MPs caution Paolo Conteh on issuance of diplomatic passport
July 6, 2017 By Jariatu S. Bangura
While they amended the Citizenship Act of 2017, Lawmakers in Sierra Leone yesterday cautioned Internal Affairs Minister, Retired Major Paolo Conteh to address, with immediate effect, the issue of giving out too many diplomatic passports to undeserving citizens.
The Citizenship amendment Act of 2017 sought to address the issue of children born to Sierra Leonean women to become citizens.
It amends the Citizenship Act of 1973 to take into consideration the amendment made to the Citizenship Act in 2006, providing for citizenship by birth to be granted through the mother.
Chairman of Internal Affairs Committee in Parliament, Hon. P.C Bai Kurr Kanagbaro Sanka II, said the amendment was timely and that children should be given their right of dual citizenship.
He however cautioned the minister to look into the issue of the ‘too many’ diplomatic passport issued to citizens that did not deserve to hold it.
“I am worried about the way and manner diplomatic passport is given to those that did not worth it. The last time, four people were arrested in India carrying Sierra Leonean passport and claiming that they are sierra Leoneans, but could not speak any of our languages which is not good for our country’s image,” he said.
He noted that as a result of those issues, Indians could not allow any Sierra Leonean to stay in one of the hotels in India until he or she called on Sierra Leone Embassy for rescue.
“Our passport should be given the respect it deserves. As I was traveling to other countries the last time, the same comment of our country having too many diplomatic passports was made by immigration officers”, he said,”
P.C Bai Kurr said it was as a result of the too many diplomatic passports in the hands of undeserving citizens that prompted the Late President Dr. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah to retrieve it from certain individuals.
Meanwhile, Majority Leader, Hon. Leonard Fofanah, said granting children citizenship was a welcoming decision as it would help them enjoy their right.
The majority Leader also shed light on the diplomatic passport issue, thus calling on the minister to institute a team to investigate the issue as it demeans holders.
All People’s Congress party lawmaker, Hon. Rosaline J.K Smith, said the bill had disenfranchised women for far too long, while children were denied of their citizenship right.
“I am glad that this bill is now before us for amendment. The bill is straightforward and not controversial,” she said.
On his part, Sierra Leone Peoples Party lawmaker, Hon. Mohamed Sidie Tunis, who doubles as Acting Minority Leader, said in the past years women were marginalised and left behind, stating that it was good they were now bringing everybody onboard in the passage of the bill.
However, Minister of Internal Affairs, Rtd Major Alfred Paolo Conteh, admitted that for the past 20 years, diplomatic passport has been given to people that did not deserve it, hence they introduced the biometric registration to help minimise the illegal ways citizens acquired diplomatic passport.