Guyanese are being conned in a big way

first_imgDear Editor,The absurd and outrageous nature of the Exxon contract which has been highlighted by a number of persons in the public domain triggers the impulse to shout ‘incompetence!’ and similar expressions to describe the grossly imbecilic nature of this agreement. But, if we consider for just a minute, the people in the coalition cannot, by any remote standard, be considered stupid. The President was a former Brigadier-General schooled in military strategy abroad, and a career historian and lecturer, I was made to understand. The Minister of Foreign Affairs was a former Minister of Finance right here, the Minister of State is a very bright gentleman who was a lawyer by profession, and the Minister of Natural Resources was also a career lawyer who also served as Speaker of our House.It is virtually impossible for any of these four gentlemen not to have been privy to the agreement before it was signed. With at least two of them being former practising lawyers, it would have been impossible for them to ignore what I can only refer to as the gross asininity of the Exxon contract. Here we have four of probably the most senior men in the coalition Administration perusing this contract, familiar with its contents, being aware of their own limitations in respect to their capacity to professionally evaluate it, yet still being able to recognise the ridiculous nature of the contract, and still agreeing to give the go-ahead for the Minister of Natural Resources to sign an agreement.Something is wrong here. No one has yet come up with an acceptable explanation for what we are seeing unfolding with respect with this contract. But I submit that something is definitely wrong. It is very easy to consider corruption in all its modern complexities at work here, but is it more than this? What has the coalition Administration agreed to that is not written in the contract? The gross financial imbalance and loss for Guyana as a sovereign state indicates that something more than meets the eye is amiss.In light of the litany of flaws in the contract, which even includes the Minister of Natural Resources acting on behalf of Exxon in at least one instance – a clear conflict of interest and impossibility in such contracts, it seems very understandable that the Minister of Foreign Affairs owned up (a likely story) to advising the coalition that the agreement should remain secret.In respect to the Minister of Natural Resources signing an agreement which clearly puts him in opposition to the interests of Guyana, by what stretch of the imagination and outlandish notion could these four senior men of the coalition agree to the Exxon contract being signed and enforced? How could the President himself agree to this? And why is the coalition insisting that the contract remains in force?I submit that Guyana is being conned in a very big way, and the coalition Administration, by agreeing to this contract – in addition to its hard-headed stance on VAT and other policies which make it so much harder for Guyanese, including neglecting to address our unemployment and joblessness among our youths in a major way, its violation of the basic human rights of the recently-retrenched sugar workers, and its wilful breach of our laws in relation of honouring contractual severance arrangements with employees, notably the retrenched sugar workers – has declared itself unfit to govern.All Guyanese, particularly those owning and controlling resources and in decision-making positions have to seriously take stock of what is unfolding and make preparations. Because running a country is a long game which requires a plan. And if anything, else, we have to get ourselves organised right now.In respect to the contract itself being in force, Ramon Gaskin recently pointed out that Exxon discovered oil in its allotted blocks long after its exploratory rights apparently expired. Competent individuals could investigate whether this is not a basis on which to void the entire contract.Yours faithfully,Craig Sylvesterlast_img read more

Rawle Toney thinks young women representing Guyana in basketball were “humiliated”

first_imgDear Editor,One of the headlines in the Sports section of the Guyana Chronicle, “The Nation’s Paper,” dated June 21, 2018, claimed “Guyana humiliated 24-112 by Dominican Republic”. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines humiliation as: “To make someone feel ashamed, or lose respect for himself or herself”.Our young women certainly were not ashamed of their performance, nor did they lose respect for themselves at the June 2018 Caribbean Basketball Confederation Women’s Championships hosted by Suriname. Instead, the Guyanese girls showed the fighting spirit that defines Guyanese, by giving their best effort and playing with a never-quit attitude. The Dominican Republic has medaled thirteen of the twenty-two times they participated in the much higher level Centrobasket, where national teams from Central America and the Caribbean have competed since 1965.Dominican Republic won the Championships three times: in 1977, 2004 and 2012, after first contesting in 1969. Guyana has competed twice at Centrobasket: 1971 and 1973.Toney’s use of the word “humiliation” to describe the loss by our young women is unsuitable and thoughtless; they lost to one of the most dominant teams in Central American and Caribbean Basketball. If Guyana ever gets an opportunity to play the Brazil National Football Team and lose 10-1, Guyanese would celebrate the one goal scored by Guyana.We must look for the positive at all times, and especially in challenging times. Of the twelve players listed on the Guyana Team in their contest against The Dominican Republic, seven are high schoolers, re: President’s College, four; Marian Academy, one; Mackenzie High School, one; and Bishops’ High School, one. The experience these young ladies gained from withstanding the battle charge of the Dominican Republic, by rising again and again to the challenge, augers well for their academic development and their contribution to the development of Guyana.In their game against Suriname, the Guyanese young women were leading by one point at half time, and had stunned and impressed all in attendance. The Guyanese Women overcame many obstacles to participate in the June 2018 FIBA Caribbean Basketball Confederation Women’s Championships hosted by Suriname, and the character strengthening experience reflected Guyana in a positive way; as the young women showed admirable self-esteem, courage, and perseverance. History will show Guyana participated and competed in the Championships; and the experience and benefits gained can never be taken away.To credit and paraphrase Robert A. Heinlein, it is worth repeating: “Victory in defeat, there is none higher. Our young women represent all the unsung heroes who couldn’t make it but never quit.”  Toney is the same journalist who failed to write an article on the fact that our Government did not provide needed funding to support Guyana’s participation in the June 2018 FIBA Caribbean Basketball Confederation Championships hosted by Suriname. Thus, in my opinion, Rawle Toney lacks the courage to challenge spoon-feeding authority. A fundamental principle of journalism is to serve as an independent monitor of power. Toney needs to embrace this principle. I close with a few extracts from the epic poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou: “You may shoot me with your words… But still, like air, I’ll rise. Just like Moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, just like hopes springing high, Still I’ll rise”.Sincerely,Nigel Hindslast_img read more

