Maryland County is presumably the least in terms of focused development among the oldest counties of the Republic of Liberia. Administrations postdating the Tubman’s era believe Maryland has had its fair share of opportunities and now is the time to focus on other counties.
Maryland County Is Reawakening: There Is Light at the End of the Tunnel
Liberia’s 18th President, His Excellency William V. S. Tubman ruled Liberia for 27 years. His reign brought economic prosperity to Liberia and broke through the barriers of Americo-Liberian and Native divide. The inspiration he brought to the country through his open door policy as well as his unification and integration policies were unmatched in post independence Liberia.
During his administration, the aborigines had a sense of belonging to the Republic for the first time. Hinterland policies which meted out cruelty and deprived natives of political participation and of rights as citizens were abolished. Chiefs, village elders and the uneducated tribesmen soon had the constitutional rights to represent their people in the Legislature. Besides, Tubman’s regular Executive Council Meetings with interior residents endeared him to the natives. Because of his benevolent kind of leadership, Maryland County assumed a respectful place in the politics of Liberia. It was Tubman’s County of origin.
Unfortunately, Maryland benefited less in terms of development and investments. Its first chance of modern infrastructure came in the wake of Government policy of rotational celebration of Independence Day and Tubman’s Birthday. According to a Tubman Administration source, the President died at the time his mind was made up to develop Maryland County. In other words, his concentration had been the Capital City and other parts for fear of being called a sectionalist while Maryland was placed in the backburner.
Since Tubman death 41 years ago, leaders of Maryland have tried to inspire Marylanders into a hopeful future. During the Tolbert’s era, major investments such as the Liberia Sugar Corporation and Decoris Oil Palm were influenced by these leaders. These investments have however folded up including the Firestone Cavalla Company. Citizens of Maryland have been left in a state of no development, scanty job opportunities, depression, frustration and dilapidated structures and to a larger extend, left in ruins. Moreover, Liberia’s civil wars have exacerbated the conditions.
The post-war administration of President Sirleaf has tried and continues to exert efforts to bring development to Maryland County. These efforts, while proving useful, are entangled with some disagreements and overblown opposing responses from certain quarters. Despite these disagreements, there are beacon lights of hope emerging at the end of the tunnels.
Maryland leaders seem to be grasping some new realities that might, while attending to issues that sparked discontentment, reunite the leaders in approaches that deprived the county of development or investment benefits. Maryland County Senior Senator, John A. Ballout, Jr. has been at the front burner of restoring dignity back to Maryland County. Though over the last six years, he fought what some Marylanders called a lone battle, conditions have changed with the entry of Ambassador H. Dan Morais, former Internal Affairs Minister of Liberia now Junior Senator of Maryland County.
A source from Maryland says the complementation of Ballout’s efforts by Senator Morais is indeed timely and expected to transform Maryland County progressively. Since his entry into the Senate, Dan has proven to be a reliable and innovative Senator. He has sponsored and co-sponsored so many bills including the one China policy reaffirmation bill; an act to elect city mayors; a bill guiding the period of persons nominated by the President to act prior to confirmation by the Senate; the Traditional Council of Chiefs and Elders Act and many others.
The Maryland Senator is Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Liberian Senate. Diplomatic sources claim that Senator Morais has been actively engaged with Foreign Missions and through close coordinating relationship with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the President of Liberia, it is expected that Liberians in general and Marylanders in particular would stand to reap prolific benefits.
Unfortunately, internal politics and smeared campaigns have been put in place to cause serious distraction from his current progressive course, says a Marylander. How does he respond? Dan says “the work of detractors is to always distract and I will not fall prey to their gimmicks. My focus is how to transform the living conditions of my people”.
Investigations conducted by this Columnist revealed that there are political instruments put in place by adversaries to diminish the high rising status of Senator Marais. His recent visit to Maryland County drew so much support and was reminiscent of the late President Tubman. Both young and old were inspired with the reintroduction of the Tubman styled Executive Council from village to village to know, understand, and resolve differences. Sources from the County said council meetings were climaxed by feasting.
On the issue of development and investment, Senator Morais has pointed out to Marylanders that as much as there are differences in opinions on the CRC and MOPP investments, it has to be noted that objective and realistic approaches are within themselves demanding as one cannot just consider investors as shelved items that one can replaced by removing the other.
The Senator identified himself with the concerns of the people of Maryland County but advised that constructive engagement, dialogue, appeals, and consensus decision between the Companies and Marylanders would avoid arbitration against government. His analysis of the CRC and MOPP agreements have located about US$240,000 annually as social development funds which could be utilized for much needed development. Also identified are 20 senior level positions allocated to Liberians in the agreements.
In his opinion, Marylanders could begin to benefit from these opportunities while other contentious issues are looked into. He believes Marylanders and some leaders’ advocacies have been much directed to confrontation and the cancellation of the concession agreements of CRC and MOPP to the extent that these benefits have been overshadowed. As a commitment to the development of Pleebo Sodoken District where these concessions are, the Senator has been successful to gain support for Pleebo Sodoken District to be upgraded to statutory district. The bill was passed by the Liberian Senate and being forward to the Lower House for concurrence.
Another outstanding debate on the National level to which Morais seems to be demonstrating his constitutional prerogative is the Code of Conduct for Public Servants. He believes the Executive cannot impose a code of conduct on the Legislature and the Judiciary. If that is done, the principle of separation of power as enshrined in the constitution would be undermined. According to him, the Judiciary has a code of conduct for lawyers and judges. The Legislature has its own rules which are its codes of conduct. The Senator contends that care has to be taken or else as reflected in the codes of conduct submitted by the Executive, both distinct branches would be subordinated to the Executive and impede the discharge of their duties.
Article 90c of the Constitution of Liberia empowers the Legislature to prescribe a code of conduct for public officials. This is the sole constitutional responsibility of the Legislature to evolve such prescription. Contrary to this empowerment, the Executive has evolved the bill-a situation which seems to add more difficulties to its passage.
Nimba County Senator Prince Johnson made what is described as a democratic motion for the Senate Plenary to defer the bill until after the Agriculture Break. That would enable the legislators to get the input of their constituents considering its magnitude.
However, as efforts are being made by National Government to ensure development, it appears that Maryland County is reawakening to the need for unity and development.