the wage bill, that the country has not drawn the line between state and party politics asserting state resources are siphoned to political parties.
On the independence of the three arms of government and separation of powers of the executive, legislative and judiciary, he said they are not totally independent citing the case of the sacking of former Vice President Sam Sumana and went on to state that government has pledged to repeal the 1965 Public Order Act, especially part 5, which criminalizes libel underlining that citizens’ participation is key in a democracy.
Mr. Joe Pemagbi continued that the state of the health sector is appalling due to the lack of investments but observed that with citizens’ right to access information, the internet and the social media, the level of civic awareness is now high in the country, the reason Sierra Leone will never be the same again and enlightened that the free quality education presents the paradigm shift.
He also asked the question, “what can we do as citizens to monitor books and teaching for the free quality education? We must step-up and take action as all is not lost. Put political sentiments aside as leadership is all about engagement of citizens.”
Earlier, the Chairman of the event, Mr. Abdul Rahman Swaray, a lecturer in the Mass Communications Department at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, introduced the guest speaker while the vote of thanks was rendered by Ms. Elizabeth Sesay, the college’s Public Relations Officer who also introduced the chairman.
The question and answer session climaxed the interactive session.