Through a contract signed yesterday by the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, the 1962 Monuments and Relics Act will be reviewed by Professor Paul Basu of the University College, London’s Institute of Archaeology.
The Monuments and relics Act was last reviewed in 1967 and has long been seen as ineffective and outdated. Since the Monuments and Relics Commission (MRC) was reconstituted in 2014, there has been an urge to review the Act as most of its content is now judged to be archaic.
During the signing of the contract at the Ministry of Tourism Conference room, the MRC Chairperson Isatu Smith said the occasion is important as this will make provision not only for the country’s heritage laws but to be in line with international standards, and “to go beyond them and develop new models particularly in community based approaches to heritage management and stewardship.”
Smith highlighted the importance of preservation of heritage, which she said is important to the nation’s sense of identity, its self-confidence and stability as well as it’s ability to foster social cohesion and resilience in multicultural communities.
She explained, “cultural heritage can be a bridge to peace-building, and a vehicle for social and economic development. It is key to the development of cultural tourism and creative industries. It is also non-renewable resources that must be managed, conserved and cared for, so that it can be used in a responsible manner.”
The country’s heritage Isatu Smith disclosed encompasses a wide range of phenomena, including moveable objects, documents and images, immovable buildings, monuments and archaeological sites, underwater sites and shipwrecks, oral traditions, performing arts and ritual practice.
Because of this she said “we regard the review of the Act as a first step to strengthen the mandate of the Commission and create a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness of Sierra Leone’s unique cultural heritage, both within the country and internationally.”
The Acting Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs Khadijatu Sesay said the review of the Act has been long over due but everything has time, therefore this is the right time as it is necessary since the Act is obsolete as its talks about Governor General and now we have Executive President and a fine of five Leones were levied for certain fines.
She said the Ministry has been neglected for a long time by previous governments, since they have not been concentrating on putting finances and other capacity in the Ministry. Because of this she said most people regard the Ministry as ‘dumping ground’ but that has changed now with the present government.
Sesay disclosed that they have to keep with modern issues and international best practice in the area of tourism and maintaining our heritage. She said “we don’t know and recognise our culture. This is the time we have to realise and appreciate our culture.”
Former Chairman of MRC Julius Spencer said he was Chairman about 20 years ago and there was the need for the Act to be reviewed and that was when they had the idea of setting up an office with staff capacity. He added that the review of the Act will be the most important that will be used for the Commission to work.
He said cultural heritage needs to be protected and changing of original status should not be done on them just like it has been done on some stoned towers and building.
Michael Sam the Local Consultant said they are concerned about the misuse of the heritage and before the start of the review they will have to conduct an impact assessment as it is the first significant attempt for the work.
Tuesday April 21, 2015