Somalia: Puntland president addresses 200 university students at hall meeting 7 Apr 7, 2012 - 8:54:18 AM
GAROWE, Somalia Apr 7, 2012 (Garowe Online) - The president of Somalia’s Puntland government addressed over 200 university students at a hall meeting Friday, marking the president’s awareness campaign ahead of Puntland’s crucial constitution vote next week, Radio Garowe reports.
Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole was accompanied by Vice President Gen. Abdisamad Ali Shire and senior Cabinet officials at the event, which began at 4:00pm local time at Puntland State University’s main campus in Garowe.
Organizers told Garowe Online that more than 200 students at PSU and East Africa University (EAU) in Puntland attend the event. Senior Cabinet officials, Interior Minister Abdullahi Ahmed Ilkajir, Finance Minister Farah Ali Jama, Planning Minister Daud Mohamed Omar, and Education Minister Abdi Saeed Juha, were present as President Farole answered the students’ questions in front of satellite television cameras.
The program was hosted by Mr. Faisal Khalif Barre, head of Somali Sat TV’s Puntland offices. Mr. Barre began by introducing President Farole and asked a lead-in question: “Your administration has been office 3 years and 3 months. What can you say is among your major accomplishments?”
The president of Puntland responded: “In the beginning, we published our work during the first 100 days in a written report. However, over the past few years, there have been many accomplishments.”
President Farole went on to highlight the administration’s successes in security, economic and political affairs. He described the hope of Puntland’s ambitious oil exploration project in Dharoor valley, where foreign companies are drilling Somalia’s first well to be drilled in 20 years.
The students, both male and female, asked questions by raising hands and were selected by the program host, Mr. Faisal Khalif Barre.
The questions covered a range of topics: the government’s youth development policy; job-creation opportunities; piracy-related issues; the formation of a constitutional court; government’s role in civic education; corruption and tax evasion; dispute with Somaliland’s separatist administration over Sool and Sanaag regions of Puntland; new Somali banknotes planned to be injected into Somali markets soon; the Somali Roadmap peace process, backed by the U.N.; the constitutional issue over the five-year term; and economic development initiatives in the region.
Judicial system and constitutional court
President Farole, responding to a question about the establishment of a constitutional court, said: “The judicial system is the foundation of governance. This includes the police, the courts and the prisons system. The constitutional court, which would resolve legal disputes among the three branches of government, will be established at an appropriate time with the qualified judges.”
The Puntland president highlighted “lack of human resource in the judicial sector” as a structural weakness, but added: “My administration has supported judges with pay increase, provision of security and vehicles. But much more support is needed in judiciary sector, particularly human resource and so it is my hope that some of you future university graduates would study law and contribute as human resource to the development of our judiciary sector.”
Continuing, Puntland’s leader said that, for each citizen, “national duty comes before civil rights. One must fulfill national duties before receiving civil rights. The first national duty is to take part of public safety and security.”
On a question about piracy, President Farole said: “Puntland government has established anti-piracy force, although some corners complained about our security training to fight piracy. Our second approach is community-based and involves public awareness by community leaders to discourage piracy. I believe a combination of both approaches serves well to publicly discourage piracy, and use law enforcement capabilities to fight piracy crimes.”
President Farole responded to a question posed by a female student at PSU, saying: “It is the government’s duty to provide civic education. The parents also have a role in this by teaching their children proper discipline and manners, and being careful about some teachers who mislead our children’s innocent minds about our holy religion of Islam.”
On corruption, President Farole of Puntland asserted that there was “not much funds to steal” due to Puntland’s meager annual budget, adding: “The real corruption in Puntland is the tax evaders who refuse to pay taxes in order that the public may receive increased basic services of security, water, electricity. The government has balanced the annual budget and has fought against inflation.”
Economy and central bank
President Farole said the Puntland economy is doing well. He described livestock sector, but commented that the “once vibrant fishing industry” has now been disrupted by piracy and illegal fishing. He emphasized the government’s priorities include job-creation particularly for students and youth, while highlighting “high hopes” for the successful outcome of the ongoing oil exploration project in Puntland’s Dharoor valley.
Puntland’s president said the new Somali Shilling banknotes that will be delivered to markets in Somalia in the coming weeks came as a result of negotiations between Puntland and TFG of Somalia, in Mogadishu.
But President Farole admitted that there was no strong Somali Central Bank currently in place that could monitor and control the new currency, but he reminded the student questioner that “the Puntland branch of the Somali Central Bank has been functional for many years.”
On Somaliland, President Farole stressed that Sool and Sanaag regions are part of Puntland State, which seeks the formation of a Somali federal government. Located in northwestern Somalia, Somaliland’s separatist administration unilaterally declared independence in 1991 but has not been recognized internationally.
The President blamed “greedy politicians seeking power” of destroying attempts at resolving the Puntland-Somaliland territorial dispute, adding: “Those greedy politicians come up with new names like ‘Khatumo’ or ‘SSC’ in order to confuse the public about realities as they [politicians] continue to seek power. Such policies have failed.”
President Farole of Puntland said the Roadmap process for Somalia is on the right track towards ending the transition, after a decade of interim governments.
The Puntland leader stressed the need for Somali political stakeholders to improve cooperation and focus on completion of the transition by August, 2012.
President Farole’s public meeting with university students were the first of its kind since his election in January, 2009. Puntland State is poised to host it’s first-ever 480-member Constituent Assembly consisting of delegates from all regions of Puntland who are to debate and adopt the Puntland State Constitution during the upcoming historic convention 15 – 18 April 2012, in Puntland capital of Garowe.