2003 ANNUAL MESSAGE
TO THE NATIONAL TRANSITIONAL LEGISLATIVE
ASSEMBLY OF LIBERIA
By His Excellency C. Gyude Bryant,
Chairman, National Transitional Government of Liberia
Monday, January 26, 2004
Mr. Vice Chairman
Mr. Speaker, Honorable Members of the Transitional Legislative Assembly
Mr. Chief Justice and Associate Justices
His Excellency the Doyen and Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Eminent Personalities, Local and Foreign
Current and Former Officials of Government
Tribal Chiefs and Traditional Leaders
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
Let us first bless the Lord our God for sparing our lives to see this day and being able to assemble in this chamber. I ask that you kindly rise and observe a moment of silence in reverence to our Creator for the blessing of Peace that He has given Liberia and in memory of our citizens who perished during our fratricidal conflict (Pause). Please be seated.
One hundred and five days ago I stood before you and took an oath to uphold, protect, and defend the Constitution of this nation. Today, I stand before you again to reaffirm that oath and to report to you on the affairs of our dear Liberia, over the past year in fulfillment of our constitutional obligation.
This afternoon, I will inform you of the challenges we have faced and continue to face, the steps we are taking to meet those challenges, and our vision for the months that we have remaining in this Transitional Process.
Even though our Government has been in place for just 105 days, this message to you this afternoon does not and cannot cover just 105 days. Today, I shall not attempt to go too far into the past. Such an exercise is bound to refresh your memories with the gruesome details of the suffering, death and destruction in our nations recent past. For most of us, those details are too painful to recall. Rather than making this a message of the past, I prefer to focus on the way forward for Liberia. So, I will touch on some key events which, in my experience, help shine some light on the darkness from which we have come, clarify the challenges we now face, and share with you the optimism that I feel for Liberias future.
I am optimistic because I know that majority of Liberians have reached a virtual consensus that The War is Over and that we must now move forward with the Peace Process and Disarm and Demobilize all ex-combatants. Liberians also believe, just as I believe, that all ex-combatants we disarm, should be fully Rehabilitated, and reunited with family and community.
Thanks to the mercy of God, and the benevolence of ECOWAS, the United Nations and other friendly governments, the guns are silent and we enjoy a degree of peace today that was only a dream six months ago.
During the past 105 days, my toughest challenge has been walking the tight political rope that is required for someone in my shoes who is trying to govern in the spirit of fairness and national unity.
Serving as Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia is a difficult job, but it is not an impossible task. Experience has shown us that this task is only possible through consultation, patience and abiding by the terms of the Accra Peace Agreement. During our consultations over the past months, we have not agreed on everything. In fact, it is fair to state that we have had some strong disagreements. However, to our credit as Liberians, we have used words and dialogue instead of guns to express and sometimes settle our differences.
I come to you today to ask for your continued cooperation in this consultation process so that we can all keep the promise we made to ourselves, our citizens, and the international community when we signed the Comprehensive Peace Accord in Accra on 18th August last year. The signing of that Accord was the beginning of the end of a difficult chapter in our nations history.
On June 4, 2003, ECOWAS with the backing of the UN Security Council, organized peace talks in Ghana. On June 17, the three warring factions (LURD, MODEL and GOL) signed a ceasefire agreement providing for disengagement of their fighting forces, the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force, disarmament and demobilization. The ceasefire agreement also required that the warring parties, along with political parties and civil society, negotiate the formation of an all-inclusive National Transitional Government.
After some 88 days of intensive consultation, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed August 18, 2003, in Accra, Ghana, and the Liberia National Transitional Government, NTGL, was inaugurated on October 14, 2003.
Upon taking office, we prioritized a new beginning of cordiality and sincerity about peaceful co-existence with countries near this capital. In this connection, I personally visited the sisterly Republics of Guinea, Sierra Leone and La Cote dIvoire where we took the message of peace in an attempt to improve Liberias strained relations with these neighboring countries. These visits prompted the Secretary-General of the Mano River Union, Dr. Abdoulare Diallo, to visit Liberia to acquaint us with efforts being taken by Guinea and Sierra Leone toward the reactivation of the MRU Secretariat and revitalization of the MRU Joint Security Committee. We are happy to state that during the period under review, our relationship within the Mano River Union Basin has substantially improved.
