Critical voices are not enemies
Long-silence businessman-turned politician Simeon Freeman damns the governing Coalition-led government of President George Manneh Weah for its poor handling of the affairs of state.
Serving as guest speaker at the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) Excellence Awards Night and Dinner Friday, 9 August in the Paynesville City Hall outside Monrovia, Mr, Freeman, political leader of the opposition Movement for Progress Change (MPC) warns against constant labeling of Liberians who muster the courage and strength to criticize or challenge approaches to national development as ‘enemies of state’, terming such characterization as ‘detrimental’ to the advancement of socioeconomic and development agenda of the Country.
President George Manneh Weah some of his officials graced the ceremony annually held by the umbrella organization of the media in Liberia.
He argues that Liberians with such critical voices are not enemies of the state, adding, “They endorse and support national development but disagree with the approaches…”
He stresses that a strong opposition is an asset to national development, which embodied and enable a priceless view for the leader.
“Their advocacy lifts issues of relevance for public policymakers. It is said by a Liberian singer “power makes one heavy” and such heaviness attract sycophants, who deploy vices to enjoy the prolonged confidence of the President”, he asserts.
The MPC leader notes that leadership is lonely but that is only true when one chooses to entertain sycophants and create no room for alternative views by distancing from such voices “because they disagree with our approaches; spoke to or about us in ways we or our lieutenants deemed inappropriate, when the views we permit are the ones we like to hear; or we isolate people because they wear a different perception.”
He continues that however, when the leader encourages groups – for and against – approaches to national development to debate their positions in his presence, he mobilizes the tools needed for sound decision making and eliminates the loneliness that comes with decision making, underscoring that it would be a good thing should the President’s cabinet develop a plan and invite relevant stakeholders – opposition or otherwise – to present an alternative paper at a meeting of his cabinet saying, “Such exchanges bridge the gaps in public policy weaknesses that enable prolonged poverty and deprivation.”
The CEO of Consolidated Group, dealer of digital television (Dstv) in Monrovia also criticizes the government under the stewardship of President George M. Weah, for following the path of its predecessors, which are not sustainable.
“The current trends, borrowed from the past, are unsustainable. The rewards for mustering the courage to speak truth to power are insults, brutalization, stoned and jeered by hoodlums and or exile of oneself or one’s family. Insult begets insult and violence begets violence;
A society burdened by poverty and hopelessness will self-destruct when violence begets violence or insult begets insult”, he cautions.
He applauds advocates, politicians, agitators and those he calls voices of the voiceless, for their courage in risking your personal wellbeing, access to opportunities and special privileges for the good of Liberia. “As a strong political advocate myself, I share your pains and know your struggles.”
An outspoken critic of the former Sirleaf administration, Mr. Freeman has kept silent since he lost the presidency in 2017 along with dozens of other political parties to Mr. Weah’s Coalition for Democratic Change.
He decries the wave of disrespect for elected or public officials by some Liberians, behaviors he notes, are counterproductive to sustaining a healthy democratic environment.
He says the trend of reporting and broadcast, post on various social media, especially the use of profanity is a challenge that needs to be dealt with.
“We have a responsibility to sanitize the airwaves; though sometimes, speaking from experience, reaction to our well-intentioned action is so bad that we feel pressured to lose our cool. Let our criticisms be alternative ideas to national developmental approaches. When insulted, we must focus on alternative ideas and not insults. We must restrain our anger least we create, nurture and brew a society that thrives on insulting public officials. We may just be erroneously creating a demon”, he cautions media practitioners.At the ceremony, several journalists and media institutions received awards in various categories for excellence. Editing by Jonathan Browne