At the Opening Session of the 53rd Legislature
Speaker Alex J. Tyler
Hon Joseph Nyumah Boakai, Vice President of Liberia and President of the Liberian Senate;
Hon. Armah Zolu Jallah, President Pro-Temp/Liberian Senate and Members of the Senate;
Hon Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue and Colleagues of the 53rd Legislature;
Dean and Members of the Cabinet;
Doyen and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
The Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations,
Heads of International Organizations and Development partners;
Heads and Chairpersons of Political Parties;
Civil Society Organizations;
Members of the Clergy, Chiefs, Elders, Traditional Leaders and Stakeholders;
The Fourth Estate;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I have the distinguished honor to utilize the powers conferred upon me as Speaker of the House of Representatives by the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia to welcome You, Colleagues and Members of the 53rd Legislature back to the Capital to recommence legislative business after conferring with your constituents as demanded by the Constitution. I trust that you were able to spend some quality time with your families, friends and your constituents, being keenly aware of the great challenges some of you faced in travelling to and from your homes in far-flung, rural communities, where the roads are more deplorable; your being here today, despite the difficulties is a testament to your commitment and devotion in doing the people’s business.
We thank the Almighty God for delivering us from a pestilential plaque, EBOLA, which rendered our nation with extreme prejudice, rendering grief and sorrow to thousands of our citizens in 2014. Also, General EBOLA, twice made return calls, but was swiftly contained by our ever-vigilant health professionals who didn’t allow him to-take-a-seat amongst us.
To our health care workers and foreign partners-we salute you with much kudos.
In doing so, permit me to also take this time to greet and welcome the President of the Republic of Liberia and Members of her Cabinet as well as Members of the Judiciary back to legislative business as usual.
We also wish to welcome our distinguished invitees to this occasion and to express sentiments of appreciation to them for turning out.
On behalf of the House of Representatives and the entire Legislature, I wish all of you a prosperous Happy New Year.
Before proceeding forward, I would like for us to stand for a minute to pay tribute to one of the pillars of the 53rd Legislature, the Late Hon. Fofi Sahr Bimba who passed away shortly before our break. His departure is nationally felt due to his nationalistic and developmental spirit. May the peace of God perpetually rest upon him. In this same vein, I am pleased, on behalf of the House of Representatives to welcome Hon. Fofi S. Bimba’s successor, Hon. Julia Fatoma Weah who just won the hotly contested seat as Representative of District #2 of Lofa County. She shall be inducted into office at this sitting. Congratulations for the confidence reposed in you by your people.
During the year 2015, the House of Representatives suffered irreparable losses as a result of the demise of the following staff members; namely, Joseph Flomo, Haja Kromah, Wellington Pah, Jr., Miatta Johnson and J. Wah Newton, all of the Central Administration. These were potential Liberians who contributed greatly to the success of the House. Liberians and the Government owe them gratitude. May the peace of God abide with them continually.
Distinguished Colleagues; Ladies and Gentlemen: As we are cognizant, the National Legislature is the first Branch of Government. The Constitution of our nation confers all powers upon the people of this Country as enshrined in Article 1.These powers are transferred by the people to each legislator elected by them. In other words, their powers are configured in us and their expectation is that we will justify the confidence they have reposed in our abilities and integrity.
What this means is that the Legislature must be the conduit of political, social and economic rights to the people. We must be their ears, eyes, mouth and planners of their destiny. We must intercede for them and be the custodians of their trust. The failure of the National Legislature to inspire and process economic growth and development as well as the social and economic rights of the people, shall indeed be a failure to exercise the powers they have conferred on us and the faith they have in us.
We must offer them that believability. If the Legislature has failed over the years of the existence of the nation to recognize this, it is most timely that we the Members of the 53rd Legislature muster up our courage and energies to do so and to ensure representation by measuring the expectations of our constituents. We must now exercise those powers conferred on us in ways that bring joy and hope to our people. Our posture and responses must change from early post war measures and realities. We must look at the new trend and our responses should be as such.
Distinguished Colleagues; Ladies and Gentlemen: Let this not be misconstrued to mean that the 52nd and 53rdLegislature did not adequately represent their people. As we all do know, difficult times usually demand difficult actions and challenging reforms. The Legislature was saddled with the task of ensuring that reforms were implemented in response to the difficult times inherited as a result of the collapse of all political, social and economic activities brought on the people of this country by years of conflagration.
