By Amin Kef Sesay – 4th August 2019
A press release issued by the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs and the National Tourism Board says its attention was drawn to a publication in a local claiming that the beach is now comparable to a common market.
The release states however that the Ministry wishes to inform the general public that the issues raised in the publication are baseless and untrue.
The release adds that the Ministry will like to use the opportunity to set the record straight, adding that the said article purported that the Lumley Beach Area has become “Congo Markit/Abacha Street”.
According to the release, the writer lacks understanding or the ability to appreciate the kind of development and type of concept of Tourism that is going on along the Lumley Beach. It added that it is one of the Tourism assets that have generated huge interest from the general public and that everyone wants to use the beach for various purposes and that over the years ‘we have witnessed this iconic and attractive beach area at the heart of the city, moving towards an entertainment zone for Sierra Leoneans and the expatriate community living in Sierra Leone.’
According to the release, most of the entertainment facilities are concentrated along the beach area. Hence, the Lumley Beach area is widely considered now as an entertainment hot spot, as such, the Ministry of Tourism and the National Tourist Board reviewed the entire Lumley and Beach Front Master Plan; permissions were granted to the private sector (mainly Sierra Leoneans) to develop beach bars and other recreational facilities.
Some of these facilities have been completed while construction of other facilities is ongoing, the release said.
It went on to state that these are facilities constructed with wooden fabric /materials unlike what was purported in the publication that ‘pan bodies’ or makeshift structures were constructed or being constructed.
The release added that the allegation that the National Tourist Board under the directive of the current Minister has been collecting Le300,000 from Coleman, vegetable stalls, and fishmongers is completely false.
First and foremost, these payments in question were instituted during the previous regime by the erstwhile General Manager of the National Tourist Board. Upon assumption of office in June 2018, as Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Dr. Memunatu B. Pratt, instructed the Head of the National Tourist Board, Madam Fatmata Abe-Osagie to discontinue such payments until the operations of these Coleman and vegetable sellers at the Lumley Beach is properly formalized, the release stated.
The Ministry and the National Tourist Board are working with the sitting MP and the Aberdeen community to regularize operations of these Coleman and vegetable sellers and payment of Le300, 000 (three hundred thousand) was cancelled with immediate effect in June, 2018 and till date not a single cent has been collected from these Coleman & vegetable sellers, the release maintained, adding that the fact can be verified at the National Tourist Board.
The same tabloid also alleged that monies were given to the Ministry for the installation of CCTV cameras. According to the release, at no time had funding been given to the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs nor the NTB for the installation of CCTV cameras along the Lumley Beach. This can be verified with the Ministry of Finance, the release added. It went on to state that however, the NTB does have CCTV cameras within its office premises since 2016 and are in working condition. Furthermore, the insinuations of divide between the Minister and her Deputy is also baseless and untrue, the release adds.
It further stated that the Deputy Minster William I. K. Robinson has always maintained that he has a healthy working relationship with his boss and that he is satisfied with the work schedule designated to him by the Minister which includes overseeing the Cultural Directorate, Monument and Relics Commission.
The Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs registered its disappointment on how the lack of investigative journalism can take on a life of its own – and even gain traction as a widely accepted truth. That’s what is generally referred to as myth that gets in the way of progress, the press release added.
Such an unfounded and baseless article can deflect attention from real issues and get in the way of reality. Most importantly, wrong information goes against the gains the Ministry and its sub-vented agencies are making to revive and restore the tourism sector under the New Direction.
Though a daunting task, yet it is a challenge Minister Pratt has been doing acidulously, day and night to accomplish; hardly a week goes by that development in the sector doesn’t take place or something along these lines: Ensuring that the vision of her boss, HE President Julius Maada Bio is achieved for the tourism sector; is a commitment she is ready to fulfil with dignity and integrity for Mama Salone. A Minister that took on board the entertainers, performing arts, cultural heritage and the development and promotion of Tourism to make Sierra Leone an enviable destination, will not be distracted by haters, the release issued by the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs & the National Tourist Board concluded.