Responsive Democracy

When the People Cry Aloud, It’s Time for Leaders to Act

The virtues of democracy are embodied in the foundational principles of human freedom which provides for the rights of the people to freely exist, speak, move, act, think, heard, responded to, and extended the hand of justice without hindrances. These freedoms and rights are fundamental in drawing up constitutions by which citizens are governed.

Jointly, I think we all applaud President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for making some of these realizable and practicable in today’s Liberia. But that should not be the end; but a means by which we achieve the end. If these freedoms and rights are extended, the purposes must also be respected and not ignored. To ignore them is a rejection of how the people wish to   be governed and also a violation of the very rights and freedoms that have been extended to them. The interpretations would therefore be an appeasement theory for years of oppression they suffered; but without clear and practical achievements for denial of such rights and freedom in the past. It would also be described as a national pretense to make the international community believe that democracy is in full its swing in Liberia.

The democratic freedom and rights provided for in the constitution are to guide administrations or political leaders in designing policies with the thoughts and expressed contributions of citizens in mind and not only during referendum periods. Their thoughts are made known through expressions, they have spoken on talk shows, letters, or through print media. If policies and actions are not designed with the expressed contributions of citizens in mind, then in all truism, the administration becomes autocratic and manipulative to perpetuate its own will. This within its interpretational perimeters is a form of calculated emotional oppression of democratic rights and privileges. “We speak and write because we want to help change the course of history and contribute to the governance of the nation from the far distance that has been allocated for us by the powers that be,” says an activist from Carey Street.

This columnist is not suggesting that the leadership should bow to all public utterances, pronouncements and suggestions; but that the government would assess policies, structural and leadership issues that are raised and perceived to be detrimental to good governance and counterproductive to public interests. In a chat sometimes ago with a pro-administration activist known to respond in defense of the Sirleaf’s administration, he boasted that the President is not moved by public criticisms, recommendations and suggestions. In other words, this activist was saying the President does what pleases her whether against public interests and policies. According to him, the President already told the nation that she has thick skin and nothing people say about her would penetrate or bother her conscience; meaning she has no regards for public views and passionable contributions. This is grotesque and not adequately defensible of the President.

Unfortunately, what this loyalist ignorantly projects is the insensitivity of the President to the pulse of the people which is a democratic breach that makes all freedoms and rights extended to citizens unproductive and add nothing to the democratization of the nation. It simply means “let them talk and if they are tire, they will close their loud mouths. I will do what I wish to do. I am the President.” I believe this is unfair to the image of the President and I think she is either grossly and wrongfully defended, misrepresented or that these loyalists are core-products of many ills in governance that are negatively challenging the second term of the President and pushing many of those who supported her to regret their decisions.

”There are several issues involved,” says an NUDP partisan. “The President has established a leadership class of few privileged and powerful sect called the UNTOUCHABLES. Members of this sect are never held liable for wrong doing whatsoever. They are recycled as if they are the only educated class in Liberia. In the midst of public outcries against them, they grow more privileged, powerful, influential, and affluential. They are said to be worth from ten to over one hundred and fifty million United States dollars and counting. The President intervenes for them and does everything possible to shield them or deliver them from their economic, social and political trespasses. One’s relationship with the President becomes darkened when these sect members’ official conduct, placement, and policies are questioned, says this aggrieved partisan.

A Liberty Party failed candidate for the House who preferred anonymity declares: “the President is expected to be a mother who feels compassion when one of her children complains of pain. This is not so with President Sirleaf. She has so many children but few are protected and defended when there is wrong committed against the others. This should not be so.”  But other sources say they think the President is sometimes misjudged.  Perhaps, she is only being carried away by the good performance of some of her officials that she, as a human, defends, or ignores their weaknesses and deleterious attitudes. This over confidence in them earns her an image of protectiveness and insensitivity to expressed public views, they conclude.

