|T. Q. HARRIS, JR.|
My Fellow Compatriots
Liberians around the world and our development partners on 24th January 2011 tuned in to listen to the State of the Nation Address. Unfortunately, for the second time in a row, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf chose to use the occasion to advance her reelection campaign. It was wrong!
The same was done in 2010 when she declared her candidacy while delivering the State of the Nation Address. Claiming to be a formidable candidate, Madame Johnson Sirleaf ignored the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) recommendation that she not hold public office for 30 years. This, again, was wrong!
This behavior does not only violate the spirit and intent of the State of the Nation Address, it also diminishes the Presidency. As the nation’s leading role model, the President must always take the high road.
The extra long speech delivered by Madam Johnson Sirleaf this time was nothing more than a desperate attempt to convince the electorate that all is well, when the facts indicate otherwise.
The statistics might appear impressive; but in reality, Liberians in general are worse off today than we were six years ago. So no hyped-up, fantasy speech prepared by individuals whose sole purpose is holding on to their jobs after woefully failing the President and the Liberian people, can change this reality.
Madam Johnson Sirleaf has failed to deliver on almost all her previous campaign pledges; from “promising not to seek a second term” to the “Papa na come” gimmick…from saying “Monrovia would be electrified within six months” to “making corruption enemy number-one”. Now Ellen must defend her record and not resort to long meaningless lectures, because the evidence is clear for all to see.
As a member of the opposition and a Presidential candidate who has a plan to unite Liberians and transform the nation into a vibrant 21st century republic, I would like to sum up for the record THE CURRENT STATE OF OUR NATION:
• Since 2003 Liberia’s security has been in the hands of the United Nations, and at the moment there is no definite date set or plan in place for UNMIL departure. Furthermore, the U.N. Secretary General has said repeatedly that Liberia is susceptible to renewed violence.
• Corruption is at an all-time high and Madam Johnson Sirleaf’s solution is to openly discuss it - as though we haven’t done so in the past - rather than aggressively attack this national cancer.
• The vast majority of Liberians live on less than 60 cents (US$0.60) a day.
• More Liberians now beg out of desperation than ever before.
• Parents cannot afford school fees for their children or provide food to eat.
• Liberians unable to pay for medical treatment are turned away from clinics and hospitals regularly.
• There are limited opportunities for the Youth that make up two-thirds of the population.
• Women are no further ahead today than they were prior to Ellen’s election.
• The educational standards are exceptionally low.
• Public transportation is nonexistent.
• The Liberian economy is controlled completely by foreigners. And, with the greatest of ease, large sums of money are being removed from the country daily.
• Current economic data in large part reflect the large infusion of money into the country by the United Nations Mission (UNMIL), rather than improvements in living conditions of ordinary Liberians.
• Liberia is not electrified and does not have pipe borne water or functional sewer systems. Businesses and individuals have to rely on well water. Those who can afford it use personal generator for electrical power. The nation’s Capital at night is extremely dark.
• Land disputes pose a real threat to the country’s stability.
• The nation is morally bankrupt.
• Legislators import voters from other Districts temporarily in order to win reelection, rendering official demographics and planning data useless.
• Currently there are individuals in the House of Representatives enjoying all the privileges who do not represent a constituency; and their numbers will increase after the 2011 election because of the Threshold Bill signed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
• From all indications the current Government is unable to effectively manage a transparent national election.
• Due to weak leadership, Liberians have been unable to confront our past and put our house in order. The latest setback has come from President Johnson Sirleaf’s rejection of the TRC report. However, she has yet to offer a better alternative that will heal this nation in the aftermath of the brutal 14-year war that impacted the lives of every Liberian.
• Many of the Concession Agreements entered into by the Johnson Sirleaf government are questionable and may prove harmful to the Liberian people.
My Friends, this summarizes the current State of our Nation and shows clearly why Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Unity Party must be replaced. As a transitional government they have done well, but now it’s time to begin meaningful reconstruction under new leadership.
However, a splintered opposition that does not have respectable leaders is not a viable alternative. It is high time the Loyal Opposition emerges and provide the type of leadership Liberians are demanding…leadership capable of ending lawlessness, impunity and contentious politicking…leadership that will reconcile the nation and prepare the youth to become productive citizens.
This election will no doubt set the pace for the next hundred years. Therefore, we must elect visionary leaders who were not connected with the 14-year carnage and have not in any way been involved in past corrupt governments…individuals who will deal objectively with war-related issues such as assets freeze, travel ban, reconciliation and the TRC report.
It’s time we leave the past behind and step into destiny. No Liberian can afford to take the 2011 elections lightly! Our future depends on it!
God Bless Liberia.