We are also pleased to report marked improvement in the relationship between the United States of America and Liberia. As a consequence of this improved relations, the U.S. government has already approved US$445m [Four hundred and forty-five million dollars] for Liberia. Of this amount, $245 million is allocated for Peace Keeping Operations, while $US200 million is earmarked for direct bi-lateral assistance; In addition, The Brooke Amendment which was imposed on Liberia in the 1980s, has been lifted, enabling us to receive direct bilateral assistance from the US Government. The US Government has also consented to co-host the forthcoming Donors Conference scheduled for early February.
Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, on December 19, 2003, we attended the 27th Session of Authority of the Summit of Heads of State and Governments of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held in Accra. At that conference, a communiqué was issued approving a Peace Fund, with an initial seed money of $US5 million (Five million dollars), to cater to the timely financial requirements of maintaining peace and security in the region. The fund will be augmented with contributions from member states and the international community.
During these 105 days under review, the relationship between Liberia and the countries of the European Union was strengthened. Since our incumbency, we have received several Ambassadors including those from Austria, France, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, Great Britain, Italy, Norway, and Spain. In addition, several officials of foreign governments visited Liberia with special messages from their respective governments.
Liberia participated in the China-Africa Forum held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Addis Ababa Action Plan for 2004 to 2006 took into consideration issues pertaining to political affairs, peace and security, multilateral cooperation, economic and social developments among others.
Endeavoring to promote friendly relations and support the UN one-China Policy, the Government of Liberia re-established full diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level with the Peoples Republic of China. Meanwhile, the GOL and the Peoples Republic of China have taken measures which will result in the resumption of all projects and programs affected by the suspension of economic ties with Taiwan.
DOMESTIC AND POLITICAL
Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, there were many events, both domestic and political which posed serious challenges to us as a government; specifically, the high prices of our staple food, rice, petroleum products, and rampant monopolistic business practices. We as a government addressed these challenges, and brought relief to our citizens, residents and the business community. The reduction in the price of rice, fuel and opening up of monopolies to fair competition has had improved confidence in the socio economic and political life of the nation. We remain committed to intensifying efforts that improve the physical quality of life of our people.
On the domestic front, Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, the Minister of Finance reports that the Liberian economy is in a dire state. The poor state of the economy is due to factors including the United Nations sanctions on the export of timber and diamond. The International Monetary Fund also suspended Liberias voting and related rights in the Fund due to continuous arrears owed that institution as well as the governments failure to institute, implement and adhere to sound and prudent macroeconomic policy measures and programs. However, during the fourth quarter of the year under review, the NTGL began to constructively engage the international donor community, multilateral institutions, and bilateral organizations, to enhance our relationships. The NTGL initiated and instituted several fiscal policy measures to ensure transparency, accountability, and good governance. As a result, the Fund fielded a twelve-member mission in December 2003 to review and assess the macroeconomic activities in the country. The mission has since returned to Washington, D.C., USA, and its findings are expected soon.
The Africa Development Bank has approved a half million dollar (US$500,000) emergency Humanitarian grant for Liberia. The Bank has arranged to field a mission to Liberia in the first quarter of 2004. The European Union also engaged the country to seek ways and means to lend its support.
Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, the performance of the revenue sector during the reporting period was above expectation, due mainly to the centralization of revenue collection and prudent expenditure. While revenue is up, there is need for a more vigorous revenue collection scheme. On expenditure, the Finance Ministry reports that total expenditure for the reporting period amounted to $US17,521,000 (Seventeen Million Five Hundred Twenty-one Thousand United States Dollars) and total revenue collected was $US21,131,000 (Twenty-one million One Hundred Thirty-One Thousand United States Dollars).
A major concern of this government is our current debt burden, the obligation to both domestic and foreign creditors. Total public debt was recorded at $US3.21 billion (about three point two billion dollars). However, we have utilized the little resources available to us to commence honoring our legitimate debts. We have already normalized relations with the Brenton Woods institutions, and by February 2004, we shall commence an exercise to review the authenticity of domestic debts and set priorities for settling such debts. Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, this government shall continue to pay its legitimate debts, but, it shall do so carefully in order not to destroy its emerging financial stability, thereby returning the undue hardship our people experienced in the recent past.
