4 February 2013

Liberia: Anti-Bad Labour Chief Hits At Ellen's Annual Address

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf last Monday, January 28, 2013 delivered the first of her second term Annual Address, fulfilling her constitutional mandate, but the public has received her message with mixed reaction and criticism.

While one group of people have welcomed the statement, several others, including current and former government officials and well as civic society organizations have question certain part of the statement.

One of those criticizing the president's statement is the Executive Director of the Movement Against Bad Labor Practice, Illegal Dismissal and Bad Governance in Liberia, Mr. Anthony Williams. Speaking on several issues Williams said while the President has a great and booming foreign policy and recognition, she performed poorly on the domestic level.

Among several others, Williams claimed that the Administration did not do well in the security, education, economic and youth sectors.

"I am greatly disappointed with the President's performance in the security Sector," William lambasted. Williams said the President's report of the security sector left him and many Liberians confused. He said figures for the strength of the national army from Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and that of the President are not the same. "She mentioned 1,909 while the Minister said the army is over 2,000 men; whose figure do we consider," he wondered, adding, "The government places the Liberian people in a confused state."

Williams said the government is claiming to have 8,000 trained police officers, but the impact of this huge number is not being felt across the country. "There are several communities in the country where the presence of police is not felt; sometimes police are posted in places or they are nowhere to be found at all," he observed. "This status of our security is very much troubling and must be seriously considered by government."

He alarmed over alleged rise in police brutality and ill-treatment by elite presidential body guard, the Executive Protective Service (EPS) "establishing this government as though we are in the tyrannical period."

On the issue of press freedom, Williams said there3 was actually no press freedom, and Liberians would feel the burnt when the UN peace mission leaves the country. He said people were still being arrested and detained for speaking out what they felt wrong about government's action. "Press Freedom: there is no freedom of the press in the country."

"What the government has prioritized is freedom of poverty, freedom of party corruption, freedom of nepotism, freedom of friendship to some higher government officials, and freedom to marginalization." Williams said the President should have mentioned these problems and explain how her administration would tackle them to make the country a better place to live for all and not a select few.

The civic group leader them added his voice to the most controversial 20,000 employment aspect of the President's Address. President Sirleaf has promised in 2011 that during her second term she would provide 20,000 jobs annually, and when she delivered her annual address last Monday, she stated that reports available to her suggest that the government hit above target.

Many Liberian have criticized this aspect of the address, arguing that the government failed, though the Labour Ministry last Thursday released a statistics revealing the government provided over 23,000 short term jobs.

"The pronouncement by government that it provided 20,000 jobs Williams sounds deceptive," said Williams, pointing out that "the President is unable to provide those areas or concessions where employment were provided; she only noted that the jobs were not permanent."

He also lashed at the "Opened Budget Initiative" under taken by the Ministry of Finance as a misdirection of resources. The US$250,000 project sponsored by the US Government is the construction of a giant screen at the Ministry of Finance that explains how public monies are being spent.

But Williams said it's a waste because, according to him, it was erected just to prove to people who cannot understand to consider government as being transparent.

"This is a waste of resources; you have the teachers, the civil servants, and citizens' swimming in the pool of poverty and need money to either pay teaches who are struggling to get on pay roll. How can we use such money to construct build board that cannot be read and understood by ordinary citizens," he argued. Writes Richie Garley Grear, Department of Mass Communication

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