In Bomi County, FDA Arrests 2 for Selling ‘Dried Bush Meat’

first_imgAgainst the backdrop of the ban on the sale of bush meat on the local markets, agents of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) assigned in Bomi County, have arrested two persons for allegedly being in possession of ‘illegal’ bush meat with the intent to engaging in commercial activity. The men, Morris Sotee and Momo Johnson, were arrested recently following government’s imposition of a ban on the sale of bush meat.This also serves as one of the measures to curb the spread of the Ebola disease across the country, an authority at the FDA has said. A charge sheet signed by the senior magistrate at the Bomi County Magisterial Court, Zuannah Darkoi, informed the Daily Observer via mobile phone over the weekend that Sotee and Johnson were traveling from Gbarpolu County to Monrovia when they were arrested by the FDA personnel at the Klay Checkpoint.They were later charged for being in possessing of a variety of dried bush meat.The charge noted that the vehicle carrying the two men, (license plate number BC 7941), was loaded with the meat.The charge sheet also stated that the defendants’ actions were in violation of Regulation 25 of the 1988 new Wildlife and National Park Law, and the recent ban on such commodities as announced by government.Meanwhile, Sotee and Momo have been released on bail awaiting court trial. In a related development, the Senior Senator of Grand Cape Mount County, Abel Massalay, has called on government to open “a humanitarian corridor” to areas affected by the Ebola Virus, where the movement of the people is restricted under the State of Emergency. He said this was necessary to allow the population access to food, medicine, water and other essentials during the lifespan of the emergency.Senator Massalay expressed fear that failure to open the corridor would result in a serious humanitarian crisis in the Ebola-affected areas, putting the health, safety and security of the people at risk.The Grand Cape Mount Senior Senator also admonished the government to ensure the reopening of all health centers shut down across the country due to the outbreak of the deadly disease to help reduce the increasing non-Ebola death rate among the people.Senator Massalay concluded that information available to him suggested that Liberians are dying from common curable diseases because they do not have access to good health facilities in their areas.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Country Experiencing Breakdowns

first_imgThe Archbishop of the Catholic Church of Liberia has said Liberians need to fast and pray because the nation is experiencing breakdowns in the system due to immoralities and a lack of love amongst Liberians.Archbishop Lewis Ziegler, who was the guest preacher for the climax of the National Fast and Prayer Day service held at Providence Baptist Church, said Liberians needed to “sincerely look at ourselves as individuals and as citizens of this country.”Speaking further the Catholic Archbishop said, “When a nation and its people start to experience breakdowns in certain systems, it is time to stop and turn to God with full heart, mind and strength, to examine ourselves to see where we are, as people of this nation.”The service was held on Friday, April 11, under the auspices of the Liberia Council of Churches. It was attended by an array of government officials including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph Boakai.While delivering the sermon, Archbishop Ziegler asked these questions, “Why must we fast? As a nation in this country, today, why should we fast? Do we have to? And further said, “Yes, we have uncountable reasons why we need to fast; we need to call for a few days to give thanks to God, not only to praise his name, but to sincerely look at ourselves as individuals and as citizens of this country.”“Fasting,” he said, “is medicinal. As such, it is meant to cure a sickness and in this case that sickness is our sin; if rightfully performed like the medicine that is given patients by doctors, fasting will bring changes in the lives of Liberians.”“Madam President, my brothers and sisters of the council, honorable ladies and gentlemen, my dearest brothers and sisters and fellow citizens, it is clear that we know the kind of fasting that God wants from us and it is that which God has requested from us today and in the days, months and years that will follow. This fast is not only for today; it should bring changes in our lives”.According to him, there are uncountable reasons why Liberians should fast and pray because there are many things Liberians take for granted.“My brothers and sisters, let us take a close look at ourselves as we give thanks to God, as we pray to move forward. Let us take a look at our life style, our lack of respect for each other. Who are we?”The Catholic Prelate pointed out that Liberians insult each other publicly, most especially through the media. “We insult our leaders, and sometimes our leaders pay back. We have to stop, look at ourselves, and make that change in our lives. We have deep hatred for each other—very deep, not only on the local level, but also on the political level; this too has to stop if we are to move forward as a people.”Archbishop Ziegler noted that God is looking for justice in Liberia, where every citizen would have a share of the country’s natural resources.“God is looking for justice, God is looking for Love; God is looking for us to share with one another because we are made in the image and likeness of God. What we are to let go of on this day of fasting is not only food and drinks, but to let go of our greed and our selfishness,” the Prelate concluded.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

“Journalists Must Go to School”, INHRC Chairperson, Cllr. Gongloe Recommend

first_imgTwo legal minded Liberians are calling on practicing journalists in Liberia to educate themselves and be conscious of making follow-ups to stories.Former Associate Justice and Chairperson of the Independent National Human Rights Commission, Counselor  Gladys Johnson, and Human Rights Lawyer, Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe made the recommendation on Monday  when they participated in a program marking the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.Taking the first turn as one of the panelists during the occasion, INHRC Chairperson Gladys Johnson recounted that today is unlike the days of President William V.S. Tubman, when no journalist,  except the brave Albert Porte, could write or say anything they wished to say today.The environment has improved for press freedom and impunity reduced.However, former Associate Justice Johnson emphasized that Liberian journalists need to go to school to improve their writing and speaking skills.She said most journalists of today poorly write and speak English, and they do not make follow-up to stories.On the basis of reporting skills, Justice Johnson said most journalists castigate others and put out stories that have no substantial proof.  This, she said, poses negative reflections on an individual’s character.Human rights lawyer, Cllr.  Tiawon Gongloe, making  remarks at the end of the program also emphasized that journalists must seek education and improve their knowledge, noting, “Knowledge is power, seek knowledge and improve yourselves.”He acknowledged that the society cannot operate without security and security cannot operate without the journalists.He said journalists being people who are relied on for accurate information, need to improve their skills to put out accurate information that readers and listeners can trust.Cllr. Gongloe also stressed that Liberian journalists have to give serious attention to education in order to speak and write proper English that others who are not Liberians will understand.Reacting to the recommendation, Liberian practicing Journalist and president of the Reporters Association, Keith Morris,  consented and said Liberian journalists need concrete training that will improve their skills.He added that instead of international organization like IREX using millions of United States dollars to facilitate three days workshop, it should draw a long range plan and liaise with the University of Liberia to arrange Journalism training that would take about 8 to 10 months.Challenges facing the media landscape of Liberia are enormous.  Dialectical English speaking, incomprehensible writing and photo misplacement are among the many errors counted.Audiences have overly complained against sensational headlines based on fallacies while majority who listen to radio have also complained about.People also complain that one person will commit a crime and the head of an institution will be used under the headline as if he/she is the one that committed the crime.There is no standard in Liberia to guide people entering the media to practice Journalism, but people enter therein either by passion or through the influence of a person who wants to establish a radio station or newspaper.By this, managers seek people who will undergo a few days workshop and given recorders to get voices to gather actuality for processing by editors many of who are also facing grammatical challenges.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more