This meant cooperating with Executive submissions, programs, legislations, and development agenda void of expected technicalities and rigid measures for the good of our people. The social and political structures of Liberia needed to be restored and enhanced.
The wheels of industry needed to be revived to create employment and establish a firm revenue generating base. The justice system needed to be put back on track. The security of the state and citizens needed to be ensured. As we all know, Liberia had one of the highest humanitarian crisis.
These tasks, I am sure, were well performed by the Legislature which accounts for the removal of our nation from a failed state category to that of an active and secure one. I want to thank Members of the 52nd and 53rd Legislature for their resolve to act in the best interest of the Republic and its people and their resilience amidst critical evaluations and assessment of the Legislature. We were able to maintain peace and stability in the nation despite intrigues from quarters least expected to dis-stabilize the Legislature.
Allow me to admonish all of us that where results did not translate to the expectations of our people and their livelihood as a result of implementation failures, I like to emphasize the need for legislative vigilance, prudence, scrutiny of policy submissions and concessions. We must be proactive.
It is imperative that we come to the realization that Liberians are daily holding the National Legislature accountable and liable for what is daily described as “THE FAILURE OF THE LEGISLATURE.” Much of these are a result of the relaxation of our oversight responsibilities. We must re-visit this pillar with utmost vigor and sense of direction during the 2016 sessions. Rigorous oversight will lead to rigorous representation. Hope must be restored to our people and we must be the microcosm and beacon light of that hope.
Our responsibilities of representation, oversight and lawmaking, as laid out in the Constitution, must be upheld at every stage of our sojourn here and, must occupy every waking hour as we carry out our Committee and Plenary tasks.
But, in addition to these core duties, we must continue the vigorous and robust inspection of Legislative projects, scattered through most of the 73 Electoral Districts around the country. We fought for, and obtained (though not all we sought, we got), the funding for these projects in Budgetary allotments. I do submit, we must ensure their implementation by the executing Branch, mandated by custom, practice and the Constitution.
We, however, must not renege on our obligation to guide with zealousness our Constitutional role–ensuring that the work is brought to its completion.
Our Legislative Agenda for the year 2016 is simple and clear: a Focus on development.
All the projects which have been on-going (or stalled) since 2006, must be brought to an accelerated completion. Whether these projects are governmental undertakings, initiated by development partners or facilitated by NGOs, all of them must have a work-plan, with time-lines and thresholds, precisely marked out in weekly, monthly, quarterly projections, etc.
And, we intend to rigorously superintend our responsibilities, without prejudice to the implementers.
Our “Plan of Action” shall, in addition to reviewing the Budget performance on County and District development funds. We intend to “scrutinize Executive programs” [without prejudice] to “ensure effectiveness of cost and efficiency of resources,” especially at a time when things are really tough on our people, we must be doubly accountable.
And, Fellow Colleagues, we are today shifting the gears in legislative oversight–Committee Chairpersons are going to be demanding Quarterly Reports from Agencies and/or Ministries responsible to submit same. This decision reached by the Leadership, is intended to have a solid grip on an otherwise lackadaisical attitude exhibited by persons responsible to make scheduled and timely reports to the people.
There are individuals–some in, and others out of Government–who would prefer to engage in politics and politricks, rather than devote their enormous energies to development. In this, I leave the matter to the people to judge: they have the final word, not they (the accusers) nor I.
LEGISLATIVE AGENDA FOR 2016:
Distinguished Colleagues; Ladies and Gentlemen: Liberia is now 168 years old. Unfortunately, Liberians still do not command their economy. The industrial enclaves; manufacturing industries; trading and commerce are still dominated by foreign investments. The Liberianization Policy has no structure for comprehensive implementation. Real Estates are in the hands of foreign investors.
It is no news, Colleagues that there have been no concrete efforts over the years to redeem the situation. The people of Liberia are looking up to Government for redemption. We must turn our eyes and ears to calls for Liberian participation in the industrial and manufacturing industries as well as putting trading and commerce on a higher pedestal.
Our Legislative Agenda for 2016 must therefore focus on Liberians involvement in the mainstream economy and development initiatives void of un-necessary politics. As Legislators, I urge all of us to begin concrete actions.
