Hon. Sylvia Blyden Bags Massive Support from Disabled Persons!
Sierra Leoneans on Tuesday 24th October 2017, saw disable citizens, especially from the grassroots level but also including several university graduates, come out in grand style to support Hon. Minister of Social Welfare, Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden for her firm stance against a Commission which was set up six years ago to look into welfare of Disabled persons. Whilst the Disabled were rallying their support for the Minister, they were, according to the organizers, also protesting as a direct reaction to what they term as “the totally failed and unaccountable Disability Commission” who got less than fifty (50) hired people to protest to President Koroma’s convoy on Monday, 23rd October 2017.
Speaking to this writer, the Chief Organiser of the peaceful counter protest, Mohamed Alicious Kamara of the Handicapped Youths Development Organisation at 15 ECOWAS Street, said the Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) are now fully charged with disgust over the maladministration of their Disability Commission of which the Sierra Leone Union for Disability Persons (SLUDI) is a part. He pointed out that despite them having a Commission for several years now but yet, “a huge majority of us still sleep in streets and the SLUDI of the National Commission for Persons with Disability has not done anything to salvage our plight”.
Mr. Kamara furthered that commissioners of the NCPD and the chairman of SLUDI are now wealthier than before who make themselves rich possibly with money meant for poor and vulnerable disabled persons. He stressed that majority of the disabled are beggars who sleep in streets and according to him “we are much endangered as we are mostly out there in the cold sleeping on cartons.”
Mr. Kamara and hundreds of the protesters did not mince their words when they said the majority of Disabled of this country are throwing unreserved support to Hon. Minister Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden. He said, the able Minister has stood in the right path to block subventions meant for the Commission as the billions given to the Commission over past years, has not yet reflected on the poor and vulnerable Disabled.
In a somber mood, he said “We don’t like to beg. Situation forces us to. Our Commission has done nothing to implement programmes for our welfare.” Hence he said, the Minister is in a right track to ask the Commission to send clear report of how the NCPD utilized subventions given to them by the Government of Sierra Leone over the years especially last year when the Commission collected over 1.3 Billion Leones from government.
Therefore, he called the protest of few disabled persons the day before in Freetown as not being reflective of their general situation. Thus, he said they have come out in grand style as a mark of appreciation for the dedicated service of the Honourable Minister Sylvia Olayinka Blyden in protecting the interest of the general disabled community.
He said, their counter protest was also arranged to take place at the same venue where, according to him, “the fake protest” took place on Monday which is along the road leading to State House Office of the President.
Meanwhile, during their massive counter protest in front of State Avenue, hundreds of real disabled were under the pouring rain at Cotton Tree waiting patiently with their banners and placards whilst waving to President Koroma and Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh.
On the President’s arrival, he sent an envoy from State House to plead with the Disable persons to go to the Ministry of Social Welfare, where they would be addressed by Honourable Dr. Blyden, and directed by His Excellency President Koroma.
Upon being informed of this message, the humble Minister Blyden sent to tell the Disabled Persons that they should not strain themselves to move all the way to her offices but that she will instead go and meet them at the 15 ECOWAS Street headquarters of the organisers.
Arriving at ECOWAS Street to very loud cheers from hundreds of Disables, Hon. Blyden assured the Disabled Citizens that “those who pretended to be representing on Monday are just charlatans” adding that infact, she can categorically state that “Those charlatans were never given audience by His Excellency President Koroma at State House contrary to their lies broadcast on the media.” She maintained her position not to sign to release any funds to a malfunctioning Commission but assured that changes were on the way to ensure the interests of Disabled citizens were served by the Commission. To loud cheers, she assured that she will always work in the interest of disable persons across the country.
Many Disabled Persons at the scene recounted the excellent service which Minister Blyden has rendered to Disabled from even before she was appointed Minister. This is why they said they were very furious at the “nonsense and insults for the Minister”.
“You don’t deserve this and we are very upset and angry over what happened yesterday. This is why we also spontaneously arranged to counter them this morning. We the Disabled will always love you Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden,” said Pa Alhaji Lamin Jusu Jaka, a double amputee and former President of War Wounded Victims. His words of support for Minister Blyden were re-echoed all over.
The poignant ending words of the Minister were as follows: “Lack of Transparency, Non-Accountability and Corruption caused Civil War to erupt in 1991. The Civil War caused Alhaji Lamin Jusu Jaka to lose his two hands to drugs-crazed rebel fighters. President Koroma formed the Disability Commission to pay special attention to welfare of people like Alhaji Jusu Jaka. If Government allows that same Disability Commission to now go on a path of Non-Accountability, Total Lack of Transparency and Corruption, then we are helping to set the stage for another Civil War! Not on our watch! In the name of all those who died during the Civil War and in the name of the War Victims who are now Disable, I have vowed to ensure the Disability Commission is forced to be accountable and transparent or the State changes all of them and bring new faces who can be accountable and transparent in service to our suffering people!”
By Abdul Malik Bangura
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