Government To Host National Health Summit

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Officials from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation have announced plans to host the First Ever National Health Summit in Sierra Leone. This disclosure was made on during the weekly government press briefing hosted at the conference room of the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC), Youyi Building office in Freetown, on Thursday, March 17th, 2022

Welcoming attendees, Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, who also doubles as the Spokesperson for the National COVID-19 Response Centre, Hon. Solomon Jamiru Esq, said that the national health summit will aid in changing the health trajectory of Sierra Leone, adding that the Government of Sierra Leone is committed to improving all sectors in the country.

“As a government, we are not only committed to changing the standards for the better but have followed it up by improving conditions and facilities over the years and we will continue to do so” He emphasised.

In his Keynote address before officially launching the National Health Summit 2022, Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Austin Demby, said that the Health Summit will be patient centred and expected to be participatory and engaging

Dr. Demby praised President Dr. Julius Maada Bio for prioritising good health care delivery, saying that providing health facilities is a good spirit that can transform health care delivery across the country. He went on to thank all Health Professionals that have been working diligently to improve the health standards in the country.

The Minister revealed that the Summit, the first of its kind ever in Sierra Leone, will be held on the 7th, 8th and & 9th April, 2022 at the Bintumani Conference Centre at Aberdeen in Freetown and will attract Three Hundred (300) delegates from across the country, and internationally. He said that the vision of the summit and by extension government is to have a sustainable health sector by 2030.

“All sectors should embrace the summit to ensure that set objectives are met and implemented. Sierra Leone has had to battle with health challenges for too long, and adopting an approach that would lead to a paradigm shift is of great importance in times like these” he said.

A representative from Africell Sierra Leone, who have already partnered with the Ministry of Health for the Summit, said that as partners of government, they’d continue to work assiduously to ensure that health outcomes were realized, adding that the summit will aid in improving matters and enhance universal health coverage. The event was also witnessed by other Representatives from the World Health Organization, United Nations and Civil Society Organizations

Samura kamara vs ACC

I have a constitutional duty to ensure a fair trial

 –  Justice Adrian Fisher

Justice Adrian Fisher has stated in court that he has a constitutional duty to ensure that Dr Samura Kamara and his co-accused have a fair trial.

Responding to the prosecution’s reluctance to accept crucial evidence in the trial involving the leading All Peoples Congress (APC) presidential candidate Dr Samura Kamara, the judge reminded prosecutor Calvin Matebo that, “ in as much as I have the duty to be fair to the prosecution, I also have the constitutional duty to ensure that the accused gets a fair trial.” He went on to state, “In determining whether I can give him a fair trial, I need to examine the prosecutorial tactics being used and determine that even though they might be legitimate, they do not impact upon fair trial” 

Yesterday’s proceeding was dominated by [legal] arguments relating to whether a particular set of evidence should be tendered by the defence in the trial involving Dr Samura Kamara and five other accused persons.

The trial started with Pa Momoh Fofana, the defence Lawyer for 1st accuse Saidu Nallo, who attempted to tender various letters which he believes are material evidence in his client’s defence.

The evidence includes letters between the head of the chancery and the ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the contractor. The letters represent a summary of payments received by the contractor from the Government of Sierra Leone.

According to the defence, the evidence will help their case and even assist the prosecution to conclude their own case.

This, he said is because the letters do not only clearly show where the funds went, they also would save the prosecution from going on a “wild geese chase.”

The emphasis is that contrary to allegations that funds were misappropriated, Lawyer Fofanah submitted that the evidence will prove that the funds were directed to what they were meant for. 

The ACC prosecutor, Calvin Matsebo objected to the defence’s submission arguing that the said documents have the potential to hinder or interfere with their case.  The judge painstakingly tried to guide the prosecution on the need to allow the evidence to be tendered. 

He asked, “In as much as the evidence will interfere with the prosecution’s case, does it hinder your case”?

Lawyer Matsebo first responded in the negative but later accepted that the evidence will indeed hinder their case.

The Anti-Corruption prosecutor however failed to convince the judge who later ruled in favour of accepting the letters as part of the evidence.