first_imgThere was no need, it seemed to me, to reject outright the outsourcing of the Ebola fight and to insist on Liberians doing it alone, on their own terms, as some significant individuals have suggested. On the other hand, there was also no need to reject, outright, Liberians trying to get a handle on the Ebola epidemic by doing it on their own as a sovereign nation. The truth, it seems, is somewhere in the middle and that is what Dr. Dunn (The Liberian Observer September 10, 2014 and The Perspective September 11, 2014 and Mr. Morlu (The Perspective September 9, 2014 have provided for us. What we need is a constructive cooperation, a partnership, with the international health organizations, identified both by Morlu and Dunn, to battle and win the fight against this Ebola scourge. These organizations, in addition to the financial resources they can bring also have the needed technical and scientific skills and the accumulated historical knowledge to help the Ebola situation significantly. With such a joint venture between Liberia and the international health organizations we can learn and get the expertise and resources which may help us to set up lasting institutions of our own to combat future crises. I commend Dunn and Morlu for providing us the framework for such a cooperative undertaking. Let us combine their two recommendations to form the base organization for  the cooperative venture to fight the scourge of Ebola.Dr. Dunn provided us the international framework for such a cooperative venture. The five points he recommended for accomplishing this international cooperative venture should be taken seriously and implemented immediately. His call for prominent African leaders including our own Madam Leymah Gbowee to respond openly and actively to the crisis is significant in expanding the context.And it is his call for prominent African leaders including our Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Leymah Gbowee that connects his recommendations to the three-point recommendation of Mr. John Morlu 111. Mr. Morlu frames his recommendations with a focus on Liberian participation and he recommends significant Liberians to be included, such as Senator Nyonblee Kanga-Lawrence and one could add Madam Gbowee to this list. To this Liberian list I will suggest adding: The Dean of the Arthur Grimes Law School, Professor David A. B. Jallah, Dr. Joe Diggs, Mr. Kenneth Best, Mr. John Morlu 111, Dr. Ayele Ajavon and Dr. Elwood Dunn. These plus others could form the Liberian contingent of the Ebola Eradication group. As both Dunn and Morlu suggested, the international health organizations like MSF, WHO etc, can name those who will constitute their contingent and the two groups will form the institutional base for the fight against Ebola. Of course the American military can help as they have started to do but they will have to be under the over all rubric of this organization. This group or institution will have to be given the legal and constitutional basis for functioning in Liberia. It is urgent that we establish this immediately.However, all these will not work and the monies and resources generated can easily be swallowed up and squandered if there is no transparency or accountability. This, to me, is the significance of Mr. Morlu’s insistence that the institution so set up “Ask the European Union or American Government to appoint a Chief Accountant … to manage the Ebola money. This will send a clear message that Liberia is ready for accountability”. This, in my judgment, is very important because corruption has, for long, crippled and incapacitated us in building our Nation. Corruption is not only eating up our resources and exporting them to the developed countries but also consuming our birthright in the lots and property we sell or mortgage to foreigners. We need a credible outside accountant to control the recalcitrant edges of our loose and undisciplined money-management habits.Dr. Dunn and Mr. Morlu 111 have given us the framework for a viable organization to combat Ebola in Liberia. Let us move very fast in implementing their recommendations.About the authorDr. Igolima T. D. Amachree can be reached at or this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Ebola Affects Farm Yields in Bong

first_imgGarmai Tokpah harvesting her rice in Taylor Town, Ebola affected communityThe Ebola outbreak in Liberia has disrupted agricultural activities and threatened food security affecting the livelihood of many people in Bong County.Bong, which is considered one of the food producing counties in Liberia, is experiencing a huge decline in food production for the local markets as a result of the Ebola virus in the county.During an assessment conducted by the Daily Observer last weekend in communities that were greatly affected by the Ebola disease, it was observed that inhabitants in those communities including areas that were not quarantined have cut down their regular diet due to food insecurity.In Gbarnga City, this paper also established that some residents have reduced their regular diet as the result of low supply of locally produced foods on the market.It was confirmed by this reporter that farmers in Ebola affected communities have had their farming activities considerably disrupted by the Ebola outbreak resulting in a significant slump in rice production.“I am finding it extremely difficult to provide food for my family. My family has to starve the whole day just to save a bit of food for the day” said Lorpu-Kollie Tokpa, a farmer in Barlakerthela, one of the hardest hit Ebola communities in the county.It was also noticed by this paper that farmers who produce cocoa complained of their commodity rotting because cocoa buyers are frightened to risk going into Ebola-affected communities to purchase their crop.“Many migrant workers, who normally help with harvesting our cocoa have slowed down their activities for fear of contracting the disease. I used to harvest my produce up to 75 bags but now 20 bags are difficult to yield,” Mr. David Kermue a cocoa farmer in Taylor Town lamented.It was observed by this reporter that closed markets and interruption in trade as well as the restriction on the movement of people have led to acute shortages of food in many communities in Bong County, particularly those communities that are affected by the Ebola virus disease.Our survey revealed that land that was cleared for farming was not planted due to the Ebola outbreak in the country and many farmers had to migrate compelling them to abandon their farms.  This paper was informed that during this harvest season in Liberia many of the farmers who were affected by the virus are terrified to go back to their farms to harvest and are also afraid to take their produce to the local markets because of the low purchasing power of consumers.  The price of imported rice, the country’s staple food, has increased while locally produced commodities decreased in quantity owing to the fact that household incomes have substantially dwindled compelling families to cut down the number of daily meals.According to Stephen Matthews, the Agriculture Commissioner on Communal Farming at the Ministry of Internal Affairs assigned in Bong County, one of the factors responsible for the decrease in food production is government’s pronouncement against people gathering in large groups.   This Ebola preventive measure against large gatherings affects the traditional cooperative system “kuu” which entails farmers grouping together to harvest or work in each other’s fields.    Mr. Matthews told this paper that the county will likely face the threat of severe food shortages because farmers particularly in rural communities that were greatly affected by the Ebola disease are not willing to return to their farms for fear of contracting the virus.“The catastrophes after Ebola will be the calamitous food scarcities, price hikes and food insecurity in this county,” Mr. Matthews warned.Many of the Gbarnga residents who spoke with this newspaper advanced that the international community and the Government of Liberia strengthen strategic institutions such as the hospitals and the agriculture sectors in the post Ebola crisis in order for the country to regain its food production capacity.The citizens maintained that families be provided with food assistance and that GOL promote food security and encourage social development in communities at risk.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