A resident of Tusafield in Gardinersville points out that there have been public criticisms of Minister Amara Konneh’s official conduct since his appointment as Finance Minister. Regardless of those criticisms, Konneh has grown so powerful that he is looked upon as Prime Minister and the defacto appointive power in the nation along with Robert Sirleaf. The Public and the Legislature are questioning his control of two major ministries without legal mandate. The President has not yet responded. Mr. Koffa Kloh, former Dean of Admission of A. M. E. Zion University is very enraged and expressed his disappointment. He says he is baffled that the President who stood against bad governance and social ills would now make them acceptable in her administration.

Political observers have noted that citizens from all walks of life did give unflinching support to the Senate’s decision of vote of no confidence in Acting City mayor Mary Broh; but reverse same due to presidential intervention and apology from Madam Broh without quizzing her on official misconduct and brutalities against citizens. According to them, there has been no time of citizen’s disappointment in the President’s decision to retain her and the Senate revocation action. Callers on Talk Shows have described Mayor Broh as more powerful than the Senate and the President. Who can the citizens depend on to stop her excesses, they wonder? In other words, “Broh’s brutalities are now sanctioned,” declares another Talk Show Caller.

The appointment of Robert Sirleaf as Chairman of NOCAL Board and Political Advisor to the President pro-bono has drawn and continues to draw public annoyance and repulsion of President Sirleaf governing principles. Though there is nothing fundamentally wrong as Robert is qualified; but moral questions and insinuations have become a plague on the administration which could have negative historical inferences and references to her administration when she is out. Administration critics say it is unlawful for a citizen of the Republic to work without pay; if Robert works, he must be paid. But the President has justified The appointment of her children to the annoyance of Dr. Bhoffol Chambers.

At the National Port Authority, workers have cried out aloud against Mrs. Parker’s poor handling of the Liberian ports and her ill management style. They have called for her replacement only to be reappointed to the detriment of laborers’ working condition, says a port worker. Moreover, it is claimed that Mrs. Parker has no port management training and experience. Could there be no better choice? There are also cries of astronomical salaries, allowances, and benefits at certain autonomous agencies and commissions while civil servants including nurses and teachers pay checks can barely take them through a week. The Senate has so far set up a committee to review same.

Of recent, the Ministry of Agriculture has been taken to task for gross lack of interest in the agricultural sector and does nothing to promote agricultural activities. She has admitted failure and blamed it on lack of capacity, if a Daily Observer report is anything to go by. The Ministers of Agriculture, Commerce, and Finance are being called upon by Representative Alex Chersia Grant to give account of the Japanese Rice Donation as their annual reports failed to capture them. Where are the monies? The Representative is launching inquiries.

It appears that there are more cries in Liberia since the President’s second term. The cries of Unity Party Partisans; the cries of anti-gay campaigners for the President to approve the Anti-gay Act; the cries of opposition parties; the cries against unfair concessions; the cries of citizens and Finance workers against Amara Konneh tribalistic official conduct; the cries against Mary Broh and others and the cries of the economy becoming an increasingly dry well in about ninety percent of Liberian homes and a wasteful faucet in about ten percent of Liberian homes.

These cries are intended to change unpopular decisions, or reverse them. Adherence does not diminish the authority and powers of the presidency; but rather give respectability to citizens’ opinions and make the government a government for the people, by the people, and of the people. This is democracy and becomes its victory.

The voice of the people and President Sirleaf’s predecessors’ insensitivity to them as well as the culture of the untouchables who abused the fundamental rights of citizens and influenced bad policies and governance led her to become a political activist and campaigner of the rights of the people in a struggle which led her to jail and a prolonged stay out of Liberia to introduce sensitivity to public opinions and public cries. 

The culture of untouchables in government brings about national catastrophes and post era vendetta. Liberians have experienced many cases of “Untouchables” being pursued where ever they go and become targets of citizens and incoming administrations when such government is replaced by those who were victims.  The case of the 13 officials and the cases of the recent others are still fresh.  When Liberians speak and cry out aloud, many actions are hidden within. Therefore, when they cry, it’s time for leaders to act positively.

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