April 1, 2016 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara & Jariatu Bangura
Dr. Christiana Thorpe has told lawmakers in the Committee on Appointment and Public Service that she would repair the country’s education system, given her wealth of experience, if ratified to serve as Deputy Minister of Education, Science and Technology.
Madam Thorpe is among over 40 new appointees by President Ernest Bai Koroma to fill various vacant ministerial, deputy and ambassadorial positions.
Under the country’s constitution, the appointees ought to go through Parliament for vetting and ratification before they could take up office.
The appointment of Dr. Thorpe has irked many sections of society, particular opposition parties, who question her integrity and moral rectitude because she had served as Chief Electoral Commissioner and presided over elections that brought President Koroma to power and his re-election for the second and last time in 2012.
Alliance Democratic Party (ADP), chaired by Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray, had petitioned Madam Thorpe’s appointment on the grounds that she was head of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) during two important elections.
However, the interview committee dismissed the petition, noting that section 76(3) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone relates only parliamentary positions, not ministerial appointments and that the nominee was not the current head of NEC.
Dr. Thorpe was cheered by some section of the public in Committee Room No.1, who witnessed the process.
“I have done a lot in that ministry. Going there back is like going home that needs a repair. I will use the knowledge I have got to improve the educational system in the country, which I think needs serious repairs,” she averred.
Dr. Thorpe is currently a consultant in the Ministry of Education, and had previously served as Secretary of State in the same ministry under the military.
Minority Leader, Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai, implored the proposed deputy minister to rein in on principals and head teachers that are notorious for camping pupils during public exams. She alleged such had led to girls getting pregnant before the results are released.
The proposed Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Dr. Sylvia O. Blyden also appeared before the committee.
The controversial former special executive assistant to the president refused to disclose why she resigned her post at State House and was not quite coherent about the 100 children she claimed she was taking care of.
When asked as to why she is not practice medicine as a profession, she said that when she graduated from the school of medicine in 1996 the country was at war, adding that veered into politics just after she graduated from the university.
Another nominee, Mohamed Bangura, erstwhile founder and leader of the United Democratic Movement, was seen sweating profusely while being grilled on his qualification.
Bangura is the proposed Minister of Information and Communication and does not shy from controversy, especially that which promotes the president. The public has been divided over whether Bangura is a “fit and proper person” to serve as minister. The ADP filed another petition against his appointment, urging Parliament not to ratify him as minister.
But the chairman for Education Committee, Hon. Leonard Fofanah, a ruling party lawmaker, dismissed the petitions on the ground that the letter from the ADP was unsigned and that the arguments in the letters were unsubstantiated.
“Section 56(2)(b) cited in this letter is applicable to parliamentary positions because the Public Election Act of 2012 define general election as parliamentary election and Mr. Bangura contested the presidential election in 2012, so he is qualified to be interviewed,” he said.
Hon. Veronica K. Sesay quizzed Mr. Bangura on his brand of politics as he had moved from being a member of the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change to the UDM and now the ruling APC. Bangura failed to answer all the questions posed to him and appeared to canvass the committee by promising to install wireless internet connection in the House if ratified as minister.
On the issue of his credential, the minority leader expressed doubt as to its authenticity as wordings on the certificate was disfigured, thus urging her colleagues to do a follow with York University in Canada, where Bangura claimed he was awarded the degree.
In a related development, the proposed Deputy Minister of Defense, Retired Captain Abdurahaman Kamara was embarrassed after it emerged he is not a holder of a Masters degree in International Relations from London University.
According to the letter dated 1986 from the University of London, read by Dr. Lahai, the university noted that the retired captain had not been awarded the degree because of failure to complete payment of tuition fees.
Meanwhile, Mr. Monfred Sesay was also interviewed for the position of Justice of the Appeal Court, while Ahmed Kanu, Bai Mamoud Bangura, Nanette B. E. Thomas, and Sidie Yahah Tunis were also interviewed as nominees for the Ministers of Sport, Youths, Presidential and Public Affairs and Tourism and Culture respectively.
All nine nominees interviewed now await parliamentary approval.