The President Pro Tempore of the Senate has described Liberians in the Diaspora as key to the transformation and sustainability of a progressive Liberia.
He also lauded them for playing a vital role not just by the millions of dollars they remit home to support their people, which help to ease a significant burden on the government, but for their constructive criticisms that help guide the country’s democratic process.
Pro Tempore Armah Zolu Jallah made the assertion