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Over increment in passport fees…

SLPP MP disappointed and feels betrayed

August 31, 2015 By Jariatu S. Bangura

A Member of Parliament for the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) has expressed disappointment and betrayal after another opposition lawmaker withdrew his support for a motion the former had moved on 13 August in respect of the controversial increase in fees for the national passport.

Hon. Umar Paran Tarawally withdrew his motion last Thursday after a closed door meeting was held between Members of Parliament and Chief Immigration Officer, Alpha Kolifa Korma, and Minister Internal Affairs, Joseph B. Dauda, at Committee Room No.1.

It could be recalled that after the Passport Fee Order was tabled in Parliament few weeks ago, Hon. Tarawally moved a private member motion for the House to debate the issue with immediate effect, and was seconded by Hon. Sualiho M. Koroma.

But things took a dramatic turn last Thursday when Hon. Koroma withdrew his backing for the motion, leaving his colleague in no man’s land and effectively putting paid to the passport debate.

The ‘disappointed’ and ‘betrayed’ lawmaker said: “Mr. Speaker and Honourable Members, the motion which I Hon. Umar Paran Tarawally forwarded to the Office of the Clerk, dated 13 August, 2015 in relation to the Passport Fees Order 2015, Passport Act 1964,  Act No. 49 of 1964, be hereby withdrawn.”

He maintained that the controversial increase in the passport fees from Le100,000 to Le500,000iss very exorbitant, but that after the closed door meeting with the minister and head of immigration, he realised there was on one to second his motion, hence he was left with no option but to withdrawn.

“He (Hon. Sualiho Koroma) expressed to me that he has withdrawn his intention of seconding the motion and I felt bad for the people of Sierra Leone because if I have moved a motion and a honourable member has seconded it, and if he had wished to withdraw, he should have consulted me earlier; I would have found ways to speedily put in a new motion and to have another seconder of my motion, but on our way to the chamber after the closed door meeting he informed me,  and I do not know why he did that,” said a visibly disappointed Hon Tarawally. “When I moved the motion, I was thinking that he should have stood by me in order to stand by the people of the country, but unfortunately I see myself as a lone man after the seconder of my motion has withdrawn.”

The document was lodged as a statutory instrument and because the motion has been withdrawn for want of a seconder, no debate will be held by members, thus the controversial fee of Le500,000 for the new passport will stand.

In his attempt to absolve himself from blame, Hon. Sualiho M. Koroma said his decision to withdraw support for the motion at the very last minute was predicated on discussion members had with the immigration boss and Minister of Internal Affairs.

He seems to suggest that because there was no pre-legislative meeting he lacked clear understanding about the controversial increase of the passport fees prior to supporting the motion, and that in the meeting the duo explained to them that the Immigration Department owes printers Thomas De La Rue huge sums of money which the department would only pay if the fee was pegged at Le 500,000. He said he believes that to be true, and had to withdraw his support for the motion as a result.

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