Franklin Township proclaims April 27 as “Sierra Leone Day” in Somerset
Franklin Township in Somerset New Jersey where April 27 has been proclaimed as “Sierra Leone Day” will be agog with festivity on Saturday April 23, 2011 to commemorate fifty years of Sierra Leone’s existence as a sovereign state. In the presence of Deputy Mayor of Franklin Township, Council members, and Sierra Leoneans residing in the Somerset/New Brunswick area, Councilman James Vassanella of Council Ward 5, read the proclamation on Tuesday, April 12, at 7 pm. By this proclamation, Sierra Leones’s national flag will be mounted on April 27 every year at the Municipal Building, 475 DeMott Lane, Somerset, New Jersey, in recognition of Sierra Leone’s Independence Anniversary. “This is in keeping with Franklin Township’s goal of promoting ethnic diversity,” says Deputy Mayor Rajiv Prasad, who is from India.
In a brief statement after reading the proclamation Councilman James Vassanella commended Sierra Leoneans, wishing the government and people of Sierra Leone a happy 50th anniversary celebration. He expressed his profound thanks and appreciation for the outstanding contribution Sierra Leoneans have been making to the economic growth of Franklin Township. His special thanks and appreciation went out Mr. Foday Mansaray, a longtime resident of Franklin Township, who, he said, worked hard to bring about this historic moment. He encouraged Sierra Leoneans living in Somerset to effectively participate in Franklin Township affairs.
Immediately after the proclamation, Mr. Sekou Dauda Bangura, editor of the Sierra Leone Herald Tribune was called upon to give a short history of Sierra Leone. Mr. Bangura gave a historical synopsis of Sierra Leone from a tiny colonial settlement to present day. He showed the link between Sierra Leone and the United States through the history of the slave trade. He said American freed slaves were settled in Sierra Leone via Nova Scotia in Canada. “Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone was founded as a home for freed slaves in 1787,” he explained.
Mr. Bangura went on to highlight the constitutional and political changes that culminated in Sierra Leone’s Independence on April 27 1961. He noted that the Independence Sierra Leone had in 1961 was partial independence since the Queen of England was still Sierra Leone’s head of state. “It was the 1971 Republican constitution that brought an end to the Queen’s reign as Sierra Leone’s head of state,” he stated. “Under the 1971 constitution, the president was both head of government and head of state. Siaka Probyn Stevens, founder and leader of the All People’s Congress became Sierra Leone’s first executive,” Mr. Bangura elaborated.
Continuing his narrative on Sierra Leone’s major constitutional changes, he said the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone was modeled after that of the United States of America. Aside from government been divided into three watertight compartments (executive, legislature and the judiciary) there is much emphasis today on the Rule of Law and fundamental human rights. He impressed on his American listeners that Sierra Leone has a democratically elected government and all the elements of a capitalist society: economic liberalization, privatization, transparency and accountability. He concluded by saying that “Sierra Leone is more than ready today to do business with Americans.”
Because of its heterogeneous community and ethnic diversity, Franklin Township is ranked among the five best states to live in the United States of America, according to the deputy mayor, amid an enthusiastic round of applause by Sierra Leoneans present. “Like Sierra Leone, India went through the same colonial experience,” he pointed out in a short statement following the historical and political narrative by Mr. Sekou Dauda Bangura. The deputy mayor made reference to the role played by Mahatma Gandhi in bringing an end to British Colonial rule in India through a non-violent method – passive resistance and civil disobedience. India, he said, was the first British colonial territory to attain independence in 1947.
In his capacity as Secretary General of the Sierra Leonean Community of New Jersey, Mr. Abdul Hardy Gabisi spoke briefly about the umbrella organization as comprising over fifteen Sierra Leonean Organizations – formed primarily to plan for Sierra Leone’s 50th independence anniversary celebration. He invited the chairman of the organization Mr. Lamin Alharazi, who on behalf of the entire Sierra Leonean community in the United States and the government and people of Sierra Leone, thanked the deputy mayor and all the council members of Franklin Township for the proclamation, and for the support and cooperation given to Sierra Leoneans domiciled in Franklin Township, Somerset County, New Jersey, over the years.
Mr. Foday Mansaray, who was very instrumental in the planning of the momentous event on Tuesday April 12, gave the vote thanks. He expressed his profound thanks and appreciation to Deputy Mayor Rajiv Prasad and all the Council Members of Franklin Township that included Brian Regan, Kimberly Francois, Theodore Chase, Rozalyn Sherman, Phillip Kramer, Carl R. A. Wright and James Vassanella. His thanks and appreciation also went out to the staff at the Municipal Building whose help and assistance made it possible for the proclamation. Fully aware that he was not alone in the planning, Mr. Mansaray also expressed his thanks and gratitude to Mr. Abdul Rahman Conteh and Mr. Busari Savage who worked tirelessly with him in attending meetings and making phone calls to ensure that Sierra Leone is given recognition by the authorities of Franklin Township.”I’m greatly indebted to these two men for their tremendous support,” he said.
“We’ve secured the permit that allows us to have this parade that is unprecedented in the history of Sierra Leoneans in New Jersey. We are expecting the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and all the members of the Franklin Township Council to celebrate with us on Saturday April 23 2011,” Mr. Foday Mansaray, enthused to fellow Sierra Leoneans who were not present when the permit for the Big Independence Parade was granted after a unanimous vote by council members. He appealed to all present to make it a point of patriotic duty to attend the flag-raising ceremony in Newark on Friday, April 15, 2011 at 4:30 pm.
Foday Mansaray, New Jersey, USA
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