Tourism Ministry Holds Stakeholders Engagement with Village Headmen
Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Freetown, Monday, 8 February, 2021.
The Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs together with the National Tourist Board has held a stakeholder engagement with village headmen and representatives from the Anti-Corruption Commission and Ministry of Defense at the Ministry’s Conference Hall, Kingharman Road, Freetown.
In his opening remarks, the Director of Tourism, Mohamed Jalloh, said that the Ministry wants to achieve the dreams of President Bio to use Tourism to showcase the beauty of the country and create employment. He noted that one of the challenges of the Ministry over the years is that most of the areas with high tourism potential have been trampled upon, stressing that the Ministry has lagged behind, but because of the support from the president, he continued, things are getting better. Director Jalloh told the village headmen that the Ministry is interested in all the coastal area beaches, the beautiful mountains and the forested areas to bring development that has value for money and will be appreciated by all Sierra Leoneans.
The General Manager, National Tourist Board, Madam Fatmata Kroma in her statement said all the tourist attractions are under the Ministry of Tourism and its sub vented agencies, stressing tha it is the mandate of the Ministry to regularize and manage those tourist attractions. She assured the village headmen that it will not be business as usual as all tourism development areas should go through the process of management.
The Deputy Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Hon. William I. K. Robinson stated that as far as those tourism development areas are concerned, they should work in collaboration with the village headmen to make life easy for them. He maintained that the president has called this year, 2021, the tourism year, and in that vein, he went on, investors should bring dividend to the sector.
Mr. Alie Kokobaye, Chairman, National Tourist family emphasized that the meeting is family- based and for tourism to thrive, they must work as a family for the benefit of all and sundry, adding that the National Tourist Board wants to see more collaboration not only between the Ministry and the board but even among the village headmen.
In her keynote address, the Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Dr. Memunatu Pratt, said the village headmen are very important in ensuring that government policies reach the low levels. She maintained that in the past two years a lot has happened in her Ministry as compared to how it was in the past, mentioning that the president has identified Tourism as one of the areas to diversify, because it has not been yielding fruits for almost 60 years. He continued that before the intervention of the Coronavirus, they have been able to revive the Ministry and a lot has been done in pushing the Ministry forward. She said the Ministry is now faced with a situation where they have been overtaken by events because of the manner in which people have grabbed the Tourism sector. She called on the village headmen to work with the Ministry to ensure that the beach fronts are managed properly, noting that there has been long time neglect that caused the village people to believe that those beach fronts are part of the community land which she said the Ministry is trying to change. She concluded that the engagement is the first option in taking steps together to pushing the Ministry forward.
The village headmen commended the Ministry for the engagement but raised several concerns, key among them is that they have been neglected in terms of the management and protection of the coastal areas, no stipend for village headmen and the grabbing of community land by foreigners. The Minister, in her response to the concerns, asked the village headmen to put their concerns in writing, assuring them that their concerns will be looked into.