By Ralph Sesay
Over the years, Parliamentary debates in Sierra Leone have been characterized by divisive speeches in which officials from the both the ruling party and the opposition engage in war of words.
They have constantly argued against the unequal distribution of wealth to various areas, blaming it on regional and tribal considerations. The tribal and regional card is played more loudly by honorable members during such debates.
Even as the nation concludes a dialogue conference on peace and national cohesion, the current debate on the President’s State of the Nation’s Address by MPs across the political divide has been characterized by divisive speeches. The Kenema versus Bombali tantrums vis a vis the distribution and non-distribution of state resources has come out more visibly with each side of the divide defending and attacking such divisive policies as the case may be.
Lawmakers in Sierra Leone would only agree and meet in Parliamentary debates when the issue has to do with their welfare and wellbeing. Parliamentary debates, which are mostly aired on the national broadcaster (SLBC), are being listened to by the young people. If such debates are always clouded by regional and tribal flavours, what will the younger folks benefit, as they are most times glued to these radio and TV stations to watch or listen to such debates?
As representatives of the people, they should stop and halt these divisive speeches and make amends. British and other parliamentarians across the world would spend time, during debates, discussing issues relating to health care, foreign policy, abortion and other reproductive health rights rather than preaching regional and tribal divide or sing praising the presidents.
Don’t the SLPP and APC parties have policies and ideologies regarding critical challenges facing Sierra Leone on which they should anchor their debates? The traditional parties should have their debates around what their parties’ programs are on. For example, they should be talking about housing and migration.
Parliament should halt these tribal and divisive speeches as we strive for national cohesion. They should accentuate national cohesion as we move towards the creation of the Independent National Peace and Cohesion Commission. The language of debates should be refined to engender a national approach.
We are aware that the tensions normally shown on radio and TV sets among MPs are not what happen practically. Why should they speak as enemies during debates and then befriend themselves behind the scenes?
If we are to succeed in the current efforts to strive for peace and national cohesion Parliament should also be seen supporting such efforts.