173rd Independence Oration: STANDING TOGETHER IN TIME OF PANDEMIC

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By Pastor Dr. Simeon L. Dunbar, National Independence Day Orator, July 27, 2020 

As Delivered: 

His Excellency, Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia, Mrs. Clar M. Weah, First Lady, Republic of Liberia, Her Excellency Chief Jewel Howard Taylor, Vice President of the Republic of Liberia, Honourable Bhofal Chambers, Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, Honourable Albert Tugbeh Chie, President Pro Tempore and Members of the Liberian Senate, His Honour Francis Saye Korkpor, Snr., Chief Justice and Associates Justices of the Supreme Court, Officials of Government, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Former Government Officials, Present, Religious Leaders, Traditional Chiefs and Members of the Traditional Council, Foreign Guests, Members of the Fourth Estate, Fellow Citizens, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I count it all Joy to have been selected in such a time as this among many noble sons and daughters of Mama Liberia to partake in the discourse of national and global events requiring specialized knowledge.

I most respectfully and humbly say that I understand the magnitude of this noble task on such a historic day. I do understand, it is by the grace of the Almighty God that I have come thus far, because the scriptures say in 1Cor. 1: 26-28 “God chooses the foolish things of this world to confront the wise and the weak things of this world to shame the things of the mighty”, so I give all the glory to God.

To the Governments of our beloved nation, past and present, we appreciate your efforts in maintaining the peace, stability and our national developmental goals. Also, for the dedication of our present government in prioritizing infrastructures development in Monrovia and around the nation.

The construction of the 14 Military Hospital in Margibi County, and the paving of community roads in Monrovia and other major roads in the various counties. We stand together for these applaudable achievements.

Also, to the United Nations Family, our Foreign Partners and Stakeholders, especially our West African brothers who sent intervention forces that play major roles in facilitating the peace that we enjoy today, we will continue to remember and appreciate your contribution; for, “You Were The First To Come and The Last To Leave”. We remain grateful to our foreign partners and the international community; you deserve our utmost gratitude.

I am of the utmost conviction that the wisdom of my preferment from the religious sector is not only intended to hear the word of God that heals wounds and brings deliverance, but to discuss national problems that make us vulnerable as a nation and finding the way forward to setting the right priorities.

Our dialogue regarding the current state of affairs of our nation summarized under the Theme: “STANDING TOGETHER IN A TIME OF PANDEMIC”, on this 173rd Independence Anniversary Celebration today, presents some complex questions for our consideration.

My fellow Liberians, we all are aware that since the advent of the Corona Virus Disease, code name COVID-19 early this year, the world has changed drastically by threatening the very existence of the human race and attacking our belief, economic and governing systems as well as our way of life.

Every aspect of the human endeavors is under attack:

  • Our way and manner of worshipping God is under attack.
  • Our means and nature of earning our living, the economy is under attack.
  • Our culture of association and how we relate to one another in good times and period of challenges is also under attack.
  • And the lists go on.

Great nations of the world as we know and call them, appear to be struggling with all their sophistications and achievements in science with no definite answer to the threat this pandemic poses to humanity.

The Scriptures according to the Book of Deuteronomy Chapter 28: 1 to 14, God speaking through Moses to the children of Israel, outlined conducts that attract blessings for obedience to His commandment and in the same chapter outlines conducts that attract curses for disobedience from verses 15 to 68.

Fellow Liberians, from the inception of this great nation, like others around us, there has always been battles for every generation and so COVID-19 battle is not and should not be a surprise:

  • We fought and won the Ebola battle.
  • Prior to Ebola, we fought and placed under control tropical diseases including Measles, Tuberculosis, Smallpox, Polio, Malaria, etc., etc.

Previous battles were won by “STANDING TOGETHER IN A TIME OF EPIDEMIC” and this Pandemic battle too shall be won sooner than later, if we stand together.

However, to win these battles certain requirements must be met. You cannot go to war and expect to subdue the enemy and win the war without the appropriate war winning plan and strategies.

Factors of Disagreement that Divide and Weaken Togetherness

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are still at war with far greater pandemics than COVID-19. We cannot and will not stand together to win any battle in a society that condone injustice, rampant corruption, disobedience or non-adherence for the rule of law, nepotism and tribalism, sexual violence and gender-based violence, lack of genuine reconciliation, lack of patriotism, lack of accountability, lack of integrity and with no fear of God; for God hates these vices.

