Mayoral aspirant for Freetown City Council (FCC) under the ticket of the main opposition Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), Raymond de'Souza George, has vowed to improve the status of Freetown if he is awarded the symbol to contest and subsequently wins the 2018 local council election.
He was speaking yesterday in an exclusive interview with Concord Times at his Fourah Bay College (FBC) office, where he said Freetown has seen lots of changes which in his view were not positive.
Mr. de'Souza George, who is a lecturer in Drama and Theatre Arts in the Department of History and African Studies at FBC, University of Sierra Leone (USL), also opined that the morale and political climate in Freetown are such that people are not at ease as they used to be.
"Freetown is no longer the happy public town that it was and that we need collective efforts to refresh the minds of the people. Freetown has lost 'a moral conduct' because there is no respect for elders, rules and laws as evidenced by lawlessness in the municipality," he said.
He added that lawlessness is very much alive in Freetown as evidenced by the way people talk and do things on the street, thus pledging to tackle it successfully if he becomes mayor.
The man who is fondly called 'Papa Ray' promised that if he wins the mayoral race in 2018 he would create a family feeling environment where everybody will think that Freetown belongs to them and that they should properly take care of it.
"Our wastes must be properly managed in Freetown. We are currently seeing people dumping their garbage in drainages, thereby preventing the free flow of water. And when it rains all the garbage comes to the street and creates an eyesore to meaningful citizens and foreigners. This must change under my administration," he vowed.
He promised to change the mindset of Freetown residents to not construct houses or live very close to the two major dumpsites at Ferry Junction in the east and Kingtom in the west, adding that he would employ experts to properly manage solid wastes deposited in those dumpsites to be transformed into something useful.
Commenting on the issue of street trading in Freetown, he said to remove traders from the street he would first sensitise them that it is for their safety as they are not only discomforting road users but most of them are exposed to danger.
"The solution to the problem is more market centres and encouragement of traders to occupy them by telling them the dangers of selling on the street. The purpose is not only to confine them but to get customers coming to them in an orderly manner and also keep the surrounding clean and quiet," he said.
He maintained that many people make their living out of trading, adding that he would construct market centres in order to accommodate more traders.
The SLPP Mayoral aspirant is of the view that taxpayers have lost confidence in successive regimes at the FCC, adding that he would restore hope in and encourage taxpayers to pay their taxes and in turn embark on massive service delivery as the need arises.
"FCC, under my leadership, would have a human face in order to allow the free flow of ideas that will be utilised to develop the municipality. I believe everybody should be given a chance especially if the person operates under a new administration. Taxpayers should pay their taxes to FCC if I win the 2018 election and see what my administration would deliver," he promised.
He pledged to construct perimeter fences around all cemeteries in Freetown that are at risk of encroachment.
He envisioned that a Freetown where every resident sees each other as a member of one big family for the progress of the municipality.
"I am hoping that people reconsider their current situation and not think about a particular political party but the issues that affect them. I believe I am the right person to improve Freetown for all of us," he said.
The drama icon said he was motivated by the SLPP's motto of "one country one people", which speaks about unity and embraces a peaceful, progressive, dynamic and better country for all.
Born in 1947 at Brookfields, Raymond de'Souza George was raised at Sanders Street in Freetown.
Having left high school in the 1960s and worked at the Ministry of Education as a temporary clerical assistant for his first monthly salary of thirty-four Leones, de'Souza George used that amount to pay his first year university fees.
After he graduated from university, he taught at the Muslim Brotherhood for a year before leaving for the civil service as an administrative officer, where he served for ten (10) years.
He later got a scholarship to study drama at Leeds University in the United Kingdom, where he obtained a Masters degree in Drama and Theatre Arts.
Upon his return, he went again to the civil service before he was seconded to FBC in 1985, where he has been ever since.
He was represented Sierra Leone as an actor at the Second World Black Festival of Arts and Culture in Nigeria where one of his theatre works "Borbor Lef" was fortunate to be selected for performance at the London International Festival of Theatre.
He later went to Canada to produce one of his works written on the experience of Shengbe Pieh, "The broken handcuff" at the Canadian Fringe Theatre Festival in 1994.
Mr. De' Souza George said he represented Sierra Leone as one of the judges who decided the winner for the Lyrics of the ECOWAS anthem in Abuja. He was subsequently appointed resident director for Kalamazoo College, which appointment led to the exchange of students from the college and FBC.
"The most important thing in my work of life is interacting with the young people because I see our future in them. Therefore, I have made it my responsibility not just to teach them but counsel them always and that has given me the greatest joy in his life," he said.
The SLPP FCC Mayoral aspirant got married in 1977 to one of Sierra Leone's outstanding athletes, Millicent Jackson, and they are blessed with three children who now live in the United States of America, Ghana and Sierra Leone.