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Madam President, Please Intervene

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On Friday, July 19, 2013, we reported an embarrassing and risky situation in which Liberian students find themselves after completing their studies at various universities in the People’s Republic of China. The students, who studied diverse disciplines, including Engineering, Agriculture, Medicines, as well as Economics, among others, either risk arrest or being deported to Liberia by Chinese immigration authorities if the Liberian Government fails to urgently facilitate their return home.

A dispatch from China suggests that the students have resulted to daily begging in the streets to survive, while reportedly being thrown out of their respective university dormitories and hostels, even though some have been trooping to the Liberian Embassy in Beijing on a hunger strike to attract the attention of the administration to plight. Their Resident Permits which expired shortly and would be arrested by immigration authorities to pay 500RMB or $80 USD for every day they stay in China-something which has no condition attached.

Under the bilateral agreement between the Liberian and Chinese Governments, the former agreed for the students to go for study in China and upon graduation, Government would have been responsible to provide flight tickets for their return home to contribute to the growth and development of their country. The Chinese Government has reportedly fulfilled its part of the deal by training and accommodation the period of their studies, but the Government of Liberia is yet to provide flight tickets to enable them to return home since graduation.

The Liberian student leadership in China is quoted by the dispatch as saying it had, on numerous occasions, brought this to the attention of the Inter-Ministerial Council responsible for student’s issues via emails and telephone calls, but they were often told that the problem was with the Ministry of Finance in Monrovia. The Civil Service Agency or CSA, charged with the responsibility of recruiting the students, is reportedly engaging the Finance Ministry on this matter.

The fact that those responsible to ensure that the obligation of the Government of Liberia is settled under  this  bilateral agreement with the PRC would create such embarrassment of the country, it is a complete disrespect to the authority of the President of Liberia-the symbol of the nation. To even suggest that meetings wren taking place between the Civil Service Agency and the Ministry of Finance on this matter is not only belated and unfair to the students, very undermining as far as the President’s desire to promote the development and growth of the nation was concerned.

We do agree with the Liberian student leadership in China that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf may not be aware of the unfortunate embarrassment, owing to the fact that when such bilateral agreement is reached, her expectation would be that the relevant government institutions would move swiftly to prioritize the obligation the administration has in such agreement. Unfortunately, the President may not even be briefed on the level of progress in the implementation of such agreement. Given the situation wherein the resident permits of the student is to shortly expire and that they either risk arrest and deportation by immigration authorities in the China,  the government’s intervention  has even become more than urgent as a way of averting the embarrassment creeping at the image of the nation and its President.

This is no time for un-necessary bureaucracy to save the image of our country-the Ministry of Finance must avoid its usually delays to avoid the disgrace; because it is already knowledgeable about agreement between Liberia and China, as well as its terms, it must move speedily to address the plight of our compatriots because unlike us, the Chinese do not “bend or suspend the laws”. We also join her  leadership of the Liberian Students in China, in seeking the immediate intervention of  Her Excellency, the President in ensuring the speedy return of our compatriots following their academic sojourn in the People’s Republic of China.

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