1,500 Rural Trained Teachers’ Hopes Revived, But…

first_imgSince the civil war, over 100 public schools in rural Liberia have persistently shown no sign of academic improvement because of the lack of trained teachers.There is a persistent gap in the performance, achievement and results between rural and urban students, except for a few rural schools run by concessions and churches, which are narrowing the gap, according to an ongoing audit of rural education by the Committee on Education and Public Administration of the House of Representatives.A member of the Secretariat of the House Committee, who requested anonymity, told the Daily Observer over the weekend that “the Ministry of Education is yet to develop a targeted and comprehensive strategy to overcome commonly understood learning barriers.  These include the failure to employ qualified teachers, the lack of laboratory and library facilities needed to strengthen the rural workforce and improve the quality of life for rural Liberians.”The source said there are significant gaps in educational attainment as well as in the quality and availability of healthcare between rural and urban communities.  These gaps arise in part because rural areas face several unique challenges in achieving high-quality education and health care.The source further said that in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the USAID Liberia Teacher Training Program is   supporting the Rural Teacher Training Institutes in Zorzor, Kakata and Webbo.  The goal, said the source, is to develop teacher standards, improve curricula, provide teaching and learning resources and, through school-based teacher training, implement Liberia’s national plan to ensure that all children are reading by the end of grade three.The House Committee on Education and Public Administration is also investigating why some of the trained teachers from rural training institutions are yet to be given assignments and placed on payroll amid the so-called search for qualified teachers to be deployed across the country.The Committee is chaired by Rep. Matthew Zarzar and co-chaired by Rep. C. Alex Grant. The members are Representatives Ben Fofana, Edward Forh, Fofi Sahr Biamba, Mariamu Fofana and Christian Chea.The Plenary of the House mandated the Committee last Tuesday, February 3, based on a communication from Rep. Johnson T. Chea of Electoral District 1, River Gee County.According to the River Gee Lawmaker, if trained teachers from reputable institutions of rural training find it difficult to get assignments and placements on Government payroll for the effective development of the children, Liberia cannot boast of any bright future for its rural dwellers.Citing the provision of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child, Rep. Chea declared that education is a fundamental right for every child in spite of location, economic background or affiliation, among other things.“We cannot deny our children this right. We need to act not tomorrow, but now as we set the pace in preparing our precious jewels for tomorrow,” the lawmaker asserted in his communication.He maintained that government must take the necessary action to ensure that qualified teachers are hired and placed on Government payroll.The Committee is expected to review and advise plenary on Tuesday, 17 February. The question is, will the Liberian Government employ and deploy those 1,500 trained teachers in rural schools to improve the education sector in the interior?It may be recalled that prior to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), 156 graduates from the Zorzor Rural Teacher Training Institute (ZRTTI) were awarded pre-service “C” certificates, qualifying them to teach at the primary school level.The Director of the ZRTTI, Dr. Advertus Orea Wright, awarded the certificates along with one of two Peace Corps Volunteers who worked with the institution during the teacher training.The graduates, mostly between the ages of 25 and 35, hailed from Lofa, Bong and Nimba counties.They are the most recent addition to a new cadre of teachers being trained by the Government of Liberia, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to ensure that qualified teachers are placed in classrooms across the country.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Independence Day Orator Full Speech: “Requirements for Consolidating Progress towards Transformation of Liberia”