The Minister of Finance has recommended that for a way forward, government should improve ties and engage constructively the international donor community, monitor and effectively implement the fiscal policy through Executive Order
No. 2.1 which authorized the tax payer identification number scheme; follow up with the IMF/World Bank, UNDP, USAID and other donor institutions, and petition the United Nations Security Council to lift the ban on diamond and timber export. It is again worthy to note that the United States Government has suspended sanctions on diamond export from Liberia once approved Security Council Resolution No.1472 is complied with. The above mentioned advice, Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, this government has committed itself to follow.
NATIONAL DEFENSE AND SECURITY
The Security of the State remains one of our top priorities for it is only when we feel secure, that we can focus on other issues. Our primary philosophy in this regard is that once we are at peace with our neighbors and ourselves, we will enjoy a peace of mind that will enable us to use our scarce resources for development rather than for bankrolling a large army and security force.
On November 24-26, 2003, Minister Designate for National Security Hon. Losay Kendor headed a high-powered Liberian delegation to Sierra Leone for a security conference to discuss matters of national and sub-regional security. As a result of said meeting, we commenced discussion on the reactivation of the Mano River Union Joint Security Committee.
During the year under review, and despite the scarcity of revenue to support its field operations, the Ministry of National Security completed over one thousand reports and deposited nearly $30,000.00 [Thirty Thousand United States Dollars] into government revenue, money recovered through the Economic Crime Investigation Department.
EDUCATION, HEALTH AND WELFARE
It is an open secret that an educated people are a free people, and it is only through a sound educational system that citizens can make informed democratic and sound economic decisions that affect their lives. A top priority of this government is to reawaken and revitalize the educational system of the country. Many of our youth have been denied access to education for the past 14 years because of war and civil unrest. In order to change the course of events in this all-important sector, the Ministry of Education and UNICEF launched the free and compulsory primary education program and the Back to School Program on November 3, 2003. Let me use this opportunity to extend my thanks and appreciation to you, Honorable Members, for approving the amount of $US250,000 (Two Hundred and Fifty thousand United States Dollars) that helped to launch the Back to School Program. One Hundred Thousand United States dollars of that money was given to the Ministry of Education and the balance of $US150,000 was initially given to the University of Liberia to assist that institution of higher learning in its efforts to reopen. Additionally, an amount of US$100,000 was given to the UL, making a total of US$250,000.00 to help with reopening. To date, UL has not been reopened, thus, this government has also approved recommendation from a special committee set up to look into grievances of students and faculty at the University of Liberia. In the past few days I have personally met with and discussed the UL state of affairs with faculty, students and staff. A few hours ago I received and accepted the resignation of Dr. Ben A. Roberts, the President of the University of Liberia. We have reconstituted the Board of Trustees and have asked the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Joseph Kollie, to act as President of the University of Liberia pending reports from a special select search committee to identify and shortlist three to five candidates from which the new President will be chosen.
During the period under review we also launched the Government of Liberias Education Sector Reconstruction Plan. We hope to continue support for that plan in the year ahead.
Additionally, various members of our population have unique educational needs. Therefore, we need to reach out more to those students who are handicapped or have special educational needs. In the year ahead, we urge the Ministry of Education to work along with experts and donors to accommodate our citizens with special needs in education. I like to thank those donor agencies that are already making contributions in this area.
Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, the Government of Liberia needs to improve the quality of health care for its citizen. According to the Minister of Health, malaria, acute respiratory infection, and morbidity are on the increase. As a result of a cholera outbreak in Monrovia, there were 34 deaths out of over 26,000 cases. Furthermore, infant and maternal mortalities were reported at 780 per 100,000 of the population in 2003. Cases of HIV/AIDS increased during the reporting period. The health problem, according to the Minister, is compounded by the acute shortage of drugs and medical supplies.
In the face of these problems, however, Government, in collaboration with UNICEF and NGOs launched an emergency measles immunization and vitamin A supplement campaign in Bomi, Montserrado, Grand Bassa and Margibi Counties; and also conducted regular services including obstetrics and postnatal care in an effort to reduce infant and maternal mortality.
In addition, 5,493 wells in Monrovia and 150 communities were chlorinated against water-borne diseases. The Ministry of Health reports an increase in the number of orphanages during the period under review from 117 to 122.
Food security and our ability to feed ourselves are important to our nation and people. A large portion of our population makes their living from subsistence farming and we must do all we can to help those people rebuild their lives. Even though achieving self-sufficiency in food production is not a specific mandate of our Transitional Government, it is important for sustaining the peace. We hope to begin a process of feeding ourselves in order to reduce our dependency on imported foods.
The Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) in Suacoco experienced tremendous loss as a result of the war in Central Liberia. The Minister of Agriculture has made several recommendations aimed at capacity building in the areas of research and extension. We have taken those under advisement.
During the last 105 days, the economy experienced sharp short-term depreciation in the Liberian dollar. As a result, prices on the market increased sharply. I have directed the Council of Economic Advisors to look into this matter so as to advise actions to reverse this negative trend.
In 2003, the GOL registered 2,280 business establishments as compared to 3,047 in 2002. This reflects a decrease of about 25%. This business registration exercise generated over L$25 million (Twenty-Five Million Liberian Dollars) against about L$21 million (Twenty one Million Liberian Dollars) in 2002.
Exports, Import and Trade
Honourable Ladies and Gentlemen, exports recorded an aggregate of about US$109 million as compared to US$156.2 million in 2002. This downturn is attributed mainly to the unstable business environment caused by the war.
The import sub-sector revealed a declining trend; it recorded about US$151 million (about One hundred and fifty-one million dollars) as compared to about $US159 million (about One hundred fifty-nine million) in 2002.
Accordingly, the balance of trade during the period under review, recorded a deficit of US$43.0 million (Forty-three million dollars). This is due to the fact that between June and August the trade sector virtually collapsed. If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is that a good economy goes hand in hand with peace, stability, and law & order.
INFORMATION, CULTURE AND TOURISM.
Just as our nation as a whole faced many challenges in 2003, the information, culture and tourism sub-sectors were also challenged. Despite these challenges, we proclaimed in our Induction Speech on October 14, that this Transitional Government will protect our peoples rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. We continue to honor that pledge. In that connection, we lifted the ban on Star Radio and today, upon the recommendation of the Minister-Designate of Information, I am lifting the ban on the Independent Newspaper The Journalist published by the Liberian Institute of Journalism. One can tell from the proliferation of independent newspapers in Monrovia that the press in this country is indeed free. However, it is important to note that every ounce of press freedom comes with an equal measure of responsibility for the information we print or broadcast. This government will not muzzle the press under any condition; however, it is important for all media institutions operating in Liberia to note that they have a professional responsibility to report the truth and to ensure that their information is accurate, fair and objective.
We are taking steps to improve the information and information technology sector so that our people will have access to world-wide electronic information through the Internet. Our Tourism industry needs to be rehabilitated. Once again, tourism is an industry that attracts clients only when a nation is peaceful and stable. We are optimistic that as peace gradually extends to rural Liberia, Liberians abroad and non-Liberians alike will begin to come back home once again to experience those symbols of our cultural expression that make us a unique people.
Let me challenge the independent media today to demonstrate your patriotism by helping government get its message out in a way that promote reconciliation, and brings lasting peace to our nation.
Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, The Minister of Internal Affairs reports that several changes need to be effected to enhance smooth and efficient running of the Ministry. To date, local government administrators have not been appointed because of the partial deployment of UNMIL troops and the gradual disarmament exercise. These are obstacles hindering smooth operation of local governance.
LANDS, MINES AND ENERGY
As you know, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) placed a ban on the export of rough diamonds from Liberia due to their determination that Liberia was used as a conduit for the sale of diamonds and that the proceeds from this sale was used to fueled armed insurrections in our sub-region. The UNSC subsequently enacted Resolution 1408, which indicates that the sanctions will be lifted once Liberia puts in place an internationally acceptable diamond certificate of origin regime. Between January and June 2003, the Liberian Government through the Ministry of Land, Mines and Energy, worked with a South African group and the South African Diamond Board to ensure compliance with the Kimberlite process.
The quantity of gold shipped through the Ministry was approximately 2,116 ounces (two thousand one hundred and sixteen ounces), a little higher than the 1,546 ounces (one thousand five hundred and forty-six ounces) shipped in 2001 and 1,284 ounces (one thousand two hundred and eighty-four ounces) shipped in 2002. These figures do not represent the actual gold production in Liberia. The Minister of Land, Mines and Energy reports that a significant quantity of diamond mined here is smuggled out of Liberia, especially through land borders. We envisage that with the establishment of complete civil authority with control at border posts, smuggling shall be reduced.
