Reflections of a Statesman: What We Could Learn from Liberia’s Past

first_imgI want all of us to reminisce thru a very short political period, spanning from the Tolbert Era to the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf period and reflect on what our dear Country Liberia was like, physically, sociologically, economically and politically. Mr. Tolbert succeeded a very autocratic rule, where descent was nationally managed; and political pluralism did not exist in our political governance. Mr. Tolbert launched a vigorous attempt of inclusiveness to the chagrin of the then political class. Political Tolerance for the first time was initiated with the birth of the Bacchus Mathews, Tipoteh, and Sawyer, and many others on the coattails of MOJA, then a political movement sweeping over Africa seeking tolerance, participation in the national dialogue and political pluralism.The fragile stability that Liberia then enjoyed in the pre-civil disturbance days included a series of programs of development administration that were beginning to yield positive results; that administration promoted the creation of basic services and institutions in competition with the private sector. Our foreign policy began to take the colors of neutrality in a cold war era, even reaching out to nations that our traditional friends considered not being in the interest of democratic values through their own lenses. There was this fierce stream of competing and at times contradictory political ideas battling for international western correctness. For the new breed was being suspiciously perceived as promoting socialist tendencies and had become the bitter sweet fruit.In our local Liberian political jargon, we classified them as “porcupine guts,” too bitter to swallow, too greasy to throw away. This internal struggle for political relevance created a time bomb that could be ignited at any moment, using the fuse of political exclusionism of the masses, as a starting magnet. Because the promoters of participatory and inclusive governance had convinced majority of the people to perceive themselves as not being participatory of the national cake, and influenced by the constant barrage of political propaganda by political spin masters that soothed the aspirations of a greater number of the people, things went out of control. This rupture which began some more than two decades ago, called for change without a clearly defined and articulated direction by a leadership, whose card carrying founders and die-heart loyalists failed to appreciate and grasp the enormity of the disruptive and potentially damaging consequences and therefore failed miserably, intentionally or by the weight of their political immaturity, to plan to cope with them.This is may not be the time for a blame game but a time of reflection stating the facts as they were will go a long way to educate the then followers of blind and empty rhetoric. The change we all supported was clothed in translucent rhetoric of focusing on ethnic marginalization, feeding on emotions roused by the allegations of unsustainable abuse of the derivatives of the nation’s resources. Unfortunately, those who championed the change fell out with the implementers of the change. Many arguments may be advanced as to the reasons. That is another debate. But we paid a heavy price and are still paying a heavy price. Howbeit, that experience put Liberia on the treadmill, searching for a solution of sober guidance. It took us thru successive experiments of trial and error, not long after the sudden change of governance occurred; our immense thanks go to the resilience of Liberians that landed us on the brink and doorsteps to true democracy. We are not there yet, but being an avowed optimist I am hopeful, we will get there hopefully sooner than later.  That is where my worries are.  First of all, let me say Liberia has done well. We now enjoy all the freedoms we need and some are being exercised without the controlling attendant responsibilities. Since we cherish our Constitution ardently, it is necessary that we pay sacred homage to it and exercise these inalienable rights with somberness; did I say somberness? Oh I meant  sobriety and reflective responsibility. Responsible citizenship should now characterize the debate to our people. Unfortunately, the recklessness of the populous speeches is beginning to take center stage. Sadly, instead of focusing on the cassava and rice issues which impact our daily lives, the pending democratic options with which the airwaves are saturated seem to fully suggest that we are running out of democratic tolerance of substantiveness and objectivity. For those of our brothers who believe in the Machiavellian principle that the end justifies the means, you’ve got it wrong. We’ve heard that before, haven’t we? I wonder whether those of our brothers and sisters who may be perceiving themselves as losing political traction and therefore must pester our people with speeches with the intent to incite them, forgot the denigration that our mothers and sisters suffered, the torture, the hunger that killed many able bodies, including our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and relatives, the displacement of over a million people and the death of over 250,000 people. No political leader should engage in the use of the threat of political violence as a means