Parliament debates mines and minerals development bill

The Parliament of Sierra Leone has on Thursday 17/3/2022 extensively debated the bill entitled, “The Mines and Minerals Development Act 2021”

The bill seeks to repeal and replace the Mines and Minerals Act, 2009, to provide for the introduction of new and improved provisions for exploration, mines and Minerals development, sale and export for the socio-economic benefits of the people of Sierra Leone, to provide for the facilitation of transparent and accountable management of the minerals sector in accordance with the international best practices, to provide for improved employment and employment practice; in the mineral sector; to provide improved welfare of communities affected by exploration, mining and related activities to provide for more effective measures to reduce the harmful effects of exploration and mining activities on life, property and the environment and to provide for other related matters.

Presenting the Mines and Mineral Development Bill, 2021, the Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, Timothy Kabbah recalled that, the parent Act was passed in 2009 and spoke about the framework of the document. The Minister highlighted the importance of the revived document, in light of proper regulations, growth and benefits of the mines and minerals to the state. The minister disclosed that, the bill would disclose the beneficial ownership of the companies and enhance legitimacy. The minister emphasized that, the document would address several issues including gender, improve on host mining community and district development, added value to artisanal mining, resolve surface rent payment and land owners inclusivity and related matters. Also, the administration of licenses, the Minister said has improved and informed that the bill is transformative.

The Parliamentary Chairman of  Mines and Minerals Resources  Committee in Parliament and who also doubles as the Leader of C4C , Hon, Saa Emerson Lamina recalled President Bio manifesto, in light of improving the mines and minerals sector. He informed that, in light of their duty as MPs, the interest of the state, the people and investors/miners should be considered. He recalled all the horrendous trends, the state had gone through, relative to conflicts, disease and other problems. He acknowledged that, the bill would help Sierra Leone to grow and benefit immensely. He shared his experience as a son of a mining community, relative to the difficulties and problems that were associated with mining.

The chairman spoke about the positivity of administering of mining licenses, benefits and interest of all. “About 60% has been added to this bill” he stated on comparative benefits and developments.  He commended the Minister for what he referred to as  laudable venture.  He comprehensively outlined many other important improvements and developments about the bill.

He however expressed disatistifaction over the removal of mining beneficial percentage to MPs, considering the compelling Constituency development projects expected from their people.

On his part, Hon Abdul Karim Kamara said when such a bill is enacted many challenges would be addressed in that sector and also, they as Members of Parliament would now have a positive message for their constituents regarding the huge benefits that are contained in the document.  He noted that, the percentage labelled in the bill, in lieu of mining taxation would help government raise huge revenue and subsequently reduce tax burden on the ordinary business compatriots and engender development.

He used the opportunity to speak about the imbroglio between National Minerals Agency and the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources, relative to power struggle. “The Relationship between the two institutions is not good at all” he expressed.

The MP said in term of institution representation on the board, most representatives are not effective and used the opportunity to let the President be given the leverage to appoint people that are effective.

Hon Joseph William Lamin, while contributing to the debate, expressed happiness over the extension of mines and minerals beneficiary percentage to district on fair scale. He also spoke about the judicious use of mining proceeds, relative to future consideration on impact assessment.

Hon Dr. Mark-Mahmoud Kalokoh spoke about the increment in percentage to mining community and also made humble request for communities that staying along the corridor of the mining rail to be included. He spoke about more improvement on artisanal mining, in light of it’s contributions to the state.

Hon Alice Kumabeh thanked the Minister and team for putting the important document together. She informed the minister about pollution caused by mining affecting livelihoods in her Constituency. The Taia River she said is now permanently contaminated and appealed to the Minister to find a solution. She expressed hope that, the bill would provide solution to river pollution.

Hon. Musa Fofana buttressed the position of the Chairman of Mines and Minerals Committee and thanked the Minister for the Tonkolili Iron Ore mining as well as government ownership of the mining railway. For surface rent he said they as MPs living in the mining communities had done many marvelous projects with their shares from mining. “I have used it to undertake tangible projects” he revealed. He informed that, MPs were under pressure to undertake projects and it was necessary to have beneficial percentage.

The MP spoke about the Local Content Policy, in light of exchange of training from experts to our compatriots. He said the Mines and Minerals bill is a very critical document and must be properly looked at before passage into law.

