By Lansana Fofanah.
In the midst of growing tension and advocacy by civil society organizations for government to terminate the contract of producing and printing Electronic Passports by Thomas De La Rue, a local content provider, Net Page (SL) Limited has engaged civil society activists to explain details about the Passport contract.
At the Headquarters of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists on Friday, the Communications Specialist and Marketing Consultant for Net Page, Arthur Kallon said that the role of Net Page is to act as simple intermediary between the service provider Thomas De La Rue and the Government of Sierra Leone.
He said that at current Thomas De La Rue is undergoing a loss for any passport printed since the current exchange rate of dollar is Le920,000 and customers are still paying Le750,000.
He said the concern raised by civil society over the high cost of a Sierra Leonean Passport is genuine but that Sierra Leoneans are paying far less than other countries for an e-Passport.
On the issue of the features of the passport which many say are just basic with no biometric features, Mr. Kallon said that it is not advisable for Thomas De La Rue to publicly display the security features of the passport as that will give a clue to criminals but the features can only be detected by Immigration officers with the requisite knowledge and system.
In response, the National Coordinator for Civil Society Consortium on Commodity, Accountability and Service Delivery William Sao Lamin said that, Sierra Leone is not a dollar driven country and the price of Passport should not be tied to a foreign currency like the United States dollar which is subject to inflation.
He said that their call for the reduction of the price of e-Passport is an extension of a wide range of discussions that will see an engagement with the Parliament of Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Immigration Department so that they would know the possible steps to be followed.
In addition, Moses Mambu Junior said that they are not doing this because there has been a regime change to disadvantage Thomas De La Rue or Net Page, but to call on government to seek the interest of Sierra Leoneans as every citizen has the right to a passport.