EMOL urges Liberian voters to put country first

EMOL Executive Director Jarwinken Wiah (1st from right) and Project Director Aaron Manneh (wearing hat) with staff in Liberia

The Emancipation Movement of Liberia (EMOL) is urging all eligible Liberian voters to vote for legacy-driven candidates who put country first and have the interests of the Liberian people at heart.

EMOL is an advocacy and empowerment non-profit and non-partisan peace building organization established by Liberians at home and the United States two years ago. EMOL is accredited by the National Elections (NEC) to conduct voter and civic education in the country.

EMOL is urging voters to be mindful of political candidates who supported and benefitted from the “predatory political and economic policies” against majority of the Liberian people in the last 12 years. These were the same practices and policies that contributed to the civil wars.

EMOL said this call is based on a one month assessment in the country conducted by a team comprising of the Executive Director, Jarwinken Wiah, and Projector Director, Aaron Manneh, along with local staff.

In a statement, EMOL characterized the lack of pipe borne water and electricity in every part of Monrovia after 12 years of the current regime as a shameful failure. It’s very disappointing that there are no street lights even on Broad Street.

Transportation is also a nightmare in Monrovia; and in these humiliating conditions, government officials ply these jammed traffics in luxury cars with sirens, which further increase the suffering of ordinary Liberians standing along the roads for hours. The worst of these conditions are in the rural parts of the country where road conditions are deplorable.

EMOL also finds it disheartening that members of the National Legislature are being paid more money, including salaries and allowances, than their American counterparts, while majority of the Liberian people are suffering.

Liberia is the only country that has no coins in circulation; and as a result, prices are sky high against the ordinary Liberians. Moreover, the monetary policy is against ordinary Liberians as they are required to pay fines, taxes, rent, school fees and other bills in United States dollars when they are not earning United States dollars. Furthermore, more than 98% of the population is unemployed.

Twenty-five percent of all remittances received in Liberia through Money Gram and Western Union converted to Liberian dollars before disbursement to the recipients.

Liberians are also being exploited by mobile carriers Lone Star and Cellcom. EMOL is calling on both companies to make calling possible without extra charges between the two carriers in the country. The provision of better coverage must be the hallmark to attract consumers. The National Legislature has also failed the Liberian people to make this happen.

If one seeks justice for crime committed against him or her, he or she will be required to pay for the typing of the writ, transportation, and every step of the way under the current Justice system. As a result, most Liberians are discouraged to seek legal redress or abandon their cases if one were to seek.

Also, if one goes to the bank to receive remittance from relatives abroad, make a deposit, or withdraw funds, he or she has to bribe the teller for quick service or wait for the rest of the day in line. This is also true if one goes to the hospital; he or she has to bribe to get attention and treatment. Where is the conscience of Liberia?

Investors have to bribe to invest in our country. As a result, ordinary Liberians are the victims. Because of these briberies, construction projects are substandard. An example is the Fendell Campus constructed by a Chinese company, which is already cracking and leaking.

Also the new culture center constructed from the sale of the Kenejar Culture Center to an American Businessman, Bob Johnson, at 10 million United States dollars is like a village palava-hut.

The plundering of the millions of United States dollars from the National Oil Corporation involving one of the children of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is another issue of grave concern. The president herself admitted the failure of this government to take on these predatory practices and policies.

The demolition of the Defense Ministry in Congo town and the abandonment of the construction project of the National Housing and Savings Bank on Broad Street are other examples of the waste of the Liberian people’s money and resources.
Because of these situations, livelihoods in post-war Liberia is at the mercy of nature.

Why did we have the wars if these same policies were ok? For this reason, in these elections, you the Liberian people must rightfully takeover the government by voting for true patriots and legacy-driven candidates who will be willing to fight every day to meet your needs and satisfaction , which is their priority as specified in article 1 of the Liberian Constitution.

This is your opportunity and time, Liberians. These people are asking you for your votes…..“Please hire me”…. because the jobs they are running for belong to you the Liberian people. “I am the most qualified person to do your job.” This is what they are now saying. This is the meaning of campaigning.

The job of the president, senator, representatives, and all elected and appointed jobs are for you the Liberian people. Anyone you elect is supposed to work to do what you the people want and not what he or she wants.

The work of EMOL is aimed at empowering you the Liberian people about their inalienable and constitutional rights which have been abused and trampled upon for nearly 170 years by 1% of the population that have been privileged to ascend in positions of power.

You the Liberian people have been conditioned over nearly two decades to worship those in positions of power who have consistently trampled upon your rights. They conditioned you to believe the money and resources they use are entitlements for these positions. We want you to know this is not true. The money and resources they use are for the Liberian people. Anyone elected or appointed to a position of power is supposed to be working in your interest. You have the right to remove anyone from that position if he or she fails to work for your benefit. This is what article 1 of the Liberian Commutation says.

The Liberian Constitution also says the government is required to teach and make plenty copies of the Liberian constriction in all schools. The government is not doing it because it does not want you to know your rights under the law.

EMOL would like to suggest what we believe you should look for in determining the candidate to vote for the presidency. This is important because if you get this kind of president who is willing to do the following then that is the beginning of you the Liberian people taking over your government in line with the Liberian Constitution. Do not listen to anyone who will tell you that he or she will fight corruption because corruption is not white, yellow, green, black, or blue.

