Increase minimum wages to mitigate hardship’’ Legal Link urges govt.

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Following the unprecedented rise in fuel prices coupled with the rise in prices of essential commodities, foreign exchange earnings and inflation in the country, it is no gainsaying to opinionate that Sierra Leone’s economic situation is not only in shambles but at its lowest ebb since the coming into office of the new direction government.

As an organization that defends the rights of vulnerable groups in Sierra Leone, LEGAL LINK is deeply concerned about the current abysmal state of affairs and it’s potential to undermine the relative peace, security and cohesiveness of the society if not addressed urgently.

It is against this backdrop coupled with a burning desire to address the welfare needs of the Sierra Leonean society that we make bold to call out on the government and its relevant agencies to do the needful by raising the minimum wage as well as the salaries and pensions of the working population in the country.

It could be recalled that in Sierra Leone, since the year 2020, the minimum wage stands at 600, 000 leones (50 dollars) a month while the majority of the working population particularly in the civil service takes home about 2,000,000 Leones ( 200 dollars) a month.

It is also reported that majority of the pensioners in Sierra Leone receives less that 300,000 Leones (25 dollars) a month.

A cursory look at the above monthly salaries and pensions paid to the majority of Sierra Leone’s workforce (past and present) will reveal that indeed, the people of Sierra Leone are merely eking out a living by miracle and magic.

With the rise in transportation costs as well as house rent charges and other essential commodities like rice, sugar, flour, pepper, packet water, cement etc, it stands to reason, and without doubt that, the average Sierra Leonean household is currently strangulated by the economic hardship in the country. Little wonder why corruption, mismanagement and the blood thirsty ambition for political power continue to fester on and even remained unabated within the public sector of Sierra Leone.

While the rise in petroleum products may not necessarily be the making of the government, it is however within the full grip and purview of the government of Sierra Leone to introduce affirmative actions, policies and programmes that will help cushion down the effect and mitigate the impact of rising prices in petroleum products and other essential commodities on the wider population.

Like many progressive nations are currently doing across the world, Sierra Leone must also take reasonable steps to mitigate the hardship that has eclipsed it’s vulnerable population.

And one sure step towards reducing this burden and suffering on the masses is by increasing the minimum wage, salaries and pensions of the working population in the country by a reasonable margin or percentage.

In LEGAL LINK’s assessment, a 50% increase would be a good starting point. For example, if a worker in the private sector who receives the minimum wage (600,000 Leones) as monthly salary now receives an increased minimum wage by 50%, it would mean such a worker will now earn 900,000 Leones as monthly salary.

Even though such salary may still not be adequate given the economic realities of the day, it does however gives a reasonable satisfaction to such worker that the government is doing something positive to ameliorate his predicament situation.

This in our view is the very reason why a government does exists; to seek the welfare of its people.

A Government that chooses to do nothing or turns a blind eye on the suffering masses in such a crisis situation and suicidal moment, is not only being insensitive to the plight of its citizens as well as its obligations under the social contract, but is certainly a government that may be scoring an own goal on itself, heading for doom and rejection.

And like a wise political philosopher rightly puts it, “a hungry man is not only an angry man but also a man that cannot wait.”

LEGAL LINK therefore hopes and prays that this clarion call on the government will not only be given due attention but will also be treated with alacrity and a deep sense of cosmic responsibility and moral rectitude.

S/Leone Chancery Building in New York Saga…

Alie Kabba Embroiled In Corruption allegation

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Revelations are coming into the public domain as to how $1,000,000 donated by the Chinese Government for the renovation of the Sierra Leone Permanent Mission to the United Nations (UN) in New York found its way into ETIC SARL Limited bank account

It should be noted that the Chinese government promised to provide financial support to the tune of $2,000,000 to help with the refurbishment of the Sierra Leone Permanent Mission Chancery Building in New York. However, an initial $1000, 000 was disbursed to the Sierra Leone government by the Chinese for the said purpose.  The Chinese said the money will be paid in two tranches of $1,000,000 each.

 The Chinese asked the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alie Kabba, to give the details of the account they should pay the money into.

Alie Kaba in his capacity as the substantive Minister of Foreign Affairs instructed Paul Minah, the then Director General of Foreign Affairs and now Deputy Ambassador to Turkey , to provide the Chinese with the account details of ETIC SARL, a private company with no connection to government. 

 Paul Minah complied as instructed by his then boss, Alie Kabba, and gave the Chinese ETIC SARL account in Freetown.

 The Chinese paid $1,000,000 into ETIC SARL’s account and Alie Kabba never told the Sierra Leone United Nations chancery that the money has been paid until the Chinese Permanent Rep to the UN informed  Dr. Francis KaiKai, the then SL Rep to the UN about the transfer almost 6 months after the transfer had materialised.

