The Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) draws the attention of the Government of Sierra Leone, CSOs and citizens, to stop the current initiative in the Sierra Leone Parliament to increase the salaries of the Members of Parliament.
This attempt to increase MPs’ salaries, including benefits such as wardrobe allowances, demonstrates that out Legislative is tone deaf to the continued suffering of the people of Sierra Leone. The people have, for years now, suffered the harsh economic and social impacts of the global pandemic, coupled with multiple failures by the government to deliver on the promises they made four years ago. So, at a time when families in our country have to tighten their belts even more than before, it is preposterous for the Parliamentarians to ask that their salaries and benefits be increased.
The rift between the voting public and the government, including the Parliament, has been widened in recent decades with little done by the elected officials to restore the trust of the public in the highest offices of the country.
As it appears, political representation in a liberal democracy such as Sierra Leone is a straightforward concept. Every five (5) years, at a national level, there is an election where citizens elect their representatives in Parliament.
CHRDI believes that a strong representative democracy needs an open and transparent government and that Politicians should represent their communities and protect the public interest, and not their private interest.
CHRDI notes with concern the gap between what the politicians promise to do every 5 years during elections, and what happens in actuality once they settle comfortably in their seats.
This Bill to increase salaries and benefits is the definition of the lack of respect and honesty to the voters. Before increasing their salaries, have these politicians asked themselves what they have done to improve the lives of the people they represent?
As a rights-based public social-policy advocacy organization, we are charged with the responsibility to draw attention to the commitments of duty-bearers to uphold human and civil rights. We are actively involved in promoting participatory democracy, accountability, and gender equity through social, economic, political, and human capacity building.
At a time when the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on the country’s medium-term growth prospects, and citizens are battling with severe hardships, parliamentarians are now telling us that their top priority is to fatten up their wallets.
Sierra Leoneans are faced with crushing difficulty in paying rents and many families with children are at risk, or already face eviction. In late 2018, this very Parliament made same attempt to push this unreasonable request for increased salaries and benefits for themselves, but the people of Sierra Leone rejected it.
This is what we hope happens now. Only when the Parliament votes to increase the minimum wage in the country, only when the Parliament and the government can prove that the lives of ordinary citizens have improved as a result of their work, only then will they be morally justified to award themselves with a salary increase.
We see this disgraceful bill as a total disregard to the majority of Sierra Leoneans’ will to build a better economy after a decade of alleged plunder by many of the same politicians who seek better pay now, and we wish to reiterate our avowed stance against rewarding incompetence and failed promises.
Therefore, we are calling on Parliamentarians to withdraw their proposal with immediate effect in the public interest.
We are not against rewarding hard work. So, if Parliamentarians want higher salaries, they must show what they have actually done to bring the bread and butter to the people’s tables.
Women in the villages still have to beg for a square meter of land to plant food for their children. Nothing changed for them.
When things get better for many of the hard working mothers of our land, then our Parliamentarians can until then morally request to increase their salaries too.
Note: Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) is a Rights based Public social-policy advocacy Organisation. We Draw attention to the responsibility of duty-bearers to uphold human rights and seek to support rights-holders to claim their rights. CHRDI is in Special Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council and accredited to many UN Agencies.