February 6, 2018 By Memunatu Bangura
With support from a consortium of Civil Society Organisations, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), Africa Young Voices (AYV) and other partners have officially launched the ‘2018 Sierra Leone Presidential Elections Debates’ scheduled to take place on 15th February at Bintumani Hotel in Freetown.
SLAJ President Kelvin Lewis said in 2016 his organisation started discussions and planning for the presidential debate, and that along the way AYV media group of companies had similar aspirations, as the latter rolled out their initiative under the Sierra Leone Decides Series.
According to him, SLAJ had always wanted a national and all-inclusive programme that would be Sierra Leonean-led and one that was driven by a desire to render public service.
Lewis said the debate was designed to help Sierra Leoneans make their choices, and help them understand the vision and policies of different political parties and to decide which political party and candidate would work to improve their lives.
He said his association had discovered that AYV and some civil society organisations shared a similar aspiration of staging a successful debate for presidential candidates, and that they have agreed to merge the two projects into one in order to utilise the material and intellectual resources available to maximum effect.
The SLAJ president said that the overarching desire for the debate was to provide a platform for Sierra Leoneans to engage their leaders, adding that there would be a presidential debate, women’s debate and youth debate.
“The reason for the women and youth debate is to showcase the abilities of these marginalised groups at the highest level so that Sierra Leoneans can begin to appreciate their fine qualities and capabilities,” he said.
Chief Executive Officer of the AYV Group of Companies, Athony Navo Jr., said the debate was about Sierra Leone and that he wanted a credible and factual debate in the interest of Sierra Leoneans.
Navo welcomed the merger of the debate and prayed for its successl, thus thanking presidential aspirants for their commitment to the debate.
He said the March 7 elections would be the beginning of a new Sierra Leone, adding that if a good leader was elected Sierra Leone would develop.
While unveiling the new Sierra Leone presidential election debate logo, Chairman Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), Justice Patrick Hamilton, said the commission was pleased to endorse the exciting election debates programme.
He said the programme fulfilled a mandate given to the PPRC by political parties in Sierra Leone to develop a credible and independent elections debate programme which provides a vital public service to the citizenry.
Justice Hamilton said his commission was hopeful that the debate would provide an opportunity for youth and women to share their party’s vision with citizens and address issues concerning people with disabilities.