first_imgLiberian medical doctor, scientist and inventor, Dougbeh Chris NyanThank you very much for that warm introduction. I am very happy to be back home on the soil of Liberia – the Land of the Free – a country in which my navel string was buried.Over the years, I have come to observe and realize that no matter where you are on this Planet Earth, no matter who you are, and no matter what you have become over the years, your heart still yearns for your natural point of origin and birth. And so, I am back home and very thankful to Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the people of Liberia for this great honor to serve as National Orator for this year’s July 26 Independence Day Commemoration. Times have changed as this instance demonstrates how far our country has come as a nation. We live in a unique country as exemplified by me, a simple and common man, standing at this podium to deliver what is one of the most honorable orations in this country. That is why I thank you, Madam President and the people of Liberia for considering me to speak to the nation and the world during this Independence Day Commemoration. At this juncture, I would very much appreciate were everyone to please stand so that we can observe a moment of silence for all our compatriots who lost their lives, most especially for the death which has hit this government in the last few days – Minister McClain’s passing. Thank you!!!Madam President, HE Ellen Johnson-SirleafMr. Vice President, HE Joseph N. BoakaiHonorable Chief Justice and members of the JudiciaryMembers of the Legislative Branch of GovernmentMembers of the Cabinet of the Republic of LiberiaMembers of the Diplomatic Corps and other Foreign Dignitaries Here PresentRepresentatives of the Mano River Union (MRU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWA), the United Nations (UN), and UNMILOfficials and Leaders of Political Parties here presentThe gallant people, sons and daughters of Liberia here at home and in the Diaspora, People of Africa and Global human-collectiveLadies and GentlemenExactly One Hundred and Sixty-Nine (169 years) ago, our founding fathers bravely declared Liberia’s independence to the whole world. As of this date in 1847, Liberia became a sovereign nation, making Liberia the first independent democratic country on the African Continent. History documents that Liberia was never colonized, nor occupied by any European colonial power. Today we gather in this great Hall celebrating another year into our existence as a sovereign nation. Men, women, and children in the villages, in the towns and cities all over this country and in the Diaspora are celebrating this historic day. Thus, we are gathered here mindful of the fundamental human principles upon which this nation was created – that is: freedom, justice, liberty, and respect for human dignity.While I do not intend to lecture you on the History of Liberia, I nevertheless invite you to take a brief reflection of the struggles and the yearnings of our founding fathers for this nation. Freed or escaped from slavery, our fore-fathers returned for this beautiful and peaceful land to establish a country of free men and women in the 1800s.Encountering series of conflicts and their resolutions for peaceful co-existence, Liberia was founded and our founding parents finally realized their dream of returning to their Continent of origin, free from slavery, free from servitude, and free from dehumanization in the Americas. From then on, we established a democracy and embarked on building a nation that was envisioned to be a replica of the socio-economic and political ssystem of the United States of America. Throughout our history, we are reminded of what occurred among us as people and citizens of this nation. We witnessed series of conflicts between the “settlers” and the aborigines – we partially resolved that. We went through a period of the struggle for multiparty democracy – we made enormous progress at attempting to achieve it. We experienced the military coup d’état of 1980 which trampled on the little democratic footprints our fore-parents had established and this threw us backwards. Then came the 14-year civil war which rained death on the people and destroyed everything that this nation struggled to build: the civil war destroyed our infrastructure, destroyed the fabric of our society, destroyed precious lives, internally displaced our population, sent the Liberian people into refugee camps and dispersed Liberians all over the world. We thought all hope was lost, but when the last peace accord was signed and our brothers and sisters stood at the Gabriel Tucker Bridge, laid down their weapons of civil destruction and shook hands with each other, we once again regained our hopes and acquired a renewed spirit, that resilient and passionate Liberian spirit which ushered in the rebirth of our democracy in 1997. Then, in October 2005 Liberians boldly demonstrated their will to bounce back again in a democratic election that produced the first female democratically elected President in Africa – Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. As we gathered in this great Hall today, we should ask ourselves: after 169 years of existence what have we done, what have we achieved, what accomplishment can we make better, what could we tell our fore-parents if they were sitting in this Pavilion today. You see, it took about a combined 142 year to build Liberia by ourselves without any colonial master. Then, it took us as little as 10 years to destroy 142 years of hard work. We inflicted maxim damage on ourselves in so short a time. So, how long do we think it would take us to rebuild this country and bring it back to its pre-war status? Let us think about it for a moment. Did we make any PROGRESS? I pose the question in this way …. specifically highlighting the word “PROGRESS”, because I see the glass as half-full and optimistic about the future of this country called “LIBERIA.” Some may argue “YES” and some may say “NO”. To me, either answer is relative, because we have made some progress, yet still there is a lot to be done in our democracy, in our educational system, in our health care system, in our economy, on gender issues, and in many aspect of the lives of the Liberian people.On my way here to the great Republic of Liberia I met a young, bright fellow at the airport in the Washington DC area. He lives and works in Liberia. While waiting to board our flight to Brussels, I engaged in a candid dialogue about Liberia and its future. He confirms that some progress have been made, but there are challenges. Thus, when asked to speak on the topic, “Consolidating Progress Towards Transformation”, I quickly came to the realization that our discussion should not be fixed in this direction. Instead, I rearrange the theme to open up a national dialogue utilizing an upgraded topic “Requirements for Consolidating the Progress Towards the Transformation of Liberia.” I believe that by this, as a people emerging from a civil war, we will set guidelines and benchmarks, and properly suggest practically approaches for consolidation and transforming Liberia to meet the challenges of our time. First let us look at from whence we recently emerged. For a long time, the Liberian people have opted for a peaceful and non-violent democratic change transformation of government when in April 1980 the military intervened and ruled the country for about 10 years. Then, in December 1989, a civil war was launched in this country that led to the killings of over quarter of a million innocent people in Liberia and lasted for about 14 years. Did these events solve any problem or did they only create a vicious circle of blood-shed, agony, despair, destruction of infrastructure and national set-back in our onward advance to progress?*The guns have since been silenced, refugees have been returning home, and people have been trying to rebuild their lives. As we can see, this country is on the path to progress however steady the pace may be now. As one of the notable achievements, every Liberian can undeniably point to the fact Liberians have lived in peace in the last 10+ years. Madam President, we whole heartedly thank you, the people of Liberia and the international community for keeping the peace. Peace is what we needed. Peace is that we cried for. Peace is what we got when our African brothers and sisters and the international intervened.Now that we have peace, we must strongly protect it as a precious commodity. We cannot allow this peace to be threatened by anyone. That is why the Liberian people must unite against individuals who will attempt to start another war in this country. In River Gee, Maryland, Grand Kru, Grand Gedeh and Sinoe, we want no more war; in Nimba, Bong, Lofa, Gbarpolu, and Bassa, we want no more war; in Montserrado, Margibi, Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, and Rivercess, we want no more war. All we want is peace. If you want to fight, then fight poverty, fight ignorance – let the pencils be our guns and the papers our bullets; fight diseases – let the syringes be our guns and the solutions be our bullets; fight corruption – let sincerity be our guns and honesty be our bullets; fight against hatred – let love be our guns and peace be our bullets. Let us encourage each other with progressive ideas so as to rebuild this country and once again make Liberia the pride of Africa and envy of the world. This is the Liberia we must continue to build.The achievement of peace provides us an opportunity and at the same time imposes upon us the obligation of rebuilding our democracy. In the process of raising this country from the ashes of war, we have encountered numerous challenges as a nation. These challenges are not a Unity Party challenge, these are not challenges of the Congress for Democratic Change and these are not challenges for any of the opposition parties alone, but these are challenges for all Liberians to brave and address so as to uphold our institutions and maintain our national existence.