Dinner with a Legacy: Charles Margai of the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC)

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1971




Notes include direct and paraphrased statements.

-I have come to the US to talk to Diaspora on need for change in SL
– also to seek financial & material resources
– and woo Afr-Amr brothers & sisters

SL has sunk b/c of civil war. People suffered enough; deserve peace and tranquility & development
July 28th elections mean a choice between continuity and change. What can we continue w/ when SL ranked last but 1 in economic development not withstanding human and material resources? Our resources can be transformed into millions. Are we in SL satisfied with status quo?

SL has the longest and most attractive beaches. SL has not enjoyed electricity/water in last 6/7 months. 75-80% unemployment. Going to BO-Freetown takes 8-10 hrs a journey that in the 80s took only about 3hrs.

Leoneans diaspora make sacrifices w/ remittances and contribute in economic growth. We are going to have to start from scratch. We have the will and all we need is the commitment. It will take time but a thousand mile journey begins with the 1st step. We must make a concerted effort to improve lives of our people.

PMDC comes out of SLeoneans desire for change. PMDC is the third force. So much to be done and everyone has a role to play. PMDC will immediately address absentee voting for people in the diaspora. We will make it possible for you to vote here. PMDC will ensure that when it comes to ambassadorial/ministerial postings and otherwise are equitably divided. One third of postings will go to people in the diaspora and another 1/3 to women. Our women should no longer be relegated to the kitchen. They should be side by side in Nation building.

For my running mate, I am looking for a Muslim man/ woman from the north. I intend to not leave SL for the first 18 months of my presidency so I need a running mate who equals or surpasses me in performance. It is only when there is an absence of a comparable running mate from the north that we will look elsewhere. APC leads in the Northern area but PMDC has the east and the south while the SLPP trails because they cannot come back after 10 years and say give me another opportunity. Kerefa Smart will be returning to Freetown to official resign from politics and to endorse the PMDC and encourage his supporters to vote for the PMDC.
We need logistical and material support to prevent a runoff. People in the diaspora must register to vote b/n Jan-March in order to be able to receive posting assignments. People in the diaspora have to be partners in development.

QUESTIONS
Upon his last visit the current VP assured the community that dual citizenship had been approved but we know that it has not yet been signed by the president. What will the PMDC do about dual citizenship?

C. Margai: I believe that the dual citizenship bill will be signed by Kabbah b/c they passed it to gain political support. I am in favor of dual citizenship as long as it doesn’t compromise SL’s sovereignty.

Why is it that voter registration is not continuous and can only be done in 3 months time frame so close to the elections?
C. Margai: Well the constitution makes it so that we register during that time frame. Also until the new rezoning laws are signed people cannot register. We cannot go against the SL constitution

What role is foreign investment going to play in your government? How are you going to make sure that the foreign investment benefits the average SL person?

C. Margai: SL economy is currently donor oriented, so we will promote private entrepreneurship. Also, I have made Reverend Hunter in Annapolis PMDC ambassador who will coordinate and encourage Afr-Amr brothers and sisters to become partners in development. Also, we will revitalize the agricultural sector, turning SL minds from mining to the land. You can trip an entire area without finding one gem but what you sow you must reap.

What do you intend to do about youth disenfranchisement in SL, as political stability in SL is dependent on keeping the youth invested in government and economy?

C. Margai: We will continue with current reconstruction and the rehabilitation of our youths. We will encourage small scale business for the youth. We will make sure the youth feel invested in the government and have a sense of belonging and ownership. We will take up the previous Saturday cleaning exercises imposed during the NPRC regime and hire youths in the cleaning exercise. We sill provide jobs for them. But most importantly, we must change the attitudes of our youths.

How do you intend to encourage investors and people in the diaspora when the non-native citizens and foreigners do not have the same ownership rights when it comes to freehold land in the provinces?

C. Margai: There has been consistent discrimination against krios in land ownership in the provinces. No investor is going to take millions into SL to invest if they cannot own land. You cant use lease hold property to gain a bank loan. We have to look at land tenure laws in Sierra Leone as we currently have a dualistic model.

Closing Remarks

PMDC is optimistic because they have the people’s mandate. We will have our national conference in February. Two problems plague SL: Lack of independent judiciary and institutional corruption. The anti corruption commission was not set up to rid SL of corruption but to act as a political tool for the government. However, we will look into giving the ACC prosecutorial powers and ending corruption once and for all. There will be zero tolerance for corruption and there will be no sacred cows.

Additional notes

When asked about the current state of health care in SL and problems of access and availability. Mr. Margai replied that the problem with our current system was that it is too centralized. And that what is needed is the construction of more clinics and hospitals so as to serve those who currently live in areas that are underserved by the healthcare system.
When asked whether he sometimes felt overwhelmed by the current status quo problems in SL, Mr Margai responded that he hardly feels overwhelmed because he is certain that we have the resources to turn things around in Sierra Leone.
Finally a suggestion was made that Mr. Margai look at the recommendations of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on areas of good governance, transparency , corruption etc. as the TRC recommendations not only highlighted the conditions that led to the civil war in Sierra Leone, but also that they present guidance to reconstruction and sustainability of peace and development. When asked whether he would implement TRC recommendations if elected, Mr. Margai said that his government would look into the recommendations of the TRC but that he could not say at the moment that all suggestions would be recommended. As far as he was concerned the TRC recommendations are not necessarily going to be the law of the land though the current legislative act that brought the TRC into being mandate that the government implement findings/recommendations of the TRC.

Please see official party website for more information on Mr. Charles Margai and the People’s Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC) http://www.pmdcsl.org/