Contributing to the Speech delivered by President Koroma during the State Opening of Parliament, the Minority SLPP MP, Dr Bernadette Lahai has described the APC like Alice in Wonderland, not knowing where to go.
Dr Lahai challenged the Majority Leader of Parliament, Hon Edward Turay, who recently gave his twelve-point development plan for the country; stating among other things that Government Grants-in Aids should be replaced with Student loans. That suggestion was strongly challenged by the SLPP MP who stated that parents were unable to pay fees for their children as their salaries were not enough and that a lot of students were only able to have gone through University because of Government Grants- in Aid.
She explained that students awarded Grants-in Aid are required to work for a number of years to pay back where as students who thrive on academic loans, it does not matter whether they work in Government institutions or not, the sooner they get a job their data is entered so their employer knows exactly that they are students who had benefited from Government loan.
She stressed that the problem with the Grant –in Aid system in terms of favoritism is not new as it was the case during her stay at the University, where they never had a Government scholarship as it was awarded based on sectionalism and nepotism. She noted that if there is a problem with the Grant-in- Aid you don’t have to scrap it. “If your eye is hurting you would you pluck it out,” she asked. No, you go to the eye specialist”
Dr Lahai also contended with other suggestions made by Hon Edward Turay for the abolition of Boarding Schools, the reason been that government spends Le 4,000 per child a day. She analyzed that Le 4,000 per student a day is about one dollar, thirty cent which is not enough. Explaining the beauty of Boarding Schools, she said, they accord the opportunity of cultural exchange, making everlasting friendship as people from the North, East, South and West interfaced with each other, and it also teaches one to be independent and mature.
On the cessation of funding to Private Schools as was also posited by Hon Edward Turay, Dr Bernadette Lahai said there are Government assisted Schools and Independent Private Schools, but he failed to distinguish between the two.
Debating on the President’s speech, she said it is not true as the President said electricity generation was increased from 5MW to 25MW “This is not true, the Income Electrix had a contract to provide 25MW and as we are talking they have installed 10MW for which they are producing 2-3MW”.
She sent a message to the Energy Minister that without an energy policy, the Ministry would be behaving like Alice in Wonderland. “When the Minister came before Parliament for approval I told her to bring the energy policy before the House if she intends to move in the right direction. The energy policy is the road map”
She also questioned the statement made by the President concerning the cultivation of 48,000 acres of land to produce 28,000 bags of milled rice, which she said is not true. “The President is referring to this year’s harvest but some people are still harvesting; and it has been learnt that adverts are been made for bidders for the purchase of harvesters and mills” she said. She affirmed that the 28,000 bags of rice is a projection.
The debate enters its third allotted day.
By Ishmael Bayoh