Chairperson, Isatu Smith speaks on the accomplishments of the Monuments and Relics Commission
After being reconstituted in March 2014, as a Commission, we were tasked with the responsibility of transforming the Monuments and Relics Commission (MRC) into a premier government agency – a modern enterprise that can represent the best of Sierra Leone’s cultural heritage while advancing its potential for tourism.
As Chairperson, with support from our line ministry, the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, my fellow Commissioners and staff, the MRC has had some notable successes since it was reconstituted. We have designed a set of fundamental reforms to make the MRC more efficient, effective and business-like than ever before. The principles behind these reforms reflect the objectives of Pillar 1 of the Government’s Agenda for Prosperity which is geared towards transforming the Sierra Leonean economy into a more diversified one.
The Commission in 2014-2015 recruited its first programme and supporting staff and also upgraded the staffing system for both Museums – The National Museum and the Sierra Leone National Railway Museum – to help deliver against our vital tasks. Perhaps most importantly, we are proactively benefiting from the enormous talents of our Commissioners who are experts in varying fields in order to achieve serious reforms and real results. We are focused on recruiting new staff as and when the need arises whose technical expertise reflects the MRC’s priorities. We are also designing new opportunities for all our staff to learn and grow so that their creativity and expertise could be used to advance our mandate.
The Commission is currently reviewing its Act of 1947, which was subsequently amended in 1962 and 1967 and has long been regarded as ineffective and unfit for its purpose. The award of the contract to review the Act was done through a rigorous selection process in order to get value for money. This the Commission also sees as a first step to strengthen its mandate and make provision not only for the country’s heritage laws to be in line with international standards, but to go beyond them and develop new models particularly in community-based approaches to heritage management and stewardship.
As a Commission, we have set ourselves to undertake an ambitious but achievable Restoration Plan, which seeks to mitigate damage to all our existing Proclaimed Assets with comprehensive and implementable protection plans, restore assets through tried and tested engineering methods, to manage the elements that promote deterioration, preserve the restored assets through regular monitoring and maintenance with the help and support of custodians and host communities. We aim at presenting these assets locally and internationally through linkages to other heritage agencies and promotional activities with the goal of fully harnessing their socio-economic potentials, especially through cultural and heritage tourism. The MRC seeks to proclaim new indigenous assets in a bid to start rewriting our country’s history so that our heroes and indigenous events could be celebrated and remembered.
We are committed through our awareness raising drive to create a wonderful opportunity to publicize Sierra Leone’s unique cultural heritage. We continue to emphasize the fact that monuments and relics are important reminders of our past, no matter how pleasant or horrible that past may be. The MRC fully realizes that until and unless the general public is sufficiently sensitized and educated about these issues all other measures will fail to adequately safeguard the country’s cultural heritage. Ultimately, the responsibility for caring for Sierra Leone’s cultural heritage in a sustainable manner that is fully compatible with wider human development goals lies with the people of Sierra Leone.
As Sierra Leone intensifies its post Ebola recovery drive, the MRC is partnering with the National Tourist Board (NTB) for all future promotional and marketing ventures. Modalities are being put in place to showcase the country’s cultural heritage assets both proclaimed and potential to the wider world as a bait in rebranding Sierra Leone as a desirable tourist destination and attract back investors to the country. Thus generating revenue and reducing the stigmatization against Sierra Leoneans living abroad.
Finally, despite some surmountable challenges ahead in particular our aim of restoring our Proclaimed Assets and open them for business, I consider it a huge honour to be performing this role. With my other colleagues on the Commission, I will be doing everything I can to make sure that the MRC is as good as it can be for the benefit of Sierra Leone.
Madam Isatu Smith
Monuments and Relics Commission (MRC)