In short corruption has no color. Let all the candidates tell you exactly what is wrong that he or she wants to fix. Let him or her say what is causing the problem and how he or she is going to fix it. How the fixes are going to benefit you and your community. For example, how is he or she going to give you job to earn your own money after the elections rather than reliance on handouts from others? Let all candidates give timeline and how the voter is going to experience these changes.

1. A candidate who is willing to summon a new dawn in Liberian history by campaigning on reducing the power of the presidency and rightfully giving power to the Liberian people by fighting to implement the following:

a. Promising to submit a bill to the National Legislature on day one of his or her presidency seeking the reduction of the presidential tenure from six to four years.

b. Seeking the reduction in tenures of the Senate from nine to six years, and House of Representatives from six to three years.

c. Promising in the same Legislature to reduce salaries and benefits of the National Legislature by 50% and the money save will go towards the construction of public libraries and scholarships for students. The bill should also take away scholarship and development funds from the legislature budget.

2. The candidate who is promising a sincere threat to veto any budget falling short of these changes and promising at the same time to go to the district or county of any lawmaker opposing these changes to campaign against him or her to the people who elected him or her. The candidate by then President will tell the citizens to pressure the opposing lawmaker through demonstration and other means provided under the Liberian Constitution.

3. A candidate who will as well cut ministers and directors’ salaries and benefits by 50 percent and direct money saved toward the provision of safe and clean water in various communities.

4. A candidate promising to include in the bill the election of the Attorney-General of the Republic to a five years tenure and all county and district attorneys to ensure independence from the influence of the presidency

5. A candidate promising to include in the bill 2% taxes of all business go towards education including scholarships to remove several children from the streets to the classrooms.

6. A candidate promising to pass an Executive Order on day one of his or her administration making it illegal and criminal for any cabinet member, director, any official of government to seek personal favor from any business institution in the country.

7. A candidate who will make it clear that anyone willing to serve in his or her administration must have his or her family in Liberia. This measure is intended to make the government prioritize education and health needs of the country. If government officials’ children and children of ordinary of Liberians experience the same problem in education and health care access and affordability then everyone serving in government will be willing to make sacrifices in improving service delivery to the Liberian people.

8. A candidate who will say all government employees should consider themselves fired upon takeover as this measure is only intended to remove all ghost lists from government payrolls. Real individuals will remain in the employ of government and the money saved from this process will go toward the increase of underpaid civil servants salaries.

These are just preliminary measures to mark the beginning of making the government to work for the Liberian people as the founding purpose of the country was intended when this piece of land was designated in 1821 as a the home for freedom after slavery was made illegal in the United States.

Secondly, the purpose of working for government is service delivery to the people and not for money making. Anyone seeking to make money should go and work in the private sector.

Economically, salaries and other benefits for the employees of successful countries and companies are determined based on the productive capacity. What are we producing in Liberia in determine the Salary structure of our government officials? It is sad that our lawmakers are making more than the Legislature of the United States when thousands of children in streets selling water in endangered traffic as means of livelihoods. When teenage girls have to sell their bodies as means for livelihoods.

To mark the beginning of taking over your government, EMOL is urging all Liberians to cease calling their government official Honorable and Excellency, as these names appear to be a form of worship of these government officials who are supposed to be working for you the Liberian people.

The way to show respect to them is by calling them their rightful titles. If the man or woman is a senator or representative call them as such. If one is a minister or director call him or her as such. There is no disrespect calling anyone his or her rightful title.

EMOL said what we need in this country is demonstration of honorable character by those serving in position of power. Taking public resources for personal use is not honorable character, taking advantage of a teenage girl who is asking for school fees is not honorable character, taking the country’s money to rent or build for concubines while the rightful owners of the resources suffer with impunity is not honorable.

EMOL wants the Liberian people to ask, what is “Honorable” or “Excellent” about government officials sending their children to schools in foreign countries with tax payers money when majority of the Liberian children have no means to attend good schools. They cannot even afford the fees of the substandard schools in the country.

EMOL said what Liberia needs is excellent service delivery to the Liberian people and excellent performance of our institutions, such as the schools and hospitals.

EMOL said the current political and economic situation in the country is a testament that those in positions of power, including all those serving in the three branches of government, have failed at every level to learn lessons from the experiences of the brutal civil wars, which claimed the lives of thousands of Liberians and hundreds of foreign residents including the killing of the five Catholic nuns in 1992.

It is time in these elections for the culture of Impunity from the presidency to the other two branches of governments including Legislative and Judiciary be brought to an end. The reason is simple. The power belongs to you the Liberian people.

Article 1 of the Liberian constitution says all government officials are servants of the people and they are required to work for the benefit and satisfactions of you the Liberian people. Article 1 also said if any government official, including the president, fails to work or do things for the satisfaction of the people then you the Liberian people should remove him or her from office.

One of the ways you can remove them from office is at election time. That is why you should vote for people that will work for you the Liberian people.

The purpose of government is for service delivery to its people. Serving in government is not a place for money making. For this reason, all those with desire for money making should go to the private sectors.

Inappropriately, in the Liberian situation, serving in government means grabbing all resources passing through corridors of power for personal use with impunity, treating lower level employees and ordinary Liberians as slaves rather than serving the Liberian people in meeting their needs.

EMOL said because of these reasons, beginning with these elections, the Liberian people must take over the government in line with the Liberian Constitution by voting for legacy-driven candidates. This is your time and this is your chance— do not vote for anyone because he or she gives you money as the money they are giving you is some of the money they robbed from you. It is your money.

Jarwinken Wiah
Executive Director