YOUTH & SPORTS
The Ministry of Youth and Sports states that it directed successfully the affairs of the youth of Liberia to enable them be useful and productive citizens. In line therewith, it is enhancing social and national consciousness of young people through vocational/technical training and sports. However, as a result of hostilities in Monrovia, it could not implement this mandate with consistency.
The Minister reports of having developed and submitted to the Technical Committee of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs a Concept Paper on upgrading and rehabilitating its vocational training institutions and its participation in the DDRR program.
In addition to the self help initiatives by the Ministry, they have agreed to complete old projects including the Samuel K. Doe Sports complex, which renovation is underway. The Ministry has joined the Ministry of Education in promoting family life education. Further, the Ministry worked in collaboration with the Ministry of Education on a project to introduce family education in the non-formal education sector of the country.
However, it is upgrading and rehabilitating its vocational training institutions for its participation in the DDRR program.
Honourable Ladies and Gentlemen, women and children are the most vulnerable members of our population and thus it is important that we continue to ensure that the Ministry of Gender is properly funded and empowered to provide for the needs of the women and children of this country.
The Ministry was able to re-establish the over-all framework for the coordination of programs that impact the lives of women and children. The Ministry instituted a strong partnership at national and local levels within the framework of Gender Mainstreaming System to ensure that gender issues relating to women and children are mainstreamed through dialogue, programs and projects.
The Minister of Rural Development, Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, during the period in review, played an active role in the general needs assessment exercise coordinated by Government in collaboration with the United Nations and the World Bank, in preparation for the planned Donor Conference of February 2004.
The ministry formulated a draft Plan of Action for 2004, constructed water and environmental/sanitation facilities in several displaced camps, and initiated similar construction at 15 school sites in Margibi County. Unfortunately, very little rehabilitation or development work was achieved in rural Liberia due to security problem.
To ensure effectiveness of the NTGL in Rural Development Administration, the Minister of Rural Development has recommended that the following should be considered: to capacitate the ministry to an optimum level of efficiency in administration of rural development in all counties; To conduct detailed assessment mission in all counties; to determine the status of existing social and economic infrastructure and services. To coordinate, monitor and evaluate the activities of all implementing partners operating in rural areas; to initiate research and development of appropriate technology for effective and affordable rural development; to ensure effective rehabilitation/reconstruction of social, economic, and social infrastructure and restore basic social and economic services. We have given approval to these recommendations.
Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, on January 7, His Honor the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and four Associate Justices were sworn into office. The full Supreme Court Bench is now seated and we are pleased to report that the seating of the Court marks the beginning of the revitalization of our Judicial Branch of Government. In the spirit of separation of powers, this Government is on record as supporting the independence of the Judiciary. There has not been, and will not be any interference in the affairs of the Court. Our citizens need to have confidence in the Judicial System. I pledge to you today as I did on the day of the commissioning of the Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court, that I will support and cooperate with that Body so that we can restore the credibility and transparency of our judicial system; and administer balanced Justice in our country. During the next Fiscal period we shall endeavor to prioritize payment of improved salaries and allowances to judicial personnel in the hope that some of their basic needs will be met from the salaries instead of from illegal fees and charges.
We have credible information on corrupt practices in the Judiciary. These are unacceptable difficulties we have inherited.
The Rule of Law
One hundred and five days ago when we stood before your August Body to take the oath of office, we pledged to uphold
the rule of law and to protect the human rights of all of our people. To this end, we are happy to report that during the period of our Transitional Administration, no journalists were arrested, manhandled, or molested in any way by our security forces. Our prison system is bereft of the presence of any political prisoner, human rights activist or other prisoners of conscience.
This Government is reorganizing the National Police with the help of UNMIL in keeping with the provision of the Accra Peace Accord. In this connection, we welcome the presence in our country of those United Nations police who are working to train and equip our Police Force to help us cope with the challenges of restoring law and order and reducing crime throughout the length and breath of our country.
We like to congratulate the Minister of Justice and all our security forces throughout Liberia who are working in cooperation with UNMIL to bring peace and security to all of our people. We remain committed to supporting and equipping these security agencies with the resources they need to maintain and upgrade the level of security and the rule of law that have been gradually restored to our country.