In summary our plan of action must therefore constitute the following:
1. The immediate development of an economic rescue plan that will form the basis of a robust national response to our current economic squeeze brought on by falling iron ore and rubber prices. Although there are factors beyond our control, like the slowing global growth and weakening stock markets, there are actions we can take to ease the impact of the squeeze on an already struggling population. Fashioning and successfully implementing this national economic rescue plan will require a true coming together of both the executive and legislative branches of government. The conditions of our people demand that this is done with the utmost sense of urgency.
2. Reviewing budget performance of district and county development fund.
3. Scrutinizing executive programs to ensure cost effectiveness.
4. Ensuring that Legislative oversight takes on a new level.
5. Ensuring that Committees compel quarterly reports and critically examine them.
6. Ensuring effective implementation of national programs.
7. Ensuring that no new agencies are created for now.
8. Ensuring that development should not be mixed with politics.
POLITICS VS LEGISLATIVE PROJECTS
About two years ago in a speech for the opening of the sitting of the 53rd Legislature, I proposed US$73 million as direct District impact projects. In that speech I proffered that 73 Million Dollars be put into areas around the country which seemed never to have felt the impact of Central Government from its inception, since 1847.
The proposal was made after nationwide tour with fellow Legislators (mostly from the House) to sensitize citizens on the oil-gas sector reform bill. While on that tour, I was privy to the poverty, deprivation, neglect and hurt which our fellow citizens–especially from rural areas–suffer on a yearly, monthly, weekly, daily and hourly basis.
The response from this proposal was shot down by some high government officials while the ordinary citizens hailed the idea. This was a classic case of politicizing development aspirations and matters which should not be so. We have come to realize that there are some officials whose upbringing does not agree with ideas which others generate; while there are others who’s up-bringing does not support the progress of those referred to as ordinary citizens. We must seek to change these mentalities and upbringings if Liberia is to be developed.
Let me repeat here that “the US$73m proposal for districts development does not seek to buttress the political standing of any lawmaker; nor does it intend to influence the electorates’ decision at the polls to re-elect any Legislator seeking re-election. The House of Representatives harbors no pecuniary interests, as lawmakers are not directly involved in the implementation of projects. The projects are handled by Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment. The sole objective of the proposal is to bring immediate, direct dividends to the people and to relief them from prolong suffering.”
While the entire $73 million was not appropriated, the amount that was allocated has made significant impacts on the lives of our people.
For the benefit of the public, let me list the projects that are under construction or completed by the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE).
1. Montserrado County
• District #9 - Matadi Swamp Footpath Bridge linking New Matadi to 12th Street. (nearing completion)
• District #10 - Congo Town Pagos Island Road, including culverts installation (nearing completion)
• District #4 - 101 Gas Station Road Box Culvert in Paynesville (completed)
• District #4 – Duport Road Cowfield Junction Box Culvert (completed)
• District #6 – Mary T. Broh School (completed)
• District #3 – Pipeline School (nearing Completion)
• District #7 – Waterside Market Public Latrine (under construction)
• District #12 – Stephen Tolbert Estate Park & Monument (rehabilitated)
• District #13 – New Georgia Market (under construction)
• District #12 – Ballah Creek Box Culvert linking Pipeline Road and Neezoe (nearing completion)
• District #1 – Kingsville Town hall (nearing completion)
• District #17- Cheesemanburg Market (nearing completion)
• District #15 – Caldwell North Road (under construction)
2. BOMI COUNTY
• District # 3 – Mulbah Town Clinic (nearing completion)
• District #3 -= Queenie Box Culvert (completed)
• District # 1- Upper Togage Clan Bridge (nearing completion)
3. GRAND CAPE MOUNT COUNTY
• District #1 - Weajue Market Building (under construction)
• Gola-Konneh Youth Center & Gola Konneh Guest House (nearing completion)
4. GRAND BASSA COUNTY
• District #1 – Compound #1 Market (nearing completion)
• District #2 – Gohn Town Public School (under construction)
• District #4 – Ceyah Town Clinic (under construction)
• District #5 – Gio Town Market (under construction)
5. SINOE COUNTY
• District #1 – Seebeh Market extension (under construction)
• District #3 – Voogbadee Town Public School (under construction)
6. GRAND KRU COUNTY
• District #1 – William T. Savage Public School and Annex (nearing completion)
7. MARGIBI COUNTY
• District #4 - Kakata Women Center (under construction)
• District #3 – Kakata Islamic School (under construction)
