By Amin Kef (Ranger)
Dr. S.S Banya, popularly referred to as Puawi, is one among the latest personalities that have sincerely and admirably commended the result-oriented Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Dr Memunatu Pratt, for her unprecedented strides in transforming a once defunct Ministry to one a performing one that has attracted both local and international attention especially for rebranding the country and contributing to socio-economic development.
The former political figure, who held key Cabinet positions at various times in the political landscape of the country since the days of the late erstwhile President Siaka Stevens, Dr S.S Banya, who is now an octogenarian and known for his incisive newspaper articles on major and topical issues, made a snappy comparative analysis of how the Ministry of Tourism was perceived during the tenure of presidency of President Stevens to what the Ministry is now perceived looking at the transformative strides that have changed that perception.
According to him, the Ministry of Tourism during the days of Stevens was nothing good to write home about.
He revealed how the Ministry was considered to be an inferior or insignificant entity which served as the dumping ground for the then President Stevens in situations when he had had enough with any Cabinet Minister and wanted to show him or her the red card that unfortunate Cabinet Minister will be relegated to the Ministry of Tourism. Dr SS Banya said the Ministry was regarded as “the Cinderella of the Cabinet”.
Citing a vivid example, Dr. SS Banya said: “I saw an illustration of that in the President’s action at the conclusion of the debate on Honourable Musa Kabia’s private member motion to amend the Constitution that enabled the Force Commander (now Chief of Defense Staff) Joseph Saidu Momoh to be eligible for nomination as President.
My friend Abdulai Conteh, later first Vice President to President Momoh and I openly opposed the motion and were immediately sacked from cabinet next morning. Some other colleagues who had failed to speak in support of the motion, were moved from assumed senior Cabinet posts to lower ranking ones. One of them was sent or “demoted” from the large Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security to the Ministry of Tourism.”
Dr Sama Banya averred that until President Julius Maada Bio appointed as Minister of Tourism, Dr .Memunatu Pratt, who then helped in changing that negative perception by the transformations she ushered. He said within just five years she has transformed the Ministry both in public perception as well as in the international arena.
“It is no longer the Cinderella Ministry but a vibrant, proactive organization that has put Sierra Leone in the international arena as one of 50 countries, not just in Africa but in global system,” he expressed nice compliments.
The prolific writer under the column PUAWUI Column, who is a trained medical doctor underscored that dr. Memunatu Pratt is constantly in the news for the right reasons including taking the once Cinderella like Ministry to one of prominence.
He said one such recently being the selection of Sierra Leone as a “watering spot” for the Hungary to Dakar motor rally furthering how recently she attracted some 50 African/American citizens to get Sierra Leonean citizenship.
According to him, under her leadership Bunce Island and Banana Islands are getting attractions.
His admiration for the transformative Ministry was so overwhelming that he decided , out of curiosity, to pay an unannounced visit to the Ministry where he was received by the Minister, the Permanent Secretary and not least the Director of Tourism.
“I was received by a beaming Memunatu Pratt with a broad smile and a warm embrace that at once put me at ease, ignoring my apologies which also put me at ease and the four of us engaged in an animated discussion about their plans to move Tourism forward among others,” Dr SS Banya intimated.
He concluded by saying that it was the late General Collin Powel former U S Joint Chiefs of staff and Secretary of State under President George W Bush who was said, “Someone is always watching.”