of gaining political relevance, but should continue to seek a peaceful political option of criticizing the promises of the competition and provide clearly defined options that one would employ to continue the path that has already been set. Can you imagine, a candidate would have the courage to suggest that to pave the road from Monrovia to Maryland can be done by $60m dollars when we know that it costs $1m/mile; and that is some 450 miles or more of road? Even political folly would educate a candidate to the notion of measurements. That is misinformation. Let us get away from this romantic notion of civil disturbance; it does no one any good.Please remember that I am doing a reflection of Liberia’s past and so some of my comments are a direct reflection of those times. We are all aware of what our past leaders did to the opposition. It is no hidden knowledge that the very ten-year clause that the referendum submits  was introduced by the then Ruling party then to keep the likes of Sawyer, Ellen and the lot out, who were considered as “Suitcase Politicians.” For me, responsible opposition provides the crucible for development. Opposition provides constructive engagement that forces the ruling party toward people- oriented programs. Political opposition parties are necessary in any political governance. Let no one belittle that, for the opposition has the responsible mandate of checkmating, but in a responsible manner towards making the Ruling party productive, focused, and accountable and results- oriented. So those in the Ruling party must also bear the added responsibility of a tolerance of views, protecting the freedoms that they enacted laws for and providing a level playing field for all to exercise their constitutional rights responsibly. Political gamesmanship and bickering of any kind that prey upon  and exploit the low educational level of our people, knowingly or unknowingly, undermines all of our efforts to shake off the dust and ghosts of decades of misrule, defeating all efforts to reconstruct and renew our nation and improve the socio-economic conditions of our people. Thankful to God we have survived one of the most dangerous periods of our existence: the Ebola war. Now we must begin to think ahead but one area that irks me is our poor working habits.Our very work habits which were already notoriously bad in the past have been exacerbated; our families, the store house of discipline, have been disrupted and most have become dysfunctional; our national and parochial values have all been adulterated. All of these have imploded our penchant for foreign livelihood, which sends a dangerous message of despondency to our youth, who may be seeing no good in us. It is time which is now to crave for exemplary conduct, with role models; we must begin to show truthfulness to regain respect and credibility. As I reflect on these issues in this reflection, I call for a recommitment to do all we can to resuscitate this country so that we can be proud of ourselves and our country.Editor’s Note: Former Grand Kru Senator Cletus Segbe Wotorson has served Liberia both in the private and public sector for over some 57 years,  starting as a cadet in government services to running for the Presidency of Liberia and then settling to serve in his twilight years as Senator for the people of Grand Kru.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Split Sessions at Capitol

first_imgAn unprecedented three separate and distinct sessions were yesterday held simultaneously in the 68 year old Capitol Building (at the Legislature) with two at the Lower House and one in the Upper House with the presence of over 400 elite officers of the Liberia National Police. Compelling Recusal of Speaker Tyler?Thirty eight (38) members of the House of Representatives (34 present and four distance), who are referred to as “Renegade or Conscious Lawmakers” have unanimously adopted a resolution to remove Rep. Alex J. Tyler, Sr., as Speaker or Presiding Officer of the Legislature.The defector lawmakers, in an outlawed separate session in the William R. Tolbert Joint Chambers, which was presided over by Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue, made the decision yesterday due to a resolution signed by 40 members of the House of Representatives. However, three of them, including Saah Joseph, Samuel Woleh and Morais Waylee, claimed that they withdrew their signatures. The “conscious Lawmakers”, in search of a place to hold their session, proceeded to the Joint Chamber, which they found locked. The sergeant-at-arms, believed to be a Tyler sympathizer, was unavailable to provide access to the Joint Chamber. It was then that former Speaker, Edwin M. Snowe, Jr. ordered the door busted, according to eyewitnesses, which was performed by a staffer of Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue. The anti-Tyler lawmakers suspended the House’s Rules and Procedures on the Motion for Reconsideration as well as the Normal Legislative Procedural process of the Committee’s work to effect the decision to recuse Speaker Tyler.The lawmakers also appointed an ad hoc Chief Clerk and Deputy Chief, Rudolph Hill and Darlington Blayon, staffers of the Deputy Speaker.In the resolution, the lawmakers said the Speaker has denigrated his colleagues who have expressed disagreement with his dictatorial leadership and refers to elected Representatives of the Liberian people as surrogates, forgetting that he is just ‘primus inter pares’ (first among equals) by the free election of his peers.