17 August 2017

Liberia: The Presidential Debates - Time to Evaluate Well

The second phase of presidential debates ahead of the October 10 election is expected to take place today. Among presidential candidates scheduled to appear are Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP), George M. Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Charles W. Brumskine of Liberty Party (LP), J. Mills Jones of Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) and Vice President Joseph N. Boakai of the ruling Unity Party.

A member of the debate committee, Atty. Lamii Kpargoi, said MOVEE standard bearer Mills Jones has told them he will not participate because he is on his political tour in Grand Cape Mount County. Kpargoi also said they have gotten an unconfirmed report that George Weah of CDC may not appear because he is out of the country, but they have received no formal communication to that effect. It is most unfortunate that Dr. Jones cannot show up for this debate, even though he is right here at home. We hope he will make the next one.

The debate today is expected to cover several areas including the Economy, National Security and Rule of Law, Peace and Reconciliation, Corruption and Agriculture. This aspect of our election challenges all of us, presidential candidates and electorates alike, to evaluate carefully the issues and handle them in the most honest and erudite way. Since the National Elections Commission (NEC) declared campaign open on July 31, we have seen on political posters many slogans and vision statements, among them 'Change for Hope,' 'Change That You Can Trust,' 'Real Change,' 'Let's Get Liberia Moving,' 'Think Liberia, Love Liberia and Build Liberia.' These are the dominant ones among many inscriptions.

The debate now sets the pace for our politicians to explain clearly the meanings of these inscriptions and how they are going to implement them for the good of the country and people. If Liberians should vote for you, what can you point out to be your impact? What hand mark do you have in your own backyard and on the larger populace? What record do you have in areas you worked in the past? In what way can you involve ordinary Liberians in your platform to achieve collaboratively your political goals for the country? These are some questions Liberians want you to address as you take the platform, beginning today, to sell yourselves to them.

We will not hesitate to ask some candidates questions in this editorial about their past records in Liberia.

Can Mr. Benoni Urey tell the Liberian people his relationship with businessman Sanjivan Samir Ruprah who served with him at the Bureau of Maritime Affairs? Can Mr. Urey tell the public how he conducted the affairs of this lucrative GOL agency and how the country benefited? The United Nations placed him on its sanctions list for using revenue from Maritime to purchase arms to kill Liberians. How can you address yourself to this? How well do you treat your workers on your farm? Bringing a cell phone company to Liberia was good. But why did the government you served in decided to grant you a monopoly, by which you exploited Liberians so much? How can your past records convince Liberians that you can make a good president?

Vice President Joseph Boakai has worked in government for almost 40 years. What is your impact on Lofa County? How have you conducted yourself in the offices you have occupied? What is your stand on corruption? In terms of corruption and reconciliation, how do you grade the government in which you served for 12 years as Vice President?

Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine served in the Taylor Administration as a Senator and Senate President Pro Tempore. What was your impact? Why did you help Charles Taylor to send ECOMOG prematurely packing (leaving the country), thereby prolonging the civil war? What have you done for the Bassa people you consider your stronghold? Will you be President for all Liberians, or only for the Bassa people since you have a tribal approach to politics?

George Manneh Weah, what competence do you have to lead Liberia? How well do you understand politics and government? How confident are you that you can represent Liberia at major international and world fora, such as Mano River Union, ECOWAS, African Union and the United Nations?

Mr. Alex Cummings, how knowledgeable are you in Liberian politics? Does your residency status meet the 10-year domicile stipulation? What is your stand on justice and reconciliation? What makes you think that your great experience in the top echelons of Coco Cola management equips you for the Liberian presidency?

This debate is the first of its kind in our politics to bring presidential hopefuls close to the people, and we want to appreciate those who are sponsoring it. We pray that Liberians will listen and read what our candidates will have to say about the questions they will be addressing today and in subsequent debates, so as to make a better decision on whom to vote for. We also urge the debate committee to lay aside all their biases arising from tribal, political and social connections to put Liberia on top of the debate questions.

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