Government asked Alie Kabba to save the $1,000,000 donor funds housed in ETIC SARL’s account to be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF). 

When the Money was eventually transferred only $871,300 was transferred into the CRF with an outstanding amount of amount of $128,700. 

 Africanist Press blew the whistle on this dubious transaction. The   Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) two years later recovered the $128,700 of donor funds which ETIC SARL Ltd had held on to.  Information coming out of the cross-Examination of ACC prosecution witness, Joseph Noah, is that: the shareholders of ETIC SARL Ltd are Musa Kamara, Fatoumata Kabba & Abdouramane Kabba.

Alie Kabba admitted during his interview by the ACC that he directed Paul Minah to have the Chinese pay the $1,000,000 into a private Company’s account. 

 Alie Kabba also admitted during his interview at the ACC that the shareholders of ETIC SARL Ltd Abdouramane Kabba and Musa Kamara are his relatives. In spite of the admission of Dr Alie Kabba to the ACC, he was never indicted. Instead the ACC settled to indict the Former presidential aspirant of the APC in the 2018 elections, Dr Samura Kamara who had vacated the Foreign minister position before the renovation fund was wired.

Is Alie Kabba A Sacred Cow?

The First Prosecution Witness and Chief Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Investigator, Joseph Bockarie Noah who is being cross examined in the ongoing ACC trial of Dr Samura Mathew Wilson Kamara and five others, has yesterday Thursday 17 March told the court that Samura Kamara’s name is not written on the financial transfer documents.

Noah conceded to this fact during cross examination by one of Samura Kamara’s defence counsels, lawyer Ady Macauley. The defence counsel had gone through series of correspondences from the Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Corporation, Ministry of Finance, Director of Banking, Bank of Sierra Leone and the Accountant General’s Department, all which confirmed the transfer of cash from BSL to the account of the Sierra Leone Permanent Mission in New York for the refurbishment of the chancery building but none has Samura Kamara’s name on it.

Macauley therefore put it to PW1 that based on correspondences referenced so far, Samura Kamara was never involved in the transfer of any money whatsoever.

The Defence  further submitted  exhibit marked AZ 122 which the prosecution witness confirmed in court to be a  reference to the Two Million United States Dollars allocated in 2015 to the Government of Sierra Leone by the Government of the People`s Republic of China for the refurbishment of Sierra Leone’s chancery building in New York.  PWI also confirmed that bank statements showed that the money was indeed transferred to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. 

He also referenced page 18 of exhibit H which is a letter – correspondence from the Director Market Banking Department, Bank of Sierra Leone confirming transfer with the bank’s receipt of the said amount of money from the Government of the People’s Republic of China. 

Added to correspondences referenced by lawyer Macauley, was a Memorandum of Understanding from the Accountant General’s to the Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Corporation that clearly spelt out the purpose of the money, adding that another letter from the aforementioned DG of the Foreign Ministry also clearly indicated the exact purpose of the money. 

He noted that exhibit H25 further referenced correspondences between Ministry of Finance, Bank of Sierra Leone and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Corporation.

 Lawyer Macauley therefore put it to the AC CPW1 that based on documents referenced so far the Two Million United States Dollars from the Government of the People`s Republic of China was actually deposited into the Bank of Sierra Leone. 

According  to the Defence Counsel, the second part of the cross examination established that throughout Samura Kamara’s tenure on to the time he left, the said Two Million Dollars was safely in the custody of the Central Bank.

Meanwhile, several exhibits tendered in court during the course of this trial have over and again showed that between 2018 and 2019, Alie Kabba, in his capacity as Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation deposited about Two Million Dollars of Chinese aid into his private bank account. Yet it is Samura Kamara, who was no longer at the foreign ministry who is standing whilst Alie Kabba is roaming around campaigning for the ruling Sierra Leone`s Peoples Party.

The matter was adjourned to 24th March and bail continues for all accused.

China Strategizes To promote Democracy Development

Hu Zhangliang   

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A few days ago, the annual gatherings of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), known as China’s Two Sessions were successfully held in Beijing. The conventions of the Two Sessions are big events in China’s political life.

During about a week’s time, nearly 3,000 NPC deputies and around 2,000 members of the CPPCC National Committee exercised their powers and performed their duties under the Constitution and Laws, conducted deliberations of a variety of legislative items, reviewed and discussed a series of work reports, garnered common ground and convergence of interests of the Chinese people and drew up the country’s annual development blueprint.

The Two Sessions fully demonstrated the value and power of China’s democracy.

Before this year’s Two Sessions, the State Council Information Office (SCIO) of China briefed the public that in 2021, the State Council departments handled 8,666 suggestions put forward by NPC deputies and 5,718 proposals from members of the CPPCC national committee on schedule, accounting for 96.4 percent and 93.4 percent of the total respectively. The relevant State Council departments have adopted more than 4,300 suggestions and proposals from NPC deputies and CPPCC national committee members and introduced more than 1,600 policies and measures accordingly.

