Members of the Bonthe Family group have briefed President Koroma at State House on issues of development and challenges facing their district so as to solicit support to address them.
The President and Bonthe family discussed wide-range of issues, including education, road construction, fisheries, job opportunities as well as the overall social service delivery system within the district.
Briefing the President, Bonthe Family’s Head of House, Solomon Caulker, Jnr. said that Bonthe Family was launched at the British Council in 2009, with the aim to promote development and also seek the welfare of descendants of the district.
He said the district has suffered neglect in the areas of development, citing the recent report produced by the Institutional Reform Group (IGR) on Service Delivery Index which revealed that, among all districts in the country, Bonthe has the “lowest” grades in critical areas of Health, Education and Access to Water – in surveys done in 2014 and 2015.
Solomon Caulker explained that the district has suffered deprivation for far too long and called for harnessing the physical and intellectual resources of Bonthe.
Lawyer Floyd Davies, one of the pioneers of the Bonthe Family, reminded the President how the people of Bonthe helped in the electoral victory of the APC in the runoff of the presidential elections in 2007.
He said Bonthe District has the distinction of having the “lowest number of Ebola infections” during the Ebola epidemic, as only “five Ebola cases” were reported and there was no Ebola cases on Bonthe Island, the district headquarter Town.
Highlighting to the President some of the development projects under implementation, lawyer Davies said a first class ferry is up and running that connects Bonthe Island with mainland Sierra Leone.
He said the solar lights have also added beauty to the Island, thereby reclaiming the glory of Christmas Island but appealed for more solar lights for other major towns and villages within the district.
He also said that the contract for the Bo -Mattru road resurfacing is ongoing but called on the President to make it a tar road so that it can be sustained in the future.
He however informed the President that the construction of a wall on the sea face at Bonthe Town to prevent perennial flooding has not yet commenced and called for his immediate intervention before the rain begins.
Lawyer Davies also noted that Bonthe district does not seem to be a priority in national development programmes.
He also appealed for the urgent construction of a bridge that links the town with the rest of the other islands which is almost completely broken down, making it difficult to bring in agricultural produce from the rural areas of the island to the town.
On the issue of education, he said the Bonthe Technical College needs to be developed into a “specialized college”; so there is need for more resources for the college and there is urgent need to improve on educational opportunities in the district as it has the highest school dropout rate in the country.
The fisheries sector, he said, has a modern fishing facility set up by Government but lamented that it is being “underutilized” as only ice block is being produced at the facility.
He also said that the government had banned the use of fishing nets and collected all the nets from the fishermen and promised to give them nets with bigger meshes, but this has not be done to a lot of these fishermen and it is causing a lot of tension between the fishermen and the local government councils.
On the areas of tourism, Lawyer Davies said called for the development of the district to attract tourists and visitors with many “historical sites”.
Concluding, he profusely thanked the President for appointing Bonthe people to senior positions in Government.
While responding, President Koroma urged the Bonthe Family to convene a meeting with relevant ministries to find a way to address their concerns. He also pointed out that the huge potentials particularly in the tourism sector can be used to open opportunities for the country.
The President said that there is a public-private initiative to take advantage of the immense tourism potential of Bonthe Island.
During the friendly question and answer and comment session of the meeting, a speaker said that the Torma Gbom area of Bonthe forty years ago used to be one of the rice producing areas in the country, and this needs to be revived; the President said that something is being done right now to revive the rice producing areas of Bonthe District.
Oswald Hanciles appealed to the President “to challenge” the Bonthe Family to show “more intellectual vigor” to harness development of the District.