Rounding up the debate, the Leader of Opposition, Hon. Chernor R. M. Bah urged Legislative Committee Members to be attentive, in order to make a good law. He said they must be very cautious and careful in light of due diligence. He recalled that the parent Act was not a bad law, but time had changed and therefore, it was prudent to have the review bill. The Leader acknowledged the interest of MPs in light of beneficial percentage considering their projects implementation. “Please don’t deprive those MPs that are coming from the mining areas” he stated. He also informed that, the bill is of interest to all and not only Parliament and urged the chairman of the Legislative Committee to give the bill the publicity that it deserves, in order to get multiple and relevant contributions “I continue to support the process” he ended.

The Acting Leader of Government Business Hon Bashiru Silikie said they want to correct the mistakes of the past in the previous document, in light of the passage of the bill. He asked colleague MPs to give due diligence to the passage of the bill. He spoke about addressing the grey areas in the bill, in light of the contributions of other stakeholders. “Let them bring a position paper so that the committee would factor it into their report” he stated and encouraged all members of the public to do so.

Considering the public perceptions especially from the constituents, the Acting Leader appealed to the committee to consider MPs in that regard as according to him, they were involved in huge development projects. He expressed hope that, the Legislative Committee would present a good report regarding the document as they expect the document to stand the test of time.

The minister responded to all the concerns and comments made by MPs.

The bill was committed to the Legislative Committee for further scrutiny.

In another related development, Parliament also debated the bill entitled “The National Minerals Agency Act 2021” and subsequently committed it to the Legislative Committee for further consideration.

The bill seeks to provide for the continuances of the National Mineral Agency, to provide for more efficient and effective management of the mineral sector by effectively and efficiently managing the administration and regulations of mineral rights and mineral trading in Sierra Leone, including geological surveys and promoting the rights of communities and to provide for other related matters

Information Minister Assures Sierratel workers

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A delegation of aggrieved Sierratel workers, led by the Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Union of Postal and telecommunications Employees (SLUPTE), Edward Y. Kamara, visited the Minister of Information and Communications, Mr. Mohamed Rahman Swarray, to register their grievances and seek the Minister’s advice on an industrial action they have planned to take, if their grievances are not addressed.

Speaking to the Minister at the Ministry of Information and Communications’ Conference room at Youyi building, the Secretary General of SLUPTE, Edward Kamara, said that the Management of Sierratel has failed in its obligations to manage the institution, resulting in a total breakdown of several of its facilities and has turned a blind eye to worker’s welfare, even after several representations and strike actions. He said they are calling on the Minister again because of the trust they have in his leadership and how he has been working towards seeing that they get what they deserve.

“Mr. Minister, we know you stepped in when we took our initial action but we want to tell you that despite your efforts, the Management Team at Sierratel has not responded to the recommendations they committed to and we are now running out of patience. That is why we are here to inform you and to seek your advice once more on the next steps” Mr. Kamara said

Following up on his address, another member of the delegation, John Savage, said staff of Sierratel has gone without their salaries for 4 months, despite many representations on the matter, and they have now decided to lay down their tools and embark on a strike action.

In his response, the Minister, Mohamed Rahman Swarray, who was visibly dismayed, expressed his unhappiness about the situation, saying that the response from the Management is not good enough and he would have no option but to take action by involving the President himself.

“We have enough crises on our hands now and we don’t want any more of these kinds of situations. I clearly understand the challenges and I believe that this is going entirely against the President’s aspirations for privatisation of the Institution, which, although it may have suffered a few undue delays, is firmly on track and will be completed soon” he said, adding that the President is determined to go ahead with the process.

‘We are not looking back on this. If somebody doesn’t want to cooperate we will sweep you along. We will ensure that people get what is due them, so that they will go to work with a high moral and be able to perform their duties diligently” He emphasised.

The Minster went on to say that he cannot continue to tell the aggrieved staff to keep waiting for their salaries and he is prepared to take it up with the President as early as Monday 21st March 2022.

In conclusion, members of the delegation, who had earlier threatened industrial action if their grievances were not addressed, expressed gratitude for the Minister’s kind welcome and praised him for his diligence in ensuring their welfare is given the attention it deserves.

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