By S. U. Thoronka……………
What was supposed to be a probe into the activities of the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs turned out to be an interactive session between the Parliamentary Oversight Committee members and Tourism officials.
On presenting the status report, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Madam Mariatu Browne informed the Committee that there has never been a National Tourism Policy and that the Ministry has decided this time around to develop one and have already hired the services of a consultant.
Madam Browne further noted that there are plans to also review the current Tourism Act, adding that offices have been established in all provincial towns while a website has been constructed to showcase the tourism potentials in the country to the outside world. She highlighted the inter-Ministerial collaboration as one out of many challenges faced by the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs.
A representative from the National Tourist Board maintained that the Lumley Beach vicinity is a public eye sore in so far as tourism was concerned. He cited the unfinished building by Mohamed Kallon’s unfinished hotel and the land that has been allocated to Gouji, a Chinese Construct Company. The said company according to the representative undertakes the building of houses which are in turn sold out to the affluent for nothing less than Le700m.
Ministry Officials were of the view that tourist attraction has been depleted in our beaches, lakes, mountains and Islands as a result of illegal activities. Mention was also made of old Fourah Bay College at Cline Town which the Ministry could not retrieve and preserve as National Monument because of the bottle-neck created by the Sierra Leone Ports Authority.
Members of the Committee agreed that it is difficult if not practically impossible to market something that is not good, meaning how could the monuments and relics be marketed when they have not been given a face-lift? The Committee also agreed that sand mining along the Goderich axis in the Freetown Peninsular has adversely affected the beaches and suggested that there should be punitive measures against defaulters especially encroachers and/or squatters.
The Oversight Committee was also oblivious of the fact that the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural is under-funded and noted among other things that there is supposed to be a toll system at the Lumley Beach.
It was resolved that there ought to be a meeting of the line Ministries whereby land belonging to Tourism as a matter of expediency is retrieved and re-allocated back to Tourism.
On a final note, the Chairman of the Tourism Committee, SLPP Member of Parliament for Constituency 71 in the Bo District, Honourable Frank Kposowa assured Ministry officials that all challenges highlighted would be channeled through the appropriate authorities.
Hon. Kposowa also promised to lead members of the Committee to State House to explain to His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma the way and manner in which the Ministry is being treated in terms of budget allocation and the unavailability of land to boost tourism.
By S. U. Thoronka……………