Liberians All Ears for President's 3rd Annual Message

-- Will he call for a compromise?

Today, President George M. Weah is expected to deliver the third State of the Nation Address of his current 6-year-term in consonance with Article 58 of the 1986 Constitution.

The President's 3rd Annual address will fulfill the requirements in Article 58 of the 1986 Constitution, which says: "The President shall, on the fourth working Monday in January of each year, present the administration's legislative program for the ensuing session, and shall once a year report to the Legislature on the state of the Republic. In presenting the economic condition of the Republic, the report shall cover expenditure as well as income.

The State of the Nation Address is an Annual Message delivered by the President of Liberia to a Joint Session of the Liberian Legislature, presided over by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, at the beginning of each calendar year.

On Monday, January 29, 2018, and January 28, 2019, respectively, President Weah used the State of the Nation Address to push the familiar themes of his administration - Pro-Poor Agenda For Prosperity And Development arguing that in his six-year presidential term, the PAPD will place the needs of the poor and vulnerable at the center of all development interventions that will lift impoverished Liberians out of poverty without severely affecting the wealthy, and reduce waste in government as well as repurposing the savings to improve the lives of ordinary people.

The President, also in two of the past Annual Messages, lamented the bad economy.

But in 2019, the year under review, President Weah cut the salaries of nearly 10,000 civil servants in an effort to manage the government's wage bill, as one of the requirements of support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the Liberian national budget to be considered 'realistic'.

Amid, the drastic cut of servants' salaries, the CDC-led government argued that the administration of President George Manneh Weah is committed to fighting fraud and abuse of resources, adding that the government has agreed to establish a 'Corruption Court'.

Meanwhile, thousands of Liberians took to the streets in Monrovia and in Washington DC on Friday, June 7, 2019, for the 'Save the State' protest against corruption and economic decline.

A sequel to the June 7, 2019, protest took place on January 6, 2019, calling the President to "step-up" his governance - a protest which ended in chaos, with the government security forces unleashing teargas and hot water cannon on the protesters who had up to that point remained non-violent.

The Council of Patriots (CoP), the organizers of both protests, accused the government of misusing public funds, violating constitutional freedoms, and failing to adequately fund health and education programs. The group has been calling on the Weah Administration to improve the governance of the country.

The CoP's second protest, the January 6, 2020 edition, was held because, according to them, since they submitted their petition to the Weah Administration following the June 7, 2019 protest, the President has not responded to or acted on a single one of their petitions. The CoP said they would remain in the streets from the date of their protest until whatever date President Weah would address their concerns.

As the Liberia's international partners mediated back and forth between the Weah Administration and the CoP, the protest organizers were informed that the President had promised that he would address the CoP's concerns, among other things, in his next annual address -- the fourth working Monday in January. This, the CoP rejected, saying that the date was too far, and that they would proceed with their protest on January 6, which they did.

However, in a telephone conversation with a member of the President's cabinet, who requested to not be named, said the President on Monday, January 27 will issue a call for national unity and national peace but warned that "politics of revenge" and "partisan protests" are threats to economic recovery and the fragile peace.

The Cabinet member said the President will appeal to 'opposition' to reach a compromise in the interest of the country and the Liberian people.

Another source, who also requested anonymity, said the President might also use his 3rd Annual Message to appeal to the Legislature for the printing of a new legacy note (money) in the tune of L$35 billion to replace the existing two local currency versions in the economy, despite the latest approval of the printing of additional L$4 billion of one of the two existing banknotes.

The source said the President might also appeal to the international community to fund the Mid-term Senatorial Election, scheduled for October 2020.

According to the protocol of the 3rd Annual Message, the ceremony will begin at 2:00 p.m. with the arrival of invited guests in the Joint Chamber of the Legislature.

Members of the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate will converge in the William R. Tolbert Jr. Joint Assembly Hall at 3:55 p.m. and a motion to receive President Weah to deliver his 3rd Annual Message will be made and seconded at which time the Chairpersons on Executive Committees will go at the main entrance to receive and escort the President to the Joint Chambers.

The Sergeants-at-arms of the House of Representatives, Brigadier General Martin Johnson, will 'cry' the presence of His Excellency, who will then proceed to deliver the 'State of the Nation Address' at 4:00 p.m.

The Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, members of the Cabinet, Doyen and members of the Diplomatic Corps, Chiefs and elders, Heads of political parties, Religious and the business community are expected to be in attendance.

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