Let’s Set Better Precedence: Liberty Party-USA Petition Liberians
First Released October 2011
First let us thank our Standard Bearer, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine, and our Vice Standard Bearer, Senator Franklin Obed Siakor, for excellence in leadership in steering a professional, responsible and respectful Presidential campaign. They have raised the bar on the character and standard of political leaders in the political process. I also want to thank all the supporters and sympathizers of Liberty Party who have worked very hard over the last few years to build an institution of ideas. Liberty Party has shown Liberians the path for opposition political parties to follow, a path that stays clear of violence, provocative statements, disrespect to the office of the President, and disrespect to other opposition parties. We have shown that change in Liberia must start with the process leading to victory at the polls, not afterwards. We have shown that we should differ on ideas, not on our values as Liberians or our worth as a people. This has been our commitment to Liberia, a commitment rooted in our ardent desire for reconciliation and healing of the Nation, respect for the rule of law, and reformation of the values that govern our country.
Over the last five years, we have critiqued several of the policies and activities of the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; however, we have done so with the utmost respect for the office and her person, something that is rare in Liberian politics. We have used verifiable, often published data and international best practice as the basis for our critiques. Our critiques have never been characterized by insults and disrespect for the highest office in Liberia, and each contained a proposal and recommendation for righting the wrong we pointed out. It is time we teach the next generation that it is possible to disagree while living, playing and working together. Our exchange of ideas should be free of insults, derogatory personal attacks and dangerous statements that insinuate or encourage violence. Liberty Party-USA continues to disagree with the path this administration is taking to lead Liberia, one we feel repeats the same mistakes and failed policies of previous administrations.
During the past six years, the President was all too focused on the task of impressing the International Community without exerting the same effort to impress Liberians at home. And this conclusion is just not ours. A recent Newsweek article states the following: “As president, Johnson Sirleaf has received numerous international accolades…But back home in Liberia, the atmosphere is far less cordial. As she runs for a second term as president, the 72-year-old Johnson Sirleaf has been booed and heckled.” While we do not encourage or support anyone heckling or booing the President, we believe these acts (as distasteful as they may be) reflect the people’s disappointment, frustration and anger with an administration that has failed them and a President who has not done much domestically to improve the living conditions of the average Liberian.
As we approach elections day, the impact of not attending to the needs of the average Liberian is getting clearer to the President and the handlers of her campaign. They are now realizing that the votes to elect a President do not come from the International Community, they come from Liberians, most of whom are disappointed, angry and dissatisfied with their living conditions. Had the administration worked on solving both domestic issues (reconciliation, corruption, high unemployment rates, inadequate healthcare access, poor education systems, underperforming justice and judicial systems, as well as absence of youth development-centric programs), and our international relations, Liberty Party and the opposition would not have the tremendous level of support and turnout we’ve seen since the start of the campaign season. In short, the administration is vulnerable in this election, and it is largely because the average Liberian is yet to experience improvement in their living condition.
After more than five years and more than US$1.5 billion in foreign aid, Liberia is the world’s third poorest nation (International Monetary Fund) and the world’s most corrupt nation (Transparency International). The good work the International community has done to reduce the interest (Liberia is not debt free, it still has millions in debt) on Liberia’s debt burden is undermined by massive and debilitating corruption. The government’s boast of growth is one that is without development, a jobless growth. As we come to the end of President Sirleaf’s administration, the unemployment rate still stands between 80-85%; the country has no electricity, potable water supply, public sanitation facilities or adequate healthcare facilities. Crime, specifically armed robbery, has flourished unrestrained as the justice and judicial systems struggle with resources. All while the government has been spending millions of dollars purchasing cars and other non- essential items.
A cursory view of the recommended 2009/2010 budget published on the Ministry of Finance website (http://mof.gov.lr/doc/FY2009-2010%20DRAFT%20BUDGET.pdf) states our case: budget allotment for “fuel and lubricants for vehicles” was $2.5 million; “other transport expenses” (not including travel and car purchase) was $2.7 million, while budget allotment for textbook at the Ministry of Education was only $50,928. The President has gone on the record acknowledging the problems facing Liberia, but the fiscal policies do not align well with reversing the course the government is taking. Even those who support the President and the administration admit this should not be the case. We feel that Liberia’s resources could achieve better dividends if invested in education, job creation, youth job training programs, small business and development of a working class. Some have chosen to look away from the data and focus on their likeness for the President.
Let us be mindful that there is a difference between admiring the academic accomplishments and prior work experience of Madam Sirleaf versus admiring the accomplishments of her administration. There is a difference in being proud of having the first female President of Africa and in being proud of the poverty stricken living conditions of those in Liberia. A vote against this government is not a vote against the person of President Sirleaf; rather, it is a vote against a system of government that has failed Liberia throughout its existence, a system the President has failed to change. So let us vote against this administration while still respecting President Sirleaf. Let us not believe for one moment that Liberia will be developed under an administration that puts more emphasis on car purchases and non-essential items than on education, healthcare, youth job training programs, social justice and development of a working class.
As we approach elections day, we call upon all Liberians, regardless of political affiliation, to follow Liberty Party’s lead of putting Liberia first. Our country has endured much and it is time we begin the process of restoring the 164 years the locusts (figurative) have eaten. We have an obligation to leave, to the next generation of Liberians, a country that is better than the one we inherited.
Liberty Party has carefully studied the challenges our country faces and has put forth well thought-out, detailed policy papers and a comprehensive platform on how these problems can be resolved (visit www.libertypartyrl.org). In fact, we pride ourselves as the only political party that has put forth policy papers on specific aspects of our national problems. Cllr. Brumskine and Senator Siakor are, therefore, ready to lead; they will hit the ground running. We therefore call on all of our partisans, supporters, sympathizers and Liberians in general, to join us as we march towards victory on October 11th through a process we hope, and pray will be peaceful, orderly and based on respect for the rule of law.
Likewise, we call upon the President to use the institutions of our government to ensure that the rights and votes of all Liberians are protected during this important event in our country’s history.
Lastly, we call upon the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the many hardworking Liberians who will be manning the polls and announcing election results to carry out their duties with honor and dignity by protecting the election process and ensuring that the results reflect the unadulterated will of the Liberian people.
God bless Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine and Senator Franklin Obed Siakor as they seek to make history through the peaceful transition of power. God bless the Republic of Liberia as we all unite to change the trajectory of our country, one Nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Philip B. Suah Jr
Chair, Liberty Party-USA