“Whereas, that the Speaker has been criminally indicted of a crime. We the members of the House should not have to bear the burden of these allegations. Let the Speaker exonerate himself of these criminal charges using our court system and not hide under the authority of the Speaker’s gavel,” the Interim Chief Clerk read.“Whereas and in so declaring, we, the majority members of the Honorable House of Representatives of the 53rd Legislature having taken a solemn oath of office to protect and uphold the constitution and all other laws of the Republic call upon Hon. J. Alex Tyler to immediately recuse himself as presiding officer.”The Interim Chief Clerk added: “Whereas we also call on those doing business and other activities with him to immediately halt and refrain from future transaction with him in the name of the Honorable House of Representatives including the Liberian Senate, the Executive and Judiciary Branches of Government and the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations Mission.”Those who signed the resolution included: Rep. Numene T.H. Bartekwa, Rep. Emmanuel Nuquay, Rep. Munah E. Pelham-Youngblood, Rep. Samuel G. Kogar, Rep. Thomas P. Fallah, Rep. Acarous M. Gray, Rep. Edwin M. Snowe, Rep. Julius Berrian, Rep. Morais T. Waylee and Rep. Samuel G. Wolleh.Others are Rep. Richmond S. Anderson, Rep. Corpu G. Barclay, Rep. Adolph A. Lawrence, Rep. Christian Chea, Rep. Johnson Chea, Rep. Saah Joseph, Rep. Roland O. Cooper, Rep. Worlea S. Dunah, Rep. Henry B. Fahnbulleh, Rep. Edward S. Forh, Rep. Josephine George Francis,Rep. Stephen S. Kafi, Jr., Rep. Jefferson Kanmoh, Rep. Edward W. Karfia, Rep. Mary Karwor, Rep. Jeremiah Koung, Rep. Eugene F. Kparkar and Rep. Gertrude T. Lamin.The remaining lawmakers are Rep. Jeremiah W. McCauley, Rep. Prince Moye, Rep. George S. Mulbah, Rep. Tokpah Mulbah, Rep. Robertson N. Siaway, Rep. Gabriel Smith, Rep. Richard M. Tingban, Rep. Ricks Toweh, Rep. Bill Twehway, Rep. Ballah G. Zayzay, Rep. J. Byron Brown and Rep. J. Gabriel Nyenkan.Meanwhile and simultaneously, the 51st day sitting under House’s Speaker J. Alex Tyler, Sr., in the House’s official chambers, ended successfully with the appearance of Public Work Minister Gyude Moore, summoned to update the lower house on the progress of the Somalia Drive Road. Speaker Tyler conducted yesterday’s session with a quorum of 37 persons; 34 in person and three in distance.Prior to the Public Work Minister’s appearance, the House’s Plenary summoned the management of the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) to appear on Tuesday, 16 August. The decision was predicated upon a complaint from Hon. Larry P. Younquoi of Electoral District 8, Nimba County.In his letter, the Nimba Lawmaker questioned the refusal of the Liberia Broadcasting System to honor a request from the House Press and Public Affairs Bureau to provide live broadcast coverage to the on-going public hearing on the Draft National Budget at the Capitol Building. Following discussions on the matter, plenary agreed to invite the management of LBS to appear next Tuesday to give reasons for the entity’s action predicated on a motion proffered by Hon. Isaac Roland of Electoral District 3, Maryland County.Pro-Tyler’s ReactionThe chairman of the House committee on Foreign Affairs, Maryland County District # 1 Representative, Rep. James Biney, has accused President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of sponsoring the recusal campaign to unseat Speaker Tyler, over an unbearable working relationship with him.“If the precedence of getting the leader of one branch removed on the basis of indictment (not court verdict) through subterfuge, the tendency of the Executive controlling the Legislature will be further enhanced at the time when it should be broken,” Rep. Biney said “This is not good for any emerging democracy. When a leader of a country says, I will never work with the head of the legislative branch of government and the leader succeeds in removing the head of that branch of government, such a leader cannot be a true representation of genuine democracy. As we proceed to protect our democracy, it is quintessential that we accept to work with each other as leaders not because we want to, but because we have to,” Rep. Biney added.He added: “On the issue of the fight against corruption, I call on President Sirleaf to also go after those who wrecked NOCAL, squandered the Japanese Aid to Liberia, mismanaged Chevron Social Development Support to Liberia, etc. The contrary would suggest to the public and the world that the fight against corruption is not only selective, but a sham. Finally, we leaders, especially President Sirleaf, have the responsibility to enhance the peace and protect our democracy.”However, two senior staff members to the Speaker, who begged for anonymity, said the Speaker and his colleagues have termed the renegade lawmakers’ decision as “trash.”They further said the pro-Tyler lawmakers are considering going to the Supreme Court, but they did not say why or when.Speaker Tyler’s compelling recusal is due to his alleged accusation of receiving US$75,000, according to the May 11 Global Witness report, for his alleged role in changing the Public Procurement Commission Committee (PPCC) law in favor of the London based Sable Mining Company to win a concession agreement to exploit iron ore in the Wologisi Mountain in Lofa County.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Don’t call it a comeback: No telling what Leno, O’Brien, Stewart and others will do