*We are aware that throughout history, democratic nations have grown and societies have survived, because they have been able to establish governing institutions and strengthen their administrative structures. One way to achieve this is by ensuring mutual respect. The rule of law must supersede individual status in society or position; it must respect the rights of the common man; tribalism and ethnic politics must give way to our common national interest; the role of watch-dog groups must be increased. Institutions like the press, advocacy group, civil society groups are all entities that have a critical role to play in sustaining our democracy. The expression of free will and political demonstration should not take the form violence or of the destruction of the properties of innocent people and businesses.As we discuss transforming the Liberian society for a better future, let us look at an important indicator of development, the challenges we face, and how we can mitigate them. One such challenge in our population is the very high illiteracy rate. UNESCO 2010 data show Liberia with a youth literacy rate of 54.5%, with 64.7% for males and only 44% for females. The adult literacy rate is 47.6% with 62.42% for male and 32.8% for females. We know that low levels of literacy, and education in general, can impede the economic development of a country in the current rapidly changing, technology-driven world. We agree that the devastating civil war led to the destruction of educational infrastructures and flight of trained teachers, thus contributing to the poor quality of primary, secondary, and tertiary education in the country. Far more concerning is the increasing gender gap, whereby the female gender in this country is lagging behind. While international aid agencies may help to address these problems, we cannot surrender our responsibility to these outside agencies. We should establish programs that will address this situation. What we need is the requisite financial and material support, and the proper accommodating atmosphere here at home. This will attract highly skilled Liberian educators who are capable of performing the identical task of educational reform so that this important aspect of our nation’s life is not dependent on aid agencies. We must ensure that the teachers who teach our children are themselves well-trained to be in the class room. When trained, teachers should then be given good incentives to keep them in the class rooms at their places of assignments throughout the country. We have to invest in our Teacher’s Training Institutes. The educational system must transition to producing graduates with employable and marketable skills; it must also focus on vocational education. In this vein, I proposes the establishment of a program that will recruit skilled Liberian educational experts from around the world, provide them with incentives and bring them back home to work in curriculum development, teacher-training, engage in teaching and the overall reform and transformation of the Liberian educational systems to surpass its pre-war status. Liberians are smart people. Whatever any foreign expert is brought in this country to do, I believe that there are Liberians of equal or better expertise to perform similar duty. Over the last century and a half, we have been bridled with a silent question about our national outlook. We are Liberians and that I know very well. But, have we ever discussed or thought about examining what our national identity is, that is what defines us as Liberians? What really binds us together as Liberians? What can we point to as that single most uniting force, principle, or philosophy that connects us to each other? These are important questions that we must ponder over. At this critical juncture in the national existence of Liberia, we cannot wait any longer on theories, instead we must act and take practically steps in defining our national identity. But allow me to suggest this if there is none that we can really point to, then we need to mobilize around the spirit of “UNITY.” For, we need unity more than ever before, as we have recently emerged from a period of self-destruction during the civil conflict. I believe that there is much more that unites us as Liberians or people of Liberian origin than that which divides us. For if we are united, we can draw up enough strength, work together to consolidate any progress we accomplish and build a viable nation that generations to come will appreciate. My fellow countrymen and women, UNITY is a required element and a driving force in the transformation of this society for a better Liberia. So, let us unite!!!Liberia and its growing democracy has come a long way. Significant strides have been made towards the goal of consolidating a workable democratic process and culture that the Liberian society is now experiencing. After the brutal civil war, we have had two successive democratic elections, elections in which several political parties participated. With over 20 political parties in a population of about 4.5 million people, Liberia can literally boast of practicing multi-party democracy during the last 10+ years. This is something we should be proud of and which demonstrates a notable achievement by all Liberians. In Liberia’s political past, opposition political parties were seen as enemies and banned from operating. Opposition leaders were often imprisoned or forced into exile. Today, we are witnessing an emerging atmosphere and a period wherein political parties are operating without fear of being banned. No democracy is prefect. What we now have is working and can be built upon. Political parties and their leaders have to be committed to democratic values to make Liberia’s democracy better. Also, we must institutionalize the core values of democracy and deepen its practice in order to avoid another breakdown of our society. We have to practice the kind of constructive politics that encourages the Liberian people and allows for popular participation in national life. Therefore, fellow Liberians let your voices be heard through the ballot box without resorting to violence. All of us have the responsibility to consolidate and maintain the peace. The oppositions have been doing well thus far, and there is a role and contribution of the media, civil society and state political institutions in consolidating this democratization process for the transformation of the Liberian society. I have hope that the interest of Liberia shall prevail. Let us put Liberia first.As I said previously, none of us can claim that our growing democracy has been all perfect. Yet, let us come together and unite with the singular purpose of sustaining this new democratic path to our future so that generations to come will treasure it. With all the problems our democracy have experienced in the past, and what we see occurring in other African countries today, let us take pride in the fact that Her Excellency Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf respected the presidential term-limit of the Liberian constitution and did not run for a third term. This single most important act by our current president did not plunge this nation into a constitutional crisis as we are seeing in other African countries. Instead, everyone is now gearing up for the next presidential and legislative elections in 2017, the third since 2005 at the end of the civil war. As the next electoral season draws nearer, I caution all leaders of political parties against making inflamed statements that have the propensity of leading to violence or intimidating the voting public.Remember that you as opposition parties have a big role to play in nurturing our growing democracy. Your contribution to the transformation of this country requires opposition political parties to constructively critique the government, analyze government policies without malice; you can criticize in a mature way, using facts and evidence (not innuendos); you should also suggest practical solutions that will move this country forward. This requirement is fundamental to consolidating peace and progress in this country’s transformation into a viable democracy. Consolidating the democratic gains and transforming our society must go hand-in-hand with good governance. Our governing structures must fully empower the Liberian people so that the people are able to express grievances, seek justice and fair play, as well as demand and shape better policies. Marching into the future, we must ensure that public institutions are able to effectively and honestly manage public resources and conduct public affairs in a manner that is free of corruption and abuses, and upholds the rule of law. We must boldly hold leaders accountable for their actions as public servants when they abuse their power or indulge in corruption. And that is exactly what the Liberian people have witnessed in the last several weeks when the government initiated legal actions in the Sable Mining Company Corruption Case that involved several government officials. Both the Liberian people and the international community have applauded the government for the actions taken in this case, demonstrating that no one is above the law, and that Liberia belongs to all, not a few. I applaud the efforts of our fellow Liberians who have returned home to help in the rebuilding-process of this great nation. It takes sacrifices and love for country to leave the luxury of Europe and America, Australia and other advance countries to come home to contribute to the rebuilding-process of our country. You have endured and stood the test of time. And for this I say thank you again. I also say thank you to other nationals who have come to contribute to the rebuilding process of Liberia. To Liberians living in the Diaspora, I admonish you to evaluate your individual circumstances and consider returning home to contribute to the reconstruction and transformation of the country. This is the one and only Liberia we have – a once peaceful and steadily prosperous nations. Our skills and expertise in business, medicine, science and technology, agriculture, education, law enforcement, etc. are needed to help propel Liberia through the challenges we are faced with. As this is a two-way avenue, the government of Liberia should play its part by creating the atmosphere and condition that will encourage or incentivize Diaspora expertise to return.This is not to say that the Liberian Diaspora has been neglecting Liberia. Far from that, the Diaspora has played and continues to play a crucial role in supporting the transformation of this country. Our efforts should be recognized for more than just the monetary contribution to the Liberia economy through our remittances. During the Ebola outbreak, for example, many Liberian organizations and groups came together under the umbrella “Liberia Diaspora Emergency Response Task Force on the Ebola Crisis” in order to help the country and the region fight the Ebola epidemic. We collaborated with several international and local groups including philanthropic and peace organizations and assisted Liberia and the sub-region with medical and relief supplies. I testified before the United States Congress on September 17, 2014 on behalf of the Diaspora Task Force on the Ebola Crisis to mobilize material support for the Ebola-affected region, advocated for the establishment of a Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Africa (mainly in our sub-region) and advocated for a sustainable post-Ebola recovery support. During the same time President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf sent out an SOS call to the world. Through the combined efforts of the government and the Diaspora, Liberia and the other ebola-affected countries received huge assistance from the US, China, Cuba and other countries who committed either military and medical personnel to help fight the Ebola outbreak in Liberia and sub-region; ultimately, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for Africa was established and situated in Addis Ababa. Diaspora medical and scientific expertise (including myself) worked with other scientists and doctors during the PREVAIL Ebola vaccine clinical trials. We help to ensure that the clinical trials were conducted within ethical and internationally acceptable standards. We must applaud the Liberian government for its undaunted courage to participate in the PREVAIL Ebola vaccine trials. This was an exceptional contribution to global health in the search for a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus disease. The people of this great country Liberia and all those who were in the frontline deserve a big thank you for your resilience and determination to defeat the Ebola virus disease. This is the Liberian spirit that I know. This is the Liberia I know we must build. But the Ebola virus is not gone away completely. We have seen some flare-ups in recent months which were contained. We are also confronted with a multiplicity of other infectious diseases in this country and the region – malaria, thyphoid, Lassa fever, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, just to name a few. And we know that the Liberian health care system still has many challenges, but is slowly recovering. That is why we also propose that Liberia commit a lion-share of the national budget to health in general and financial resources for the establishment of its own Center for Disease Control and Prevention. We need to train public health professionals at least at the Master’s Degree level. We should not be contended with these haphazard short-term 3-4 months training of people in the field of public health. That is absolutely not sufficient. We need to train Liberia’s own corps of scientists who will devote their time to the biomolecular studies of infectious diseases, including Ebola, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, Malaria, Tuberculosis, Zika, etc. etc. We need to closely collaborate with other countries in the region to conduct effect infectious diseases surveillance and exchange vital public health information; we need to develop our own rapid diagnostic capability for early diagnostic testing for infectious diseases. We need to study the Ebola virus ourselves and study the survivals of EVD ourselves.Well, we do not need to look too far, for standing before you is your son, who has invented a simple, rapid, and affordable test that can detect many infectious pathogens and tell the differences between and among the pathogens at the same time in just 10 to 40 minutes. In consultation with my research Team, I am proud to declare that we are prepared to make my invention and our technology available to Liberia, the Mano River Union (MRU), and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to invest in the development, production, and commercialization of my diagnostic technology which will contribute to the fight against infectious diseases in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Africa, and the whole world. This government should act promptly in working out the mechanism, for the diseases are not waiting on us, but can strike any minute and cross international borders again. This is a practical path to contributing to the transforming Liberia’s diagnostic capability and that of the other countries and improving the health care systems here in Liberia and the world.As we celebrate this our 169th Independence Day today in this country, it will not be fair if we ignore the concerns of our women. There is a situation of the challenging quality of life of our female gender in Liberia. This is manifested in the form of educational disparity and other uncountable problems. We have to collectively address these problems. While government is charged with the responsibility of providing a programmatic framework to address the gender question, government alone cannot solve this problem. First, it has to start from the decisions made in the homes about available opportunities, within the family unit which is the basic structure of human society. In the family, parents will have to understand that girls have the right to education just as boys. Girls must be given the same educational opportunities as boys. We must remove adverse cultural practices that create barriers toward schooling for girls, and reinforce the importance of investing in the future of our young women for the benefit of the country and its future. Women can do anything that a man can do. God did not make women to only be bear our children; why can’t we still see that woman can be ministers, doctors, lawyers, legislators, pilots and Presidents too. It comes down as a challenge to our Liberian men to ensure that our daughters, our wives, our sisters, our mothers, our aunties are first respected and provided the same opportunities available for the male gender in our respective families. Women I am with you all the way. Men we know each other…I will keep my radar on you. Growing up in this country, we lived in multiethnic communities, played with and went to school with children of other religions and Christian denominations. We saw the Jehovah Witnesses distributing the “Watch Tower” booklets in our communities, we also saw some of our friends of the Seven Days Adventist going to church on Saturdays. We ourselves went to Church on Sundays. It did not affect anyone of us. Also, we saw our friends and their parents going to the Mosque on Fridays for prayers. In Liberia, marriages between Christians and Muslims are common. This relationship has been peacefully accommodated by both sides over the years. And so, one virtue we have to require ourselves is “tolerance”. Our founding fathers were mindful of the freedom of religion and separation of Church and State. This has worked for our democracy over the years. Therefore, we should not invite or create a Christian-Muslim conflict that does not exist in this country. In the interest of Liberia, let us advocate for a Liberia in which our republic has no religious designation – not an Islamic/Muslim Republic and not a Christian Republic, but the one and only Republic of Liberia. When we look around us, we see other societies moving ahead and advancing in science and technology. They are progressing so much that when you look at our situation, you wonder what is holding us back. Thus what interest me recently is my interaction with few of our educated friends on a social media, Facebook. There was a post showing an Ethiopian weaving the traditional fabric using a weaver traditionally constructed made of sticks or woods. From my observation, the reaction I posted in part was, “This traditional African technology needs to be modernized….” Then I saw someone replying to my comment saying, “we don’t need to modernize an authentic African tradition….” Then another person replied in support of the one who replied to my comments and said, “agreed! The authenticity of tradition remains “As Is”. Although change is good, we lose the richness of our heritage with modernization and upgrades.” Well, I was totally shocked about these two responses to my simple comments. Then I quickly realized that our desire to progress as a society is sometimes held back by the resistance of some members of society who do understand contemporary need for technological advancement. Here, I am advocating for technological advancement, while two other educated people are promoting backwardness and stagnation. They would want our children to use slates and chalk, instead of notebooks and pens; they would want us to still be using typewriters, instead of computers; they would want us to ride on a donkeys and not in automobiles; and, they would want us to use telex, instead of email. The interesting part of this is that these two persons were communicating their messages using high-speed internet and computer to argue against advance technology. Nevertheless, we must be continue to be innovative and determined to implement new ideas that will promote the advancement of our society and country. Madam President and people of Liberia, in order to be able to compete in almost every aspects of global activities, we need to technologically equip our people. May the government please continue the good efforts of rehabilitating the Mount Coffe Hydro Plant (which is almost completed) and other electrification projects so that electricity will be expanded to other areas of the country; please continue the hard work in the pavement of the roads to extend them from Ganta to Maryland (Cape Palmas) and from Bong to Lofa; In addition, the peace and democracy which have been achieved are valuable assets that we must all protect. Let us take into consideration all of outlined requirements as enumerated in consolidating progress towards the transformation of the Liberian society. We have suffer for too long for this country. When I say we, I mean all the genuine human rights and democratic advocates, student activists, journalists, leaders of political parties in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s and the progressives who played a major role in the process for the democratization of Liberia over the years. For standing with the poor and the oppressed people of Liberia, we were arrested, imprisoned, tortured, exiled, and some of our compatriots executed. We have committed no crime other than persecuting the struggle for socio-economic justice in Liberia and supporting the liberation struggle of the Southern African countries from colonialism. Progressives are advocates for the oppressed and for equal rights in society. We dedicated ourselves to the struggle with passion. We made enormous sacrifices during our time in the fight for democracy and social justice against the military dictatorship of the 80’s. We dedicated our lives for the attainment of fair play in this society. We put our lives on the line day-in and day-out for a peaceful and democratic change of government. Take a look at the current progressive trend in the Democratic Party of the USA that has sharpened the debate on equality and social justice in America this year. So, being a progress is something to be very proud of and nothing to be ashamed of or apologize for. We did what was right and we will do it all over again for our people. Long live Liberia, God bless Liberia and our people.Thank youShare this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

