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Stoking tribal fears and divisions

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-Cummings lambasts senate    

Opposition political leader Alexander B. Cummings has cautioned that the Senate should not be the one to be stroking tribal fears and divisions, saying, this can only serve to deepen distrust and pull the country apart. 

His comment comes after some members of the Liberia Senate hurled invective at him for criticizing their receipt of US$15000 each.

Rather he said his recent call to senators to return US$15,000 stems from a national standpoint in the wake of increasing economic hardships amidst a renewed surge of Covid-19 in the country.

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He observed that at such a time it becomes imperative for national leaders, especially lawmakers, to exercise utmost prudence and moral judgment on the expenditure of scarce financial resources.

“The return of the money at this time by the legislators is a conscionable and moral requirement, previous budgetary allocation notwithstanding”, he maintains. 

He says members of the Senate must have misread his intent for expressing those concerns and therefore misconstrued his motive, clarifying, “The issue is not to question the legality of the funds, to “intentionally bring the legislature to public disrepute,” or to sow “seeds of discord among our people.”

Speaking in reaction to criticism from the Liberian Senate on his call to return the money, Mr. Cummings who leads the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) that is a constituent party of four Collaborating Political Parties, says the Senate is perceived as a more deliberative and judicious body, therefore, it should not be the one to appeal to the worst of the nation’s national instincts. 

He says Liberia is no stranger to delaying or foregoing altogether, disbursement of budgetary allocations, but that ironically, the legislators passed the law for themselves as discretionary spending without putting in place firm measures for accountability.

“It is the duty of lawmakers”, he stresses, “to keep track of accountability of public funds and discretionary expenditure. The Liberian Senate should not cast itself as a powerless victim of a law it passed, benefits from, and has the power to change.” 

 He laments that today, Liberia is counted amongst the most corrupt and the poorest nations in the world, and mismanagement and lack of accountability of public resources are among the contributing factors for such a level of poverty and backwardness. “It should be the duty of every citizen to demand course correction.”

He recalls that results of consecutive elections in the country since 2011, in which the electorates massively sacked incumbent lawmakers, should serve as a wake-up call and guideposts for all legislators. 

 The ANC leader reminds that in a few weeks, the nation will celebrate its 174th independence and asks what has continuous appeal to division, marginalization, exclusion, and tribalism done to advance progress? “Rather than striving for true independence, we are becoming increasingly dependent on begging other nations to help pay the salaries of our president, lawmakers, judges, other government officials and civil servants with requests for budget support”, he adds.  

 He continues that while national leaders and lawmakers may be attempting to hide individual shortcomings and indiscretions behind tribal animosity, the reality is that across every tribe, region, religion, and political party, people are suffering. 

 “Blessed with so much, yet we have so little to show for it. Our country is blessed with fertile land and bountiful rainfalls, and yet, we cannot feed ourselves. We are so naturally rich, and yet, too many of our people are so abjectly poor. The conditions of our schools are worsening with teachers and administrators effectively abandoned to do the best they can under extremely difficult conditions. Our young people are woefully unemployed, and in some cases, unemployable. The future of our country has and continues to be mortgaged.”

He further laments that families are living in the hell of recycled poverty, and even as the pandemic threatens to overwhelm, doctors, nurses, and ordinary folks who are sacrificing every day to keep the society somewhat functional are seeing their cries for help fall on inattentive and uncaring ears. 

 “It is time to change. It is time to let go of the past so as to embrace the future of togetherness and shared prosperity we promised ourselves. It is time, to be honest in labor, and accountable in stewardship”, he rallies. 

Cummings underscores that change is the only way to lift one another up as Liberians, and it is the only way to build the country, from bottom to top, adding that this change is not just in individuals, but in mindset.

But the Liberian Senate thru a statement last week, viewed Mr. Cummings’ criticism of the Senate and the entire Legislature as an attempt to put the people of Liberia against their lawmakers for his own political gains.

“This kind of harmful politicking would only continue to leave our country in shambles. It must be condemned by all well-intentioned Liberians”, the Senate said and explained, “Over the years, Central Government has been overwhelmed by major developmental projects – focusing more on the building of roads, agriculture, and other infrastructure while at the same time boosting healthcare which has continued to do a tremendous job in curtailing the spread of the corona-virus – a pandemic that world has been battling for over a year.”

It argued that Mr. Cummings who thinks he is a better option for the leadership of Liberia does not have an inner idea of the needs of the indigenous people and how those needs can be worked around.

The Senate further clarified that the US$15,000 received by each Senator and Representative is from an allotment under Legislative Engagement Line of 2020/2021 National Budget and does not go into pockets of individual lawmakers, as being perceived.

It said instead, it is geared towards supporting initiatives in their various counties, and with the leadership structure in the respective counties, the money is decided upon and invested as deemed necessary by each Senator and his county leadership.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/senate-replies-cummings/

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