Members of Parliament on both sides of the isle yesterday nominated Hon. Veronica Kadie Sesay to serve as Speaker of Parliament in the absence of both the substantive Speaker and his deputy.
Hon. Sesay is the longest serving female lawmaker in the Fifth Parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone and the second female MP to act as Presiding Officer (Acting Speaker) after the late Hon. Elizabeth Alpha Lavallie, who was Deputy Speaker in the Second Parliament of the Second Republic.
Congratulating MPs for the confidence reposed in her to act as Speaker of the House, Hon. Veronica Kadie Sesay said women of Sierra Leone have started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, adding that what men can do with respect, women can do it even better.
Referring to the accolades heaped on her as acting Speaker of Parliament, she promised to pursue and do follow-up with the authorities concerned in order to improve on the welfare of MPs, adding that those who had suffered have the right to enjoy.
She called for tributes to the living rather than the dead which she considered of no effect, adding that her tomorrow would be greater than today.
Clerk of Parliament Hon. Umar Paran Tarawally had earlier reported to the House the unavoidable absence of both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Parliament and called for nominations to be opened in line with Section 88 (c) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone and Standing Order 10 (1) of the House's Rules of Procedures, aimed at electing one among the MPs to preside over the proceedings for a day.
Leader of Government Business, Hon. Mohamed Sidie Tunis, nominated Hon. Sesay to act as Speaker of Parliament for the day's proceedings, and the nomination was seconded by the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Chernor Ramadan Maju Bah.
By a resolution of the House, Hon. Veronica Kadie Sesay was returned, withdrawn, robed, and advised by the Clerk of Parliament "to take the Chair as Presiding Officer and acting Speaker of the Parliament of Sierra Leone for the day's proceedings".
Congratulating her on her ascendancy to act as Speaker of Parliament, Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Chernor R.M. Bah, said men should do all they could to support capable women to succeed, adding that "he was proud of her election to act as Speaker of Parliament".
Deputy Leader of Government Business, Hon. Sahr Mathew Nyuma said: "The New Direction is supportive of the affirmative action geared towards the growth and development of women", whilst calling on the acting Speaker to address issues that are related to the rights and welfare of MPs, cognisant of her being "the longest serving MP" in the current Parliament.
Hon. Rebecca Y. Kamara of Coalition for Changeparty, said she was proud that a noble woman and a "Mother of the House" who cuts across the political boundaries has been elected to act as Speaker of Parliament. She added that the leadership of Parliament should build the capacity of the 18 female MPs, with a view to lifting the banner of women higher and higher.
Leader of NGC, Hon. Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Yumkella said he could not resist the temptation of saying "Madam Speaker" and described her election as "a major step to gender parity". He added his support to the cause of women who could one day occupy the presidency of Sierra Leone.
Chief Whip of the ruling SLPP, Hon. Dickson Rogers said that "the APC, SLPP, NGC, C4C are working together in unison" and called on their supporters not to fight as they are brothers and sisters in Parliament.
In her congratulatory remarks, Paramount Chief Member from Pujehun District, Hon. Matilda Lansana Yayu Minah remarked "This is the beginning of attaining the 30% quota for women in Sierra Leone".
Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said that "women and men are co-equal", describing the election of the acting Speaker as a continuum of her political career, adding that Hon. Sesay is even qualified to become Vice President someday. He described the acting Speaker as a multi-linguist and a true Sierra Leonean who has demonstrated leadership over the years.
In the previous administration of late Dr. Alhaji Ahmad Tejan-Kabbah, the late Hon. Elizabeth Alpha-Lavalie of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party also acted as Speaker of Parliament.