April 18, 2018 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara and Jariatu S. Bangura
The European Union has doled the sum of three million Euro to parliament to facilitate the work of the new legislators, rehabilitate committee rooms and the IT system in the House.
EU Head of Delegation to Sierra Leone, Tom Vens, made the disclosure while speaking yesterday at the induction ceremony of 146 newly elected Members of Parliament, including ordinary and Paramount Chief Members of Parliament, on the theme ‘Building the foundation for an effective Parliament’.
He said that as part of their broader programme in support of governance, they would provide embedded technical assistance to parliamentary administration, beginning next month, and spanning the next three years.
“In addition, we would finance critical infrastructure works with three million euro to facilitate the work of the legislators. Several parts of this building, which dates back to 1961, are in need of repairs, including improvements to the water and sanitation system and the rehabilitation of committee rooms. The IT system currently does not meet the parliament’s needs, nor does the sound system in the plenary room,” he said.
Ambassador Vens said the decision to elect a Speaker and his Deputy in the coming days would be very critical to guiding the journey of parliamentarians in the next five years.
Country Director of United Nations Development Programme, Samuel Doe, said parliament embodies democracy as it is the central institution through which the will of the people is expressed, laws are passed and government is held to account.
“Parliaments are to that extent uniquely positioned to promote peace, pluralism and gender equality through dialogue, debate and decision making. This is more than likely to be true for this fifth parliament of Sierra Leone which has emerged with unique features never known before in the history of Sierra Leone,” he said.
Doe observed that for the first time in the country’s history, the ruling party is the second largest party in the House and that quite a number of Members of Parliament represent youth of the country.
“The composition of this parliament makes majority power less certain. It also makes less probable the risks of executive influence. In my estimation, this holds the potential for a vibrant parliament as it demands the finest skills of dialogue and the necessity to reach across the aisle to forge alliances for the good of Sierra Leone and its people,’’ said the UNDP boss.
He further observed that over 80% of the MPs are new, hence 80% of members of the fourth parliament did not return.
“Their employers – the people – withdrew the vote of confidence from many of them – while a few opted not to return. Those honourable parliamentarians are a testament to the sovereignty of the people,” he said.
He noted that gone are the days when parliamentarians were elected and they subsequently turn their backs on the people that elected them.
“Your future, that is, if you want to continue into the sixth parliament, would depend on your ability to engage and include your constituents in the political governance of this country,” he warned the new lawmakers.
He stated that while the conduct of the last elections was indicative of a strong testament to the growing democracy in Sierra Leone, the country was partly divided by the unfortunate skirmishes of violence that followed the elections.
Thus, Doe said: “You represent the constituents and communities where the social cohesion of Sierra Leone has been tested. You will be expected to represent the vision of national cohesion in the ways you interact here in parliament and the bold steps you will take to heal the wounds and address the tensions in your respective constituencies.”
On his part, outgoing Clerk of Parliament, Hon. Ibrahim Sesay, stated that as parliamentarians, they have three roles to execute – to make laws, represent and do oversight – all of which should be carried out concomitantly.
He said the expectations of electorate were very high, while there are many challenges that cannot be neglected. He urged the new lawmakers to work hard and adhere to the demands of their constituents.