25 June 2019

Liberia: More Than a Sore Eye

The attention of the Daily Observer is drawn to a front-page story carried in the June 24, 2019 edition under the headline "Capitol in Darkness".

According to the story written by legislative reporter Leroy Sonpon, the current lack of electricity is attributed to the management of LEC which has deliberately switched off power from the Legislature because of that body's inability to meet its obligations to the service provider.

Representative Richard Koon, in reaction to queries from journalists, said, "It is just embarrassing, if we want to do our personal work, we have to go to the World Trade Center or Gurley Street. Representative Koon told the Daily Observer that the situation has caused most of his colleagues to be what he called "idle and work shy" because the lack of electricity restricts their ability to draft laws, communicate with or entertain constituents or guests.

Representative Koon further told the Daily Observer that the prevailing situation was compelled to rewire his office to accommodate the use of a private generator which he shares with a colleague, Mike Jurry from Maryland County.

According to sources at the LEC the leaderships of both Houses, having earlier paid half of an initial cost of US$48,000, have failed an to settle an outstanding balance of US$ 24,000 owed the corporation for the purchase of a high voltage transmitter including connection and installation.

As things currently stand, according to sources, the entire Capitol Building is engulfed in darkness at night. Except for the new annexes constructed by the People's Republic of China, the rest of the Capitol is hit by power outages during the day. The annexes are supplied with power from a generator donated by the Chinese, which also supplies fuel to keep the generator running for about five hours daily from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Such a dismal situation at the Capitol is indeed telling and also very revealing of the perennial character of our legislators whose nonchalance, feigned or real, appears to convey a distinct impression that they are more about securing and protecting personal gains rather than the creation of an enabling and conducive environment for the effective discharge of their constitutional responsibilities.

The Daily Observer finds it incomprehensible that the Legislature, which approves the national budget, would find itself in such straits that could have been avoided with the mainstreaming of Capitol building repair and maintenance costs in national budget formulation.

Just why such needs are being neglected is a question which the leadership of the Legislature must address forthwith because it is downright shameful that such an important national facility, through sheer neglect, is being left vulnerable to the picking of vandals, reports of which are not uncommon.

The issue is, if our legislators are unable to do that much, how then can the Liberian people expect them to act on their behalf and in their interest? According to sources, the offices of the the Deputy Speaker, Chairpersons on Executive; Rules, Order and Administration; Foreign Affairs, as well as Ways, Means, Finance and Development and others have also been engulfed in darkness for over three weeks.

Meanwhile, according to sources, there are outstanding bills awaiting passage, but which are being impeded owing to the shortage of electricity. In addition, the economy is in a downturn and requires the adoption of critical response measures to bring relief to the Liberian people. Just how this can be accomplished in the absence of a conducive work environment for legislators, is what remains to be seen.

For one thing, the nighttime view of the Capitol swallowed in darkness as it is currently, is more than a sore eye. It is a national shame!

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