PUBLIC CORPORATIONS AND AUTONOMOUS AGENCIES
Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen of the National Legislature, Public Corporations continue to be one of the bedrocks of our economy. Virtually none of these state enterprises is making profit; few are breaking even, but most of our public corporations are running at a deficit. This situation places a financial burden on government when, in fact, government expects to reap returns from these corporations. As part of our Good Governance program in this Transitional Period, we must do a comprehensive review of the status of our state-owned enterprises to ascertain which ones need to be privatized, which ones need to be run as joint ventures, and which ones need to be liquidated. In the year ahead, we shall consult with experts in this area and our Council of Economic Advisers to prepare a plan of action in this regard. This plan of action will serve as an important part of our recommendation to the government that will come into place after this Transitional Period.
The Liberian registry is unanimously regarded by the global shipping industry as a high quality professionally operated maritime administration. Ships flying the Liberian flag constitute the second largest Merchant Marine fleet in the world, with its safety record equivalent to that of Norway.
Total revenue collected from October 2003 to January 2004, amounted to almost US$5.5 million (almost Five and a half million dollars). We do not have figures for the same period in 2002
During this reporting period, the Liberia Water & Sewer Corporation produced a total of 363.6 million gallons of water mainly for residents of Bushrod Island and camps where internally displaced persons were housed.
The corporation has, with the fullest support of this government, set clear goals for achievement during the next period.
As a morale booster toward achieving these goals, government has granted duty free privileges to Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation to purchase diesel fuel for its plant.
Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, as you are aware, the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) was created by an Act of Legislature in the year 2000 for the express purpose of holding all the rights, title and interest of the Republic of Liberia in the deposits of reserves of liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons within our territorial limits, with the aim of facilitating the development of the oil and gas industry in Liberia.
Although the company was not fully organized until the recent appointment of a senior management team and a Board of Directors, the president of the company reports that, data from a resent geophysical survey shows very promising signs that oil and gas exist in our territorial waters, and that many international oil companies are expressing interest in having access to the data.
The General Services Agency reports that it had concerns that some ministries and agencies of government were not adhering to the bulk purchasing program. We have reactivated the bulk purchasing scheme. This scheme is intended to take advantage of economic of scale and savings that are normally associated with bulk purchasing. I have instructed the GSA to monitor and report to my office on the progress of the bulk purchasing scheme.
Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, in June of the year under review, the United Nations Security Council placed sanctions on timber exports because, in their assessment, Liberia allegedly used revenue from timber to support the export of insurrection. Our Transitional Government has constituted a committee to advance recommendations on what possible measures this government can take to assure compliance with the relevant Security Council Resolution, so that sanctions can be lifted.
The Liberia National Lotteries, Inc., during the reporting period, reports that, in line with its mandate which is to provide a source of revenue for government, and to cater to the welfare of the disabled, it has made substantial financial contributions to the disabled, the old folks home, and educational institutions amounting to nearly $L194,000 (One hundred ninety-four thousand Liberian dollars).
One of the accomplishments of the Liberia Electricity Corporation and the Transitional Government has been to restore power to some parts of central Monrovia and Bushrod Island with the assistance of the European Union and this government. Additionally, this government has taken measures to ensure that electricity is provided to other areas including the Gardnersville, Freeway and Sinkor soon. With EU funding, the commercial activities of the LEC have been completely computerized.
Mr. Speaker, Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, in a few days I shall travel to the United States for a Pledging Conference on Liberia that is co-chaired by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. The objective of this Conference is to seek the help and support of the international community for our peacekeeping and reconstruction plans. We hope to raise sufficient funds to support our plans and set a strong foundation for growth.
Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen of the National Legislature, upon seating of the National Transitional Government of Liberia, we, in consultation with the all major stakeholders on November 29, 2003, constituted the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (NCDDRR) with Dr. Moses T. Jarbo as Executive Director.
On December 1, 2003, a symbolic destruction of arms was launched; and on the 7th of said month, disarmament, demobilization was officially launched with the disarming of 12,218 GOL ex-combatants.
The NCDDRR managed to close down the camp Schieffilin cantonment site following the unfortunate December 8-9, 2003 riot which resulted in the loss of innocent lives and destruction of property.
The deployment of a Pakistani Battalion in Tubmanburg was successfully implemented. The Executive Director further reports that it was agreed on January 20, 2004, that 15 days after an initial sensitization, information and dissemination period the actual disarmament of all ex-combatants will commence, with the cooperation of all three warring factions and the direct involvement of the frontline commanders.
