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A pleasant gift from SLBC

A pleasant gift from SLBC

As an African visiting Beijing, Turay’s Africa House is one of great places you will want to visit for a number of reasons. Travelling from, say, Sierra Leone to China within 20 hours or so, and wanting to get a taste of delicious African food stuff, you definitely will want to pass by this place. From that sweet African cassava leaves – which happens to be my favorite food back home, to Okra soup, among others, you are sure of reaching this place. It is managed by a Sierra Leonean brother but one good feature is that, when you visit this place, you actually feel African, for you will see your African brothers from other countries. O yes!

It was a Saturday evening, 4th February, during a seemingly challenging Winter period, that I had ventured out of my room, boarded a taxi, with my little basic broken Chinese, directing the driver where I was heading to, having spent almost the rest of the day staying indoors, not because I never wanted to go out, but having gone through a week long working week, thus deciding to have a rest on Saturday.  Dangling down the way, chasing my way to this restaurant to have some fun and time with my fellow Africans, my arrival was greeted with one big surprise and a superb New Year gift from home and by extension from the Sierra Leone Government, which had the courage and political will to bring about reforms in the once State owned Broadcaster-SLBS at the time.

My viewing SLBC life here in Beijing was the biggest gift I could receive, after celebrating the wonderful Chinese New Year. Indeed, I must said to myself, ‘this is the Sierra Leone I left behind, with tremendous progress not only at the infrastructural front, but in others area like the massive transformation we have witnessed in the operations of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, the fight against corruption and in the provision of electricity by government, for the poor and average Sierra Leonean.

There was the Wae Yus’ team of Lucyann Ganda and Daniel Moseray, having studio guests, one from Aureole Insurance Company, a lady, who was elaborating on her company’s 25 years of existence. Next was Inside the Media’, moderated by Emmanuel Wilkinson, featuring great media practitioners, including Dr. Sylvia Blyden-Publisher of Awareness Times, Theo Nicol of Africa Young Voices, Unisa Sesay who is the Director of Communications at State House and one Milton Bolye, a freelance journalist, discussing issues as reported by the local media for the week just spent. Emmanuel Wilkinson, in my view, was up to the daunting task of moderating a programme that called for outright objectivity and in allowing time and space for the general public to comment on the issues under review.

When I started watching, even before taking a pen to get down the issues that were under review, I came to the conclusion, that we are indeed, as a nation, making progress, taking into account the fact that today, you can be thousands of miles away from home, but still with structures like SLBC and with on-line newspapers updating us on daily happenings back home, you still feel being very closer at home.   When President Koroma decided to transform the then SLBS  into a public broadcaster, it was out of his desire to ensure, that  Sierra Leone moved in line with the dictates of democratic principles and the need to ensure, everybody’s voice was heard on SLBC, including voices of opposition parties.

President Koroma’s commitment to Sierra Leone’s development could not be overstated. And it is a well known fact that the decision at the time to get SLBS transformed into a public broadcaster needed the political will which, prior to the election of President Koroma, was lacking. But knowing the importance of transforming SLBC then into SLBS, today, President Koroma’s government has not only won laurels back home, but even at the international level, he has been commended for taking a bold step.

PART III of the SLBC Act 2009 states the functions of the corporation. Section 10, subsection (1) of the Act  states that the object for which the corporation was  established is to provide information, education, entertainment and reflect all shades of opinion throughout Sierra Leone. Subsection (2) states, that without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), the corporation– (a) shall provide, as a public service, independent and impartial broadcasting services for general reception throughout Sierra Leone which will include a minimum level of regional programmes broadcast nationally every week…” (http://www.sierra-leone.org/Laws/2010-1.pdf).So far, this is what we have been seeing in the operations of the SLBC and I hold the view, that the government should take great credit for having provided the environment for the smooth operations of the public broadcaster.

Gbanabom Hallowell (SLBC D-G), SLBC now targeting international audience

I also would want to say, the guys at SLBC are, in my view, doing well, in their attempts to meet not only their local audience, but having taken steps to get international audiences, thus, making the country part of the global village. What a pleasant gift is this? I am impressed with the professional manner some of the broadcasters having been performing their duties.  In a piece, titled, “Conceptualizing SLBC’s ‘My Voice, Your Voice Idea”, I wrote in 2011, that the SLBC should not afford to let go people like Val, Asmieu Bah, Sheku Sumilia, Salmata Bah… These people are so exceptional in performing their duties to the point, that I can only commend them for the national sacrifice they are making to building and sustaining the institutions that could make us become the envy of West Africa someday.(  http://www.sierraexpressmedia.com/archives)   . The work that these people are doing is great and I want to commend them for their time and commitment to Sierra Leone’s development.

This week’s ‘Inside the Media’ actually captured  issues  having to do with the just concluded Conference on Development and Transformation,  happenings at the Freetown City Council, the issue of  voter registration across the country, among others. My attention was especially drawn to the panelists’ analyses of the just concluded conference and the position of the main opposition party in Sierra Leone and I was impressed with the analyses given thus far. Reports indicate, the main opposition party in the country-SLPP decided to boycott the conference since according to John Benjamin, “We are not part of it…that they (government ) are doing is not in the national interest. A national conference has to be conceived in the national interest of our country…How can we divert the little resources into talking about 50 years from now on…So how can we be wasting money…when our present survival is threatened”. (http://politicosl.com) .This is just what an opposition party could offer.

But Theo Nicol had a different view on this, when he said he was ‘surprised that the SLPP backed out…’ and that this is not the only function of an opposition party to be criticizing all the time. I can’t agree with Theo Nicol more on this for we all know that when it comes to national issues, we should do our utmost to put aside our political interests and work in the interest of the country. Sierra Leone Conference on Development and Transformation, according to President Koroma was done  because “ we want to move along a path that Sierra Leoneans of all political persuasion, region and religion would be proud of …”This means, that we should be seen coming together in the interest of the country and not  in the interest of our political beliefs.  Milton Boyle, a freelance journalist was right when he said, ‘Sierra Leone is bigger than any political party” and I pray we begin to think along this line.

Sylvia Blyden’s suggestion that civil society and the media should keep in their files, the resolutions that came out of the conference was right in place for these are the issues we may want to look at, in the next five decades and see what has been achieved. I suggest you visit this site (http://politicosl.com/2012/02/draft-declaration-the-sierra-leone-conference-on-development-and-transformation), for the draft declaration from the conference on Development and Transformation.  Again, I was glad to learn from Sylvia Blyden that from what she found out, there was huge public interest in the outcome of the conference, especially as was indicated in the number of newspaper returns she got from Awareness Times.

But what about the issue of allegation of one party buying voter registration slips? I may not want to go by that allegation, but as suggested also by Unisa Sesay, the law enforcement agencies should be on the alert. But Sylvia was cautioned that people do their best to read the electoral act, especially Section 17. That said, I think we need to do more in encouraging people to register, because from what I got from SLBC, I think less than 600,000 Sierra Leoneans have registered so far.  The FCC issue is crucial, said Theo Nicol, especially in terms of what direction the council should take at this moment. Revenue collection has not got the needed impact, but should the councils be relying on government for absolute support…? Theo Nicol thinks otherwise. For him, which I also support ‘they (councils) are autonomous …they are elected leaders….they should not depend on government for their sustenance…’ My recent article on the need to mobilize our local revenue supports Theo’s view. (http://www.sierraexpressmedia.com/archives/34603). The councils could strengthen their revenue collection effort and that will go a long way in their survival.

The bottom line though is, I got this pleasant gift from SLBC and thanks to government and the Ministry of Information and above all the team at SLBC.

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