In Nimba, J. J. Roberts’ Day Snubbed

first_imgEven though the commemoration of President Joseph Jenkins Roberts’ birthday as a holiday was observed with all business places closed, little is known of the importance of the occasion in Nimba County.On local radio talk shows, many citizens advised the government to abolish the celebration of this holiday, because they said it lacks importance to society as J. J. Roberts did not do anything that can be talked about. There were no special events held in his memory in towns and villages around Nimba County. Business places were partially open during the morning hours, but by afternoon, Gompa City Inspectors were seen going around closing the partially opened businesses.Some of the callers said the government should not celebrate the birthdays of the individual presidents (J. J. Roberts and William V. S. Tubman) separately, but instead create one memorial day for all the presidents of Liberia.“I am not interested in any of these celebrations, especially like J. J. Roberts or William V. S. Tubman, because they hinder the movement of business,” Saye Lakpor, a caller said on Radio Saclepea.“Why are we celebrating J. J. Roberts’ birthday?” inquired Paul, a businessman. “What really did he do that’s worth remembering?”Every business activity in the county was stalled, with even commercial motorcycle riders complaining of lack of passengers. As one rider put it, “this holiday is too hard compared to other holidays. People are not moving like on other holidays when people go around visiting friends and loved ones, so then why are we celebrating it?” he asked.Despite the complaints, in Saclepea, the Old Timers of Saclapea held a friendly soccer encounter with officers of the Liberia National Police to commemorate the birthday of Liberia’s first President, who was also the first President of an African nation.The key reason for people downplaying the celebration of this day is because the government failed to organize a national occasion that could be symbolically celebrated in every provincial capital, one of the callers said.“Our people are not informed about the important role our first president played; even who he really was; what he did during and after the declaration of independence in 1847,”the caller added.President Joseph Jenkins Roberts was born in Norfolk, Virginia, USA, in 1809. He came to Liberia at the age of 20 in 1829, along with his mother and brothers.Before becoming a politician, upon their arrival in Liberia he became a merchant, involved in exporting ivory, palm products and camwood. In 1838, he became a sheriff in charge of the militia to collect taxes from the indigenous people and to resist the rebellion that originated from that exercise.He was later appointed as deputy governor to Governor Thomas Buchanan, who was then governor of the American Colonization Society (ACS), and upon his death, Roberts succeeded him as Governor of Buchanan.Roberts advocated intensely for Liberia’s independence, and in 1847 Liberia gained her independence. On October 5, 1847, Governor Roberts was elected the first President of Liberia and was sworn into office on January 3, 1848.President Joseph Jenkins Roberts was again elected as President, when Edwin James Roye was deposed from office, owing to cancelation of elections and during this time also Liberia was facing a financial crisis.Prior to his death on February 24, 1876, President Roberts turned over US$10,000 and an estate to the Liberia Education System for the education of the poor.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more