This sensitization mission has been successful in Tubmanburg, Bomi County; and Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. During the mission, the generals of LURD, MODEL and the former GOL played a major role in informing and educating people about the DDRR process.
Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow citizens, the progress, stability and peace we have achieved thus far is to a large extent due to the personal commitment and sacrifices of several personalities and institutions. At this juncture, permit me to extend on behalf of our grateful people, special thanks and commendation to Mr. Jacques Paul Klien and the gallant men and women of UNMIL for the noteworthy role they continue to play in the return of normalcy to our war ravaged country. Our special commendation and thanks also go to the former President Moses Z. Blah, who assumed the reins of power at a critical and unprecedented period in our National History and graciously relinquished power to pave the way for the installation of this government that has the responsibility of restoring total peace and democracy to our Country.
Finally, we salute the brotherly efforts of our neighbors in ECOWAS, the African Union as well as the European Union for their perseverance with and support for the achievement of Peace in Liberia.
At a later date I shall submit to you under separate cover a Legislative Agenda Covering new laws we would like to see enacted and some out-dated laws we would like to see repealed.
Specifically, we shall be forwarding new bills principally designed to protect the family, the basic unit of our society. Accordingly, we shall recommend amendment of the existing penal laws to strengthen the penalty for those who perpetrate rape and all forms of sexual violence against women and young children in our society. We believe that sexual violence in our society is a disgrace to our Liberian way of life and solicit your cooperation in making sure that rapists receive the punishment proportional to their crime.
We would like to commend the efforts of the Association of Female Lawyers (AFELL) and other human rights groups engaged in the fight to protect women and young children. We wish to assure them of our full support.
Additionally, we shall also request a repeal of the recently passed legislation de-criminalizing polygamy. It is in arguable that our customary laws afford ample protection to those persons who choose to marry more than one woman. However those persons who choose civil marriages should not be permitted by our laws to do similarly. Therefore, by repealing the law, we would ensure that persons married under civil laws have no legal incentive sanctioned by the state, to marry more than one wife.
We shall also forward very strict laws to protect our children and society from the scourge of illegal drugs. Anyone found trafficking illegal drugs in our country especially to children and vulnerable groups will receive the maximum penalty possible, because, illegal drug use has been a major source of violence in our country.
In the midst of life is death. No man is immune from death and the pains it brings to those who have lost their loved ones. But we are always comforted when we believe and trust that there is life eternal through faith and in this life eternal, we hope to meet our beloved ones.
The following former officials of Government and prominent citizens died during the period January 1 through December 31, 2003. They are:
1. Honourable Moses Poka Harris, Sr.,
Former Member of the House of Representative for Grand Gedeh County and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives,
2. Mrs. Janet Frances Venus Laa Harvey Hoff,
Senior Citizen, Social Worker and devout Christian
3. Honourable Edwin Lahai Rogers, Sr,
Former County Attorney for Grand Cape Mount County.
4. Madam Anta Doegbee, Former Executive Secretary to the Minister of Finance
5. Deacon Mary Euphemia Davis, Former
Personnel Officer, Bureau of the Budget, and Senior
6. Honourable Moses Momolu Okai
Former Assistant Minister for Youth Services, Ministry of Youth & Sports
7. Mr. George Magnus Kiawoin, Sr.
Former Director of Information and Communication; Former Assistant Director of Personnel, Procurement and Budget Ministry of Finance
8. Major Charles Napoleon Harris, Sr.
Liberia National Police Force
9. Honourable Reverend Dr. Samuel D. Hill
Former Member of the House of Representatives for Bomi County and Former Speaker; Former Minister of Local Government, and Rural Development
10. Honourable Dr. James L. York,
Former Advisor to the Government of Liberia on Trade and Commerce, Former Member of the Board of Concessions
11. Honourable Sammakai M. Richards,
Former Deputy Minister of Agriculture,
12. His Honor J. Emmanuel Gould,
Former Resident Circuit Court Judge, 14th Judicial Circuit, Rivercess County.
13. Honourable Raymond B. Jallah, Sr.
Retried Brigadier General, Armed Forces of Liberia, Former Deputy Minister of Education for Instruction
14. Colonel John Mnle Wallace (Rtd),
Former Advisor, Liberia National Police, Former
Inspector of Police
15. Honourable Rev. Milton K. K. K. Freeman
Former District Education Officer for Lofa County, Former Senator-elect for Lofa County
16. Honourable Peter Wolobah Howard
Former Member of the House of Representatives for Lofa County
17. Colonel Edward Godfrey Mills,
Former Director of Band Units, University of Liberia, and the Liberian National Police.