first_img Comic ad-libbing, musical performances and lengthier appearances by interview subjects willing to cross picket lines are the most likely recourse. “I don’t know what they’re going to do,” said Mike Sweeney, head writer for O’Brien’s NBC show. “My obvious speculation would be more guests, and maybe talk to them more slowly.” Stewart and Stephen Colbert would appear to have the toughest time reconfiguring their programs, which have a large amount of scripted material. By a strict interpretation of the guild’s rules, a member would be prohibited from performing as a character if union writers normally write material for the character. Colbert performs his entire show in the character of a blowhard political commentator. “We don’t know how he’s going to do it,” said Sherry Goldman, spokeswoman for the Writers Guild of America East, “and I’m not so sure that he’s figured it out yet.” Comedy Central would not let its executives talk about planning for the shows’ returns. Only two late-night shows were affected when writers went on strike in 1988: Johnny Carson’s “Tonight” show and Letterman’s program, both on NBC. Carson was not a writer’s guild member, so he wrote his monologue himself for the few weeks that he worked without writers. His monologue, part of the fabric of American life, was welcomed back but Carson’s writer-less debut in May 1988 didn’t draw raves: “The whole show seemed lame,” wrote the Washington Post’s Tom Shales at the time, “unfunny comic Joe Piscopo, Ed McMahon showing photos of his little girl, a hackneyed arrangement of Irving Berlin tunes by the band and film of mating condors.” Letterman’s “Late Night” substituted comedy with freewheeling filler. One gag had the show’s associate director playing “Lady of Spain” on the accordion, night after night. “Fifty-five minutes, ladies and gentlemen, 55 minutes to go!” he said early in one show. “That’s all we’re really trying to accomplish, is to eat up valuable network time.” Letterman weighed in frequently on the strike, calling network management “money-grubbing scum.” While the strike raises the possibility of train-wreck television, some performers may thrive in without-a-net circumstances. A critic in The New York Times wrote that Letterman’s strike programs were often “downright exciting,” a throwback to the early years of late-night television when there was more improvisation. It’s uncertain whether Letterman will get the chance to repeat the experience. His representatives were still talking with the union on Thursday. Donald Trump and Shooter Jennings are booked as a guest for Letterman’s Jan. 2 show – if there is one. There’s a difference of opinion among union members about whether cutting a separate deal with Letterman is wise, Albers said. Some believe it would put pressure on NBC to settle the strike because Leno would be at a competitive disadvantage; others think it would be wrong to effectively reward CBS with a show using the services of writers, he said. Sweeney has his own secret wish for O’Brien if he returns without writers. “I hope he tries to hold a telethon to raise money for us,” he said.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson The hosts – with the exception of NBC’s Carson Daly – are also members of the striking Writer’s Guild of America, making them subject to union rules that would severely limit what they can do. The union’s strike rules say members cannot write or perform any material that would normally be written for them. Under this interpretation, for example, Jay Leno couldn’t perform a monologue, because his staff of writers normally crafts his jokes. The comic skits that are a part of several late-night shows would also be off-limits without writers. “I think that people will see some interesting television,” said Chris Albers, former president of Writer’s Guild of America East and a comedy writer for O’Brien. “Obviously, these are some of the funniest people in the country so they’re probably going to do a very good job. It’s just a different animal than what they’re used to and what we’re used to.” In a conference call with reporters last week, producers of NBC’s “Tonight” and “Late Night” said they were still trying to figure out what their shows would look like. They weren’t willing to talk further this week, a spokesman said. Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel and Jon Stewart all plan returns to late-night television the next two weeks, but aside from their familiar faces, viewers may not recognize much. After two months away because of the still-unresolved writers strike, NBC’s Leno and O’Brien, and ABC’s Kimmel, resume their programs next Tuesday, Jan. 2. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert come back to Comedy Central the following Monday, Jan. 7. Barring a New Year’s miracle, none of their writers will be joining them. David Letterman is also pushing to return Jan. 2, but his Worldwide Pants production company is still trying to reach its own deal to bring his show’s writers back onboard.last_img read more