The National Commission for Democracy (NCD) has engaged stakeholders in the Karene District to discuss the role of parliamentarians and their relationship with the people. This meeting was hosted at the Kamakwie District Council Hall on September 8, 2020, on the theme: "Enhancing the Relationship between Parliamentarians and Citizens in Promoting Democratic Good Governance in Sierra Leone."
The programme that was also aired live on both Radio Okentuhun 90.1 FM and the Voice of Karene 98.0 FM draws participants from across the board with presentations delivered by the Hon. Member of Parliament for Constituency 064, Karene District, the District Council Chairman, Karene District and the representative of the Paramount Chief for the Sella Limba Chiefdom, clearly explaining their roles and responsibilities to enhance their relationship with the people.
Explaining the purpose of the meeting, the Commissioner for the Northern Region who also doubles as the Chairman for the occasion, Bai John Conteh, noted that the meeting was designed to educate citizens about the roles and responsibilities of their parliamentarians to foster cordial relationship between parliamentarians and their people.
He said the Commission decided to organize such a programme based on the backdrop that the Commission notes the concerns raised by citizens in the State of Democracy Survey conducted by the Commission in collaboration with Statistics Sierra Leone revealing that the relationship between parliamentarians and their people needs to be improved. He said it was because of that that the Commission has decided to engage the people of Kamakwie to provide them with the opportunity to be educated about the roles and responsibilities of parliamentarians concerning their relationship with the people. The Commissioner encouraged participants to listen carefully to the presentations to make salient contributions even in terms of comments, questions and observation.
In his presentation, the Hon. Member of Parliament for Constituency 064 in the Karene District, Hon. Dr. Roland F. Kargbo, elucidated on the role of parliament even as he highlighted the three broad functions of the institution emphasizing their significance in enhancing the democratic process of the state.
He noted that as one of the three Arms of government, Parliament has a crucial responsibility to checkmate the powers and excesses of the other two arms of government to ensure efficient and effective running of the state. The Hon. Member informed his audience that parliamentarians are constituted into select committees to oversee specific activities of the government. He noted that these Committees provide oversight functions to ensure that the resources of the state are expended judiciously.
Responding to questions concerning the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), Hon. Dr. Roland F. Kargbo said the fund has not been provided to parliamentarians for two years now. He said parliamentarians themselves decided that the Constituency Development Funds should not be in their custody because of the kind of misconception it has created with the public when in reality, the funds are too small to address constituency development issues. He said parliamentarians would now prefer to spend their resources whenever they saw the need to assist in their constituencies. The Hon. Member noted that Constituency development activities have now been devolved to the Councils even as he encouraged the Council authorities to include that in their budgets.
Hon. Dr Roland Kargbo makes further clarifications on other issues including the constraints parliamentarians face meeting with their people. He noted that parliamentarians need to be informing their people about what obtains in parliament regularly intending to keep the people au fait with the bill discussed in the well of the House. Hon. Dr. Kargbo noted that parliamentarians, especially those who live in the provinces, find it difficult to meet their people regularly because they have to be attending Parliamentary sittings regularly. He said that he has been using the media to reach out to his people once in a while but he is now making arrangements with radio stations to be updating his constituency regularly on the issues in parliament.
The Chairman, Karene District Council, Mr. John Dito Kamara, spoke on the place of the Karene District Council in promoting democratic good governance. He explains the significance of the local council even as he gave a background on the establishment of the Councils noting that the local councils are the highest governing body at the local level.
Mr. Kamara informed his audience that the Councils are facing serious constraints noting that out of the 79 powers that should be devolved between 2004 and 2007, only 54 were devolved to the councils. He further noted that some of the devolved functions were also withdrawn leaving the councils with only 46.
He also highlighted some of the challenges they face in developing the District, noting that it is a bit challenging because the people in the district are not used to paying their local taxes and the District does not have enough avenues to mobilize resources to undertake development activities in the District.
The Chairman said the Council has been relating with the people regularly informing the meeting that their relationship is cordial. He said the Council provides an opportunity for the people to seek and get clarifications from the Council whenever they want even as they provide updates on the activities of the Council on various platforms.
Speaking on behalf of the Paramount Chief of Sella Limba Chiefdom, Alimamy (Chief) Bockarie Balaba, noted that the Chieftaincy institution started during the colonial period. He said the principal responsibilities of Paramount Chiefs are to serve as custodians of the land, mediators of the people and protectors of the interest of the people. The representative of the PC further informed his audience that the Chiefdom Council which serves as the Cabinet of the Chiefdom helps the paramount Chief to make bye-laws to smoothly run the Chiefdom.
The Director of Programmes of the National Commission for Democracy, Mr. Kallie Sillah, carefully explained the Mandate of the Commission to educate his audience on the relevance of the Commission. He noted that the Commission was created in 1994 by the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) to facilitate the reintroduction of multi-party democracy into the governance process of the state.
The Director further noted that the mandate of the Commission includes creating and sustaining awareness with the society of the principles and objectives of the Constitution as the fundamental law of the land and also assessing for the formulation of government the limitations to the achievements of true democracy arising from existing inequalities between different strata of the population and make recommendations for redressing those inequalities. Mr. Sillah noted that it was against this backdrop that the Commission is organizing programmes to enhance public awareness to ensure active public participation in the governance process of the state.
In his brief statement, the Director of PR and Communications, Rev. Gibrilla Kargbo, used the forum to call on Sierra Leoneans to think towards the direction of promoting democratic good governance. He reminded his audience that Sierra Leone is the only country they have as a nation and that they should make a conscious effort to make it a better place. He admonished that people should not be divided and that they should dialogue to address issues whenever they arose.