18. Honourable Sulonteh Gbemelen, Sr.
Former Paramount Chief, Suakoko District and former member of the Board, Phebe Hospital and Nursing School, Bong County
19. Brother Jose Sabastian Garcia,
Former Administrative Director of Catholic Hospital;
20. Deacon Emmett E. Hayes, I,
Former Lithographer, Ministry of Information
21. His Honor James N. Nagbe,
Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia
22. Mrs. Corina Hilton-Van-Ee,
Former renowned Educator, and Senior Citizen
23. Rev. Dr. S.R.E Dickson
Former Pastor, United Methodist Church
May their souls rest in peace.
THE WAY FORWARD
This administration has embarked on actions that will indeed transform our society from the past business as usual. Despite the multi-party representatives in government, we have tried to develop a level and efficient public service free from rampant corruption, but based on the principles of constructive competition through sincere, and most often times, difficult negotiations. We have realized that government can only be efficient and strong, if public servants are honest and dedicated. Good governance, therefore, is our answer to an efficient government during the life span of this administration.
This administration during the period under review, undertook as a first step toward achieving good governance, the centralization of government revenue collection and ordered that all payments be deposited at the Central Bank of Liberia. The success of this policy has witness a mark improvement in our attempt in achieving good governance as well as meeting the basic needs of our citizen. In this connection, we are happy to report that during the period under review we commenced payment of salaries and allowances not only to our civil servants, but also to our foreign service personnel, many of whom had not receive salaries for up to 60 months.
We are concerned with the tedious process of clearing goods and containers at the port of entry and shall shortly initiate measures to make the process of clearing cargo less burdensome with fewer people involved in the process.
Moving forward also means that we must continue fighting corruption. In order to fight corruption, people must be bold and start to call names. If people are not prepared to call names it will be hard to fight corruption.
The way forward is to build more academic and vocational institutions, well equipped to cope with the many students denied education over the years.
The way forward is to shy away from unwholesome actions and attitudes that hold back our progress and development, be it at home, in the workplace, at school or place of worship.
The way forward is to increase our literacy rate and encourage our citizen to live in clean and healthy communities.
The way forward is to provide adequate health services to the elderly and the children.
The way forward is for our children to have primary education and access to various institutions of higher learning.
The way forward, Honorable ladies and gentlemen, is that all of us cannot be passive spectators to wrongdoing. We must be prepared to expose evil-minded people who want to destroy our communities and our way of life.
As we move Liberia forward, a pro-people policy will be the highlight of our agenda. The things we do and the policies we adapt are designed to bring great relief and opportunity to our people and make life better and more affordable for them. Because when people are happy their thoughts are clearer and when their thought are clearer they become constructive and Liberia will grow and be prosperous.
Accordingly, we are overjoyed to state that Liberians are demonstrating their commitment for total involvement in the development and practice of good governance, private sector initiative, transparency, and respect for the rule of law. These activities being the corner stone to democracy, several new innovations have surfaced. Principally among these that we championed include the lifting of the monopoly on the importation of rice, fuel products and cigarettes; the paying of civil servant salaries regularly since October, and at the same time spending only within the approved budget though careful expenditure control.
There are times we have stumbled; yes, there are times we have indeed stumbled. But we have been quick to stand up and continue the forward march to making sure that the peace process this time works in the supreme interest of all our people, especially the women, children and elders.
Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you this afternoon to kindly move speedily to confirm all members of my cabinet and other government officials who are before you for confirmation. Confirmation of these officials is critical so that they can fulfill their statutory and Constitutional responsibilities with confidence. This is a direct request from me to you and I trust that you will honor this request.
We must never, ever again allow any differences to scar the good works of our hands. The mission now is peace and reconciliation; disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation, reintegration; and thereafter free and fair internationally supervised election in 2005. The success of this mission is our challenge, and we cannot fail our people. We cannot fail the sub region, and we cannot afford for the world to lose hope again in our integrity as a nation-state. This Peace Process is irreversible and the only choice for Liberia now is to move forward in a strong union; by this, success is assured and we will not fail. With God above and our rights to prove, we will over all prevail.
God bless you and save the State.
I THANK YOU.