Your Excellency, Mr. President, after you informed me of my selection by your Administration to be the Orator for this year anniversary celebration, while meditating on the request, a couple of questions came to me that I believe will form the integral part of our dialogue:

  • What does it mean to stand together? The gospel of Mark 3:25 says “…if a nation be divided against itself, that nation cannot stand”.
  • Where do we stand together, when there’s no equal platform for all? While some are standing in the trenches of Bokon Jeadea, others are standing in unmerited riches and stolen wealth. While majority are standing in the swamps of Gbayhdin, others are relaxing on the top of Mt. Nimba.

In Liberia we have a common saying… “Empty Bag Cannot Stand,” how do we stand together when some bags are empty and other bags and bellies are full and overflowing?

  • Is it possible to stand together when some are standing on the sandy beaches of West Point and New Kru Town with daily sea incursions and growing cases of homelessness, while others are standing in luxurious hotel lobbies and reporting to work on Monday afternoon?
  • How do we stand together? When everyday our future female leaders are crying and living in constant fear of abuse? A country where RAPE is no longer an abomination but now a culture and way of life.
  • How do we stand when at 173 years old as a Nation we are still dependent on donor monies that are no longer coming in, and meanwhile corruption has become the standard way of life for the vast majority?
  • And most importantly, how do we stand together, when we are one nation, very divided with no liberty or justice for all?

We’ve sung numerous songs as a people over many years of democracy that align with our national situation. Even to the most recent electoral process and smooth transition of power to a new government, our people sang the praises of our leader and the very famous slogan; “CHANGE FOR HOPE”. Your Excellency, indeed the Change has come, now where is the Hope?

Our people from the Kru tribe will say “Ta ba wuolo-kpaili ne wa” in Gio we say “Qwaa Zoe dui-ameh” the Mandingos say “Ja- yee-see- Nah Meni”, our Bassa people say “ Deh wodoe con day-dehor da” the Kissi will say “ or te da num doe” and the Kpelle people will say “Lallah-ca-Muh”.

As a people of different tongues, we ask this question daily in expectation of some answers.

However, the fate of our nation does not only rest in the hands of the Government but rather we as a united people. It is in our hands, in order to stand together in these troubling times, we need to consider the following underlying factors and re-examine them carefully.

What do we need as a people?

  • We need to stand together in fighting the battle of discrimination and injustice in our society, irrespective of the status of the perpetrator.
  • We need to remind ourselves of our past negative, dark and distorted history not to repeat the past mistakes that continue to divide us rather than unite us to focus on righting the wrongs of the past rather than using the wrongs to gain political power.
  • We need to do away with deep seated hatred for each other, that only provides a platform for denying opportunities reserved by our laws for Liberians to foreigners. Can a nation love her neighbors more than herself? I say no as an answer. Empower Liberians first and foremost.

What cannot make us to stand together?

  • We cannot stand together when rumours of illegal exploitation of our God given mineral resources by foreign nationals sponsored by unpatriotic Liberian citizens go without redress to the whistle blower complaint. The government will only be undermining itself if such conduct is allowed to go unchecked.
Mr. President, the Pandemic has negatively affected every Liberian; no one is left untouched and we applaud your government’s effort for distributing food to Liberians but please remove the adjective, “vulnerable Liberians” and say all Liberian citizens so we can stand together.
  • We cannot stand together when we as religious leaders do not fulfill God given mandate to preach the gospel fearlessly about the ills in society, no matter who is or should be involved, without compromising the truth. By speaking the truth, we may be hated; but souls will be saved and the good of society will be maintained.
  • We must respect the retirement age and policy. Discourage recycling politicians who outlive their time in government as a means to providing equal opportunities to our prepared youths into public service.
  • We can stand together when our actions fall in line with our policy to control and prevent infant and maternal mortality rate in our cities and rural communities.
  • Yes. We can stand together when health facilities and institutions are properly equipped to discourage our government officials and citizens from seeking medical treatment abroad

The People Factor

  • As a people, we need to change our mindset and STOP THE DEPENDENCY SYNDROME. Instead of running to the government for everything, let us stop and put our hands to work.

There is a global adage that says, “No Food for Lazy Man”, so we must be willing to work. For the only substitute for hard work, is hard life. Even the bible says in Proverbs 10:4, “He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand”.

Please understand that Government jobs and public office is not for everyone.

Let us pay attention to the importance of the private sector by encouraging their participation through elevating Liberian-owned businesses with the objective of aiding them to grow.