This is a clear indication that China makes sure that its people from all walks of life have channels of expressing their aspirations, wishes and demands on issues ranging from national strategies  and social governance to basic necessities of life and ensures that people’s voices can be heard and their requests be answered.

In the process of drafting the 2022 Government Work Report, the Chinese government has solicited public opinions and suggestions via multiple channels and received thousands of opinions and suggestions, among which more than 1,100 pieces of typical suggestions from the netizens were selected. Some key advice has been accommodated into the report. Special online pages, portals or apps such as “I will send a message to the Two Sessions” and “2022 Deputies/Members’ voices on government work” were created for people to provide suggestions.

It is obvious that the Chinese people are enthusiastically enjoying their democratic rights, the scope and depth of Chinese people’s political participation have been constantly expanded and the forms and channels of such participation have been further diversified.

H.E. President Xi Jinping pointed out that China’s whole-process people’s democracy integrates process-oriented democracy with results-oriented democracy, procedural democracy with substantive democracy, direct democracy with indirect democracy, and people’s democracy with the will of the state. It is a model of socialist democracy that covers all aspects of the democratic process and all sectors of the society. It is a true democracy that works.

The practice of the Two Sessions has proved that under the system of China’s whole-process people’s democracy, the demands of the people’s interests could be freely expressed and effectively realized.

The Two Sessions effectively showcased the achievements and resilience of China’s economy and social development

According to the Government Work Report adopted by the NPC, China registered notable economic and social development in the past year although facing the continued impact of the COVID-19 and other challenges. In 2021, China won final victory in the critical battle against absolute poverty as scheduled, achieved the first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and began a new journey toward the second centenary goal of building a modern socialist country in all respects.

In 2021, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) reached 114 trillion yuan (equal to about 18 trillion US dollars), an annual growth of 8.1 percent. The national fiscal revenue exceeded 20 trillion yuan, increasing by 10.7 percent. A total of 12.69 million urban jobs were added with the average surveyed unemployment rate standing at 5.1 percent. The consumer price index (CPI) rose by only 0.9 percent. A basic equilibrium was maintained in the balance of payments.

In 2022, China set the main targets for economic development as follows:

  • GDP growth of around 5.5 percent
  • over 11 million new urban jobs
  • a surveyed urban unemployment rate of no more than 5.5 percent
  • CPI increase of around 3 percent
  • The growth of personal income basically in step with economic growth
  • steady increases in both the volume and quality of imports and exports
  • a basic equilibrium in the balance of payments

The Two Sessions earnestly upheld the people-centered philosophy of governance.

During the Two Sessions, President Xi Jinping attended meetings and debates of the delegations and exchanged views on how to forge a keen sense of national identity, achieve peaking carbon emissions and carbon neutrality, ensure energy security, ensure the security of industrial and supply chain, ensure food security and strengthen social security, etc.. President Xi emphasized that people’s livelihood is no trivial matter and special attention and care should be paid to the people in need.

The Government Work Report also indicated that in 2021, Chinese people’s living standards rose steadily, with per capita disposable income increased by 8.1 percent in real terms. Achievements in poverty alleviation and rural development were consolidated and further expanded. Inputs in social assistance were increased. New steps were taken in the reform and development of education. And over 85 percent of the whole population received a full course of COVID-19 vaccination.

In 2022, China will continuously endeavour to ensure and promote the people’s well-being. China will step up efforts to improve the fairness and quality of education, medical and health services, social security and social services. China will continue to meet people’s housing needs, enrich people’s intellectual and cultural lives, and enhance social governance based on collaboration, participation and common gains. In short, the Chinese government will do everything possible to provide better public services and resolve pressing issues that are of common concern to the people.

The Two Sessions displayed China’s sincere will to promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.

When reviewing the Government Work Report, President Xi Jinping and other Party and state leaders pointed out that in the past year, China promoted the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, fostered global partnerships, and played an active part in the reform and development of the global governance system. China also advanced international cooperation on COVID-19 response and worked with all other countries to respond to other global issues and challenges. China engaged to pursue the Global Development Initiative and promote the shared values of all humanity. China will, as always, work to safeguard world peace, contribute to global development, and preserve international order.

While attending the press conferences of the Two Sessions, Premier Li Keqiang and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi also emphasized that facing the profound changes unseen in a century, China will continue to keep a global perspective, honor its responsibilities, and hold high the banner of peace, development and win-win cooperation, to promote the building of a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind. China will work with all progressive forces in the world for development and together for a shared future.

To sum up, the just-concluded Two Sessions and Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics epitomize a China that is striving forward with great vigor. China’s development will inject fresh impetus to the building of a better world and provide African countries including Sierra Leone with new opportunities to expand mutually-beneficial and win-win cooperation.

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