President Julius Maada Bio and Madam Fatima Bio recently held a meeting with some members of the music/entertainment industry over a sumptuous dinner at their State Lodge. That friendly engagement allowed our youth ambassadors to have a face to face chat with the number one gentleman and his wife, and it was not for nothing either.
What President Bio told the visiting artists that evening sounded optimistic but needed to be taken with a pinch of salt, considering past presidential alluring overtures in that regard. Among many other things chatted over, he simply told the artists to come together and put their needs in black and white to be presented to his government as his administration has plans to provide some form of ‘stimulus’ package for them to help cushion the effect of COVID 19 on the Arts.
Whilst we commend the president in advance for this proposition, we wish to caution him as the industry needs not just a ‘stimulus’ package that may be short-lived, but some actions that have to do with the right policies and structures for growth.
Over the years, successive governments; in particular that of his immediate predecessor made attempts at streamlining the industry through some form of legislation. Let us take the Copyright Act for instance that was passed by Parliament in 2016 or so that remains abandoned on the shelves. The fanfare that greeted the enactment of that legislation died the moment the president appended his signature. To cut a long matter short, the Act never saw the day. In other words, it has never been implemented.
For a president that needs the growth of the entertainment industry, he is expected as a first measure to add some woods to the dying fire to rekindle the flames to make the Act alive and functional. Whatever had severed the implementation of the Copyright Act over the years needs to be looked into. It is understood that some ingredients are still lacking to complete the menu for the Act to see daylight. Can the president be seen looking into how to ensure that the things that pose as impediments to the Act’s implementation are tackled?
Also recently, the president promised to construct a performing arts centre which is another good intention since our artists need capacity building and the right equipment. This aspect needs to be expedited and we are pretty sure with the political will, our development partners are willing to help in that direction.
As a nation, we have held several conferences in the past on the way forward for the developments of Arts and the entertainment industry. It is high time we started following on decisions reached at in those conferences.
But if those engagements in the past can now be seen obsolete, can we talk about having a national conference on the Arts, involving all players in the sector-musicians, actors, producers, sculptors, etc.?
If the above issues drew are given their desired attention, we don’t think giving artists’ money, for now, is the way to go. It may even cause more harm than good. There is the adage that says ‘once beaten, twice shy.’ Have we not seen before, especially in the immediate past regime where money was showered on musicians wrongly; it was like throwing water on a duck’s back; no effect. Rather, such frivolous actions of the former president merely bred animosity as everybody wanted a personal share of the cake. How could anybody expect groups to share money thrown haphazardly?
It was indeed a mistake by former President Ernest Bai Koroma for his deliberate attempt to choose to use a group of artists to promote his agenda instead of providing the right structures and policies. We would not want to see those mistakes repeated by President Bio.