By Sulaiman Juldeh Bah
February 15 (today) is one of deciding moments in the politics of Sierra Leone as we approach the March 7 multitier elections.
The day has been set aside for a planned presidential debate which is to hold at the Bintumanui Conference Center in Freetown.
6 out of the 16 presidential candidates met threshold set aside by organizers of the debate and will battle each other with ideas on issues of economy, governance, others, etc.
Sierra Leoneans both home and abroad have expressed high hopes over the outcome for such a debate, which certainly will see candidates the likes of Samura Kamara of the ruling APC, Julius Maada Bio of main opposition SLPP, Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella of NGC, Samuel Sam Sumana of C4C, Musa Tarawally of CDP and Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray of ADP prove their mettles on supremacy chat about.
The debate is organized by the AYV Media Empire, Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Sierra Leone Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBC) and the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC).
Ransford Wright, chairman and outreach coordinator said there is no way they could have had all 16 presidential candidates take part in the debate and as such it was agreed that only parties that filled in 25% parliamentary candidates across the country qualify for the debate.
Parties that met the set standards include APC, SLPP, NGC, C4C, ADP and CDP, while the 11 remaining parties- PMDC, UNPP, PDP, UDM, ReNIP, NDA, RUFP, PLP and NDP unsuccessfully did not meet the requirement.
Ransford said, “The 11 unsuccessful parties are equally important and that they meant no harm discriminating them, rather want to give voices to parties that filled in candidates across the country.
He claimed they have signed an agreement with all the candidates taking part in the debate and have held several meetings with them on the form and nature of the debate.
That it is a two and half hour debate which will not be about personality, rather what any of them have in mind for Sierra Leone if elected as president March 7?
He said the debate will be segmented into three phases of human development, economy and inclusive governance and candidates will be given the same time to respond to questions posed to them by the moderator.
He warned the event will be restricted to people with invitations, and that presidential candidates will be allowed to have about 6 people to accompany them into the waiting room to prepare them for the contest.
He said, “Despite the restriction on the number of guests owing to space, the debate will be broadcast live on AYV, SLBC, Star TV and all IRN affiliated radio stations nationwide to enable people be a part of the program.
He said before the commencement of the debate at 7:00 pm, by noon a radio discussion program will be conducted wherein members of the public will have the opportunity to call and ask questions and those questions will be subsequently passed on to the moderator to be asked to the candidates for possible answers.
That after the debate they would be organizing another debate for political parties, focusing on women, youth and disability issues.
“For the presidential debate, only presidential standard bearers would be allowed to take part as no representation will be allowed.”
Sierra Leonean born BBC Hassan Arouni will be the anchor of the debate.