Our people must be made to understand that they own the government. So, with the ownership mindset, we should work collectively to see that Liberia prosper and is transformed in our lifetime.

  • Liberia will forever remain stronger together when we are united in our purpose to protect our national interest, despite political differences. For the Bible says, “…Behold the PEOPLE are ONE and they have one language and what they have imagined to do, nothing can be withheld from them”. Gen. 11:6

As a people our strength is in Unity, we need to stand together in our common vision and common agenda for the prosperity of our nation.

  • We the people also need to understand that Monrovia is not Liberia and America is not Heaven. We need to cherish what we have and help to make it better. With God’s help and hard work, this nation can be transformed through our own hands.
  • For those of us who are not policy makers today, remember the saying “Cassava leaf is not for goat alone” …there’s always a time and season for everything, Wait for your time. Sow good seeds into the future of your nation. Do constructive criticisms and put Liberia first and not greed and selfish ambition.
  • As a people we must never forget that the peace we enjoy today came at a very high price of sweat, blood and tears by Liberians and our brothers and sisters and from intervention forces in the sub-region and other nations.

Therefore, we must deal cautiously in the maintenance of this peace which is more valuable than gold, diamond or any precious stone. It’s on record that United Nation/UNMIL invested 7.5 billion over a 15 years period in keeping and maintaining the peace we enjoy today.

  • To Liberians in the Diaspora, it has been over 400 plus years since Africans and Liberians have contributed immensely to the growth and civilization of other nations. It is now time to return home.

I say this to buttress the fact that every single conflict in Liberia in the past 50 years has been sponsored directly or indirectly by those in the Diaspora. Equally so, the current growth and development in our political and economic landscape is also being supported by you Liberians in the diaspora.

Therefore, this is an open invitation for you to return with your resources, knowledge and expertise and invest in the Motherland. “There is no place like home”. Liberia is all we have, let’s give her the best we can.

  • Never again must we as the people rebel against God. For the Bible says in Psalms 16:4 “Their sorrow shall be multiplied that follow after other gods.”
  • Never again must we allow ourselves to be divided along religious lines, for we are all interrelated. We need to learn to be a cohesive nation with one mind, and put Liberia First. Never again must we be divided along tribal, political and sectional lines.
  • We must discourage jungle justice in the name of vengeance and retribution and say no to mob justice. There must be value and respect for every human life.

The Government Factor

  • To the Government, we need to avoid foreign aids that will keep us captive to the donors; is it is written in the Bible in Proverbs 22:7 “The rich ruleth over the poor and the borrower is a slave to the lender”. How can we claim to be independent and still depend on foreign aids and imports of our staple food and basic commodities to boost our economy? The decisions that run our government should not be made in other capitals around the world. “Anyone who feeds you, will control you”.

Mr. President, while it is true that you are faced with a very difficult task of leading a mysterious nation like ours, we would also like to encourage you to lead by example and be wise and decisive in your leadership. (Don’t let these people spoil your government for you with ill advices).

Don’t be overly concerned about your opposition but rather, your social contract with the people and be concerned of your secret enemies who parade as friends around you.

Be careful of who you allow in your inner court. Be open up to ideas from wise technocrats who are well experienced and possess some measure of the fear of God. Be courageous and strong as our captain and lead this team to its noble destination.

  • As a government, let us redefine our national agenda, with clear-cut vision, achievable, both in the long and short term. Make people-oriented policies that will redirect funds to the agricultural and production sector, thereby creating jobs throughout rural Liberia.
  • Strengthen diplomatic relations with friendly nations like Israel and the EU nations.

Empower our local farmers and promote large scale food production, while reducing the subsidies on the importation of our staple foods and gradually ending it. The government needs to re-evaluate the decentralization policy that will empower rural Liberians to be more productive. All of Liberia is farm ready and eager for production.

Reintroduce the work culture amongst our people and let everyone earn their honest living through merit and dedication. Understand that government is about continuity, we must stop wasting resources on starting new projects without completing old ones.

  • We need to revisit our organic laws and change what ought to be changed, repeal those that need to be repealed and implement those that need to be implemented, but do not temper with our core values as a God-fearing nation and the vision of our founding fathers. (Foundation Matters).
  • The issue of Rape needs to cease from being an everyday song on the lips of our people. We cannot continue to hear the cries for justice of our innocent girls.

Your Excellency, the people who elected you as their Commander-In-Chief of this great nation do not have to get on the street and protest before you take an action.