• District #4 – Police Station in Larkayta (completed)
• District #5 – Teacher Quarter in Weala (nearing completion)
8. LOFA COUNTY
• District #5 – Zolowo Town Youth Center (nearing completion)
• District #5 – Salayea Youth Center (under construction)
9. BONG COUNTY
• District # 4 – Yorwee Town Clinic (nearing completion)
• District #5 – Tonkpoyah Bridge (Nearing completion)
• District #2 – Tormue Bridge (under construction)
• District #7 – Yabayah Clan Market (under construction)
• District #6 – Salala Radio Station (under construction)
• Sanoyea Public School (nearing completion)
10. NIMBA COUNTY
• District #8 – Flumpa Public School (under construction)
• District #1 – Ganta City Market (under construction)
• District #2 – Sanniquelle Public School (under construction)
• District #9 – Kpeletuo Bridge (under construction)
11. GRAND GEDEH COUNTY
• District # 2 – Ziah Town Radio Station (under construction)
• District #1 – Zwedru City Market (under construction)
• District # 3 Zleh City Market (under construction)
12. RIVER GEE COUNTY
• District #1 – Jaytoken Community Bridge (under construction)
• District #3 – Kronwroken Market (under construction)
• District #2 – Jarkaken Public School (under construction)
13. GBARPOLU COUNTY
• District #3 – Smith Camp Clinic (under construction)
14. MARYLAND COUNTY
• District #2 – Pleebo Sodoken Library (under construction)
• District #3 – Karloken Guest House (under construction)
• District #1 – Pula Teachers Quarters (under construction)
15. RIVERCESS COUNTY
• District #1 – Bahn Town Bridge (nearing completion)
We intend to continue to do all we can for our people with no distractions from anywhere. The Constitution tells us in Article 1, that, “All power is inherent in the people…” And we are here to do the work of the people who elected us.
Fellow Citizens: Today, we are proposing the launch of a new agricultural initiative, intended to enhance food production, promote, encourage and uplift our farmers, throughout the length and breadth of the country.
An award, named and styled, the “Agricultural Break Excellence Achievement Award,” will be given to the counties with the highest yield in food production of 1. Rice, 2.Cassava, and 3. The “Mixed Bag” (to include Plantains and Bananas, Eddoes, Potatoes, Yams, and fruits and vegetables) The First prize will be US$100,000.00, with the Second and Third Prizes being US$50,000.00 and US$25,000.00, respectively.
Individuals, groups, cooperatives and corporations are eligible to apply for, and participate, in this initiative to be supervised and administered under the aegis of the Ministry of Agriculture.
I urge support from my Colleagues and the Executive, for food security is a sine qua non for people who aim is to take charge of their destiny. In addition to the measure proposed above to stimulate national food output through competition, we are also suggesting new national efforts in agriculture that will fetch us badly needed foreign exchange, especially in the face of weak iron ore and rubber prices on the world market.
We suggest public sector investments in fresh tropical fruits and vegetable production for local consumption and exports to wealthier European markets. We need to follow examples from neighboring countries like Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where strategic public private partnerships have allowed for a multi-million dollars export subsector in fruits and vegetables to flourish.
Distinguished Colleagues; Ladies and Gentlemen, as I close, I wish to remind us that Liberia needs Liberians to develop it. In order to do this, there must be vision. We therefore need to encourage Liberians who have vision for development; open the world of opportunities for them to do so; and remove fears and other constraints that may cause them to invest in other countries.
We need to cultivate development oriented experiences from other nations. Those of us in national leadership must lead the way. We cannot always depend on others to do it for us. We must engender the spirit of nationalism and development. Love for one’s nation is the beginning of rapid and steady development.
I urge all of you–my Colleagues and fellow citizens–to strive not only for what you want to achieve for yourself and your family; but rather, strive for what you want your brother (or sister) to achieve for himself (or herself) and their families. For, a person should not be judged by how much he/she has and is willing to give; but by how much he/she is willing to sacrifice.
I say, a country with just a few well-to-do (or wealthy) people, is a country which has several legs, but is standing only on one; that one leg cannot and will not carry the weight for long–it will bugle under the load, and collapse.
We must therefore create opportunities for others, as we endeavor to create opportunities for ourselves.
We must contend for a more just society; we must struggle for a more caring and sharing nation; we must fight for lifting the state not shifting blame or responsibility.
My Brothers and Sisters, listen to what I say: we must not practice the doctrine of kokojumuku–“if you’re not inside…you don’t know;” but let us foster the ethic of ku-kai-tu-non–“all for one, and one for all!”
I thank you and God bless you.