By Olando Testimony Zeongar
MONROVIA – The newly certificated political party, Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL), through its President, Emmanuel D. Gonquoi, has responded to President George Weah Mondays’ State of the Nation Address (SONA), terming same as being unrealistic, and a one characterized by disjointed logic.
CIC Gonquoi told a press conference Wednesday, at his party’s Congo Town Headquarters that Liberians witnessed a sad event on Monday, when President Weah mounted the podium to author unrealistic expressions about what is actually obtaining in the country, when he delivered his last SONA, for his six-year tenure which ends this year.
The EFFL president stated that although he was aware the SONA is a constitutional requirement for every Liberian president, regrettably, he averred that President Weah, instead of giving a realistic presentation of what is actually obtaining in Liberia, chose to merit-make, with legislators who are mostly members of his political party, the CDC, hailing him in a cheering squad fashion.
Gonquoi, who disclosed that the purpose of his party’s response to Weah’s SONA, was intended to, in a comprehensive manner, review the retired footballer turned politician’s unsuccessful years in office as president, so as to give a clearer picture of his leadership, recalled that during the Liberian leader’s first Annual Message, in an overly charged and exciting environment on Capitol Hill, the President made a statement on the 25% reduction in his salary and benefits and called on all elected officials to do the same.
Unfortunately, Gonquoi noted, throughout his tenure of six years, “we have not seen any legislation or practical action that reduces the President’s benefits. Regrettably, he will be remembered for taking steps to reduce the salaries of his Civil Servants and not paying them in time.”
On the issues of corruption and the rule of law, Gonquoi stated that throughout his tenure, President Weah showed no interest in fighting corruption, evidenced by what he (Gonquoi) called the broad day butchering of the Liberian constitution to weaken the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).
“Fellow citizens, the President lacks moral standing to brag about fighting corruption or protecting human rights when under his administration, Liberia has become a state of terror, lack of hope and uncertainty,” he stated.
He added that the blatant refusal of officials of the Weah administration to declare their assets in accordance with existing laws in the country has simply dashed the Liberian leader’s promise to stop making corruption a way of life in Liberia.
“Fellow citizens, the President’s refusal to take legal decision against sanctioned former Government officials, including his right-hand man Nathaniel McGill whose senatorial bid is heavily financed by the government in order to prevent him from indicting other officials, is just another classic example of the President’s lack of moral and political independence to deal with corruption and other forms of abuses in Liberia,” Gonquoi emphasized.
As for reconciliation and the fight against impunity, the EFFL Commander-In-Chief intimated that many of those who supported Weah prior to his election, considered him the best person to implement the TRC reports and to create the anti-corruption court, once he took office as president of Liberia.
He pointed out that following Weah’s inauguration, the EFFL joined many Liberians in protesting and demanding the implementation of the TRC report and the creation of an anti-corruption court to demonstrate the government’s commitment to fighting corruption and ending the culture of impunity in Liberia.
But unfortunately, Gonquoi lamented that President Weah, throughout his reign, has shown total disrespect for those who painfully lost family members in the Liberian civil war with no interest in bringing healing to the country.
“If the President is to be seen as a reconciler as he said, he must take concrete steps to implement the TRC report and stop accommodating warlords within his government,” said Gonquoi, who added that “A good leader will not think about future elections, but will always think about his or her legacy, and that is the path we expect the President to take as a nation.”
On the country’s economy, CIC Gonquoi observed that iron ore and rubber prices are even more attractive than before, but according to him, the Weah-led government has failed to introduce any policy that will provide room for domestic sector growth as means of enhancing Liberia’s economy.
“Yet, as millions of Liberians often go to bed with hunger, we are left to wonder what realistic economic data that the President is using to project growth,” Gonquoi wondered, indicating, “In short, the President’s pronouncement about economic growth is devilish and unpatriotic.”
Touching on health care, the EFFL leader bemoaned Liberia’s health sector under the watch of President Weah, indicating that during the former soccer star’s regime, the country’s health sector has suffered major shocks over the last six years due to insufficient budget support, poor administration and rampant corruption.
“In 2020, health workers organized more than three separate protests to denounce the backlog of salaries and benefits. This resulted in health workers abandoning their jobs, thus causing the deaths of many Liberians seeking medical care in their assigned facilities,” Gonquoi recalled.
For the education sector under Weah, Gonquoi further recalled that in 2019, President Weah declared all public tertiary institutions tuition-free, but argued that the result of such major policy decision has become calamitous thereafter.
He recommended that to improve the country’s education sector, enrolment growth must be accompanied by an improved learning environment, which he said is not the case during the Weah regime.
“Often, scholarship recipients, university administrators and professors are not paid for months, while creating an incentive for fraud. Our system is polluted and in need of a massive global overhaul of the sector,” Gonquoi stressed.