It is beyond sickening that while we are battling COVID-19, we have to deal with reoccurring cases of rape of teenagers and babies who haven’t even learned to talk.

Rape perpetrated by inhumane men who claim to be citizens of this God-fearing nation. IT IS SAD AND IT NEEDS TO STOP. If that means introducing the death penalty on these evil perpetrators, so let it be.

Abraham Lincoln once said “Those who deny freedom of others deserve it not for themselves”. These men shouldn’t rape today and be allowed to walk free tomorrow.

  • The revamping of our educational system to a level of producing graduates that are job creators and marketable and not just certificate holders should be a major priority.

We need to invest in vocational and technical education; for example, the Booker Washington Institute Model should be duplicated throughout the 15 counties, thereby empowering our youths with skills and tools to contribute immensely to the redevelopment of this nation.

Our educational system should not be overlooked. Let us not allow the brilliant young minds of our children to go to waste.

The issue of police brutality against lawful citizens needs to stop. Our security sector should learn to adhere to the rules that govern this land and not abuse them. Press freedom also needs to be respected at all levels.

  • To our government, maintaining our roads is still a big problem. To boost revenue generation, special road tolls should be introduced at all our highways for all road users of this nation irrespective of being a government official or not, and all funds generated from the tolls should be channelled towards road maintenance and creation of new roads.
  • In order to foster national unity and integration; rename some of our streets and highways to honour our fallen heroes, heroines and freedom fighters who fought to preserve our heritage. For example; the Monrovia to Ganta Highway could be renamed William R. Tolbert highway. Ganta to Zwedru could be named Jackson F. Doe Highway and from Zwedru to Harper upon completion could be named Samuel K. Doe Highway, and the list goes on.
  • If we must stand together, prison reform and prisoners’ rehabilitation and reintegration into society must be a collective responsibility of the Government of Liberia and the private sector. Prisoners are still humans.
  • There needs to be proper and prompt payment of salary and wages for all civil servants as it is due them according to merit. To avoid corruption, embezzlement and tampering of public funds meant for other intended purposes.

Your Excellency Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, Past and Present Administration have enacted laws that enable our government to control the governed, the ordinary Liberians, and its various integrity institutions.

These integrity institutions like the GAC, LACC, LMA, LEITI, IAA, GC, CBL, PPCC among others, should be strengthened and allowed to function within their constitutional latitudes and mandates. Respecting organic laws and enforcing it fearlessly fulfils the mandate of the Oath of office and also signals the message of confidence that government can control itself.

The government relationship with its people needs to be mutual; if the people respect the government, the government also needs to respect the people.

No man or woman is above the law. If we seek to advance as a nation, Law makers need to cease from being law breakers.

In conclusion, for us to stand together in these troubling times, both the Government and the People of Liberia must demonstrate a high level of love and patriotism towards Mama Liberia. We are where we are today because of love deficiency. Most Liberians have the mind to use this nation for their own selfish reasons and not to invest in her. They want to use and reduce, not love and build.

Liberia is poor because of impunity, there is little or no punishment for evil doers and corruption has fast become a way of life. It has eaten deep into the fabric of our society, which also includes the church and other religious organizations.

Fellow citizens, my parting statement, Liberia is a century plus years older than all her neighbors and ought to be a positive example. Liberia is so blessed but her children do not know nor understand the magnitude of her blessings. Liberia is too rich; you must have a blind mind and weak hands not to benefit from her riches. Liberia is too great, that great nations of the universe are all beneficiaries of her ancient greatness. Liberia is too unique that all her people groups are interrelated.

Liberia is too strong, that she has survived many global wars and her own internal battles and she will surely triumph in this current pandemic.

As a Member of the Body of Christ, a Clergyman, a Stakeholder and a Son of the Soil, I would like to publicly declare that I see a bright light at the end of the tunnel. I see Hope for Liberia, Her People and Her Institutions. I see Liberia becoming a blessing to herself and not a burden, to nations of the sub-region and the world.

I see the dawn of a new day. I see total restoration of our collective human dignity. I see respect for the rule of law. I see revival. I see the FEAR of God.

Liberia will be great again, for in Job 14:7, the Bible says “there is hope for a tree if it be cut down, that through the scent of water it will sprout again”

Long Live the President, Long Live the Government Long Live the Peace-Loving People of Liberia.

Happy 173rd Independence to Mama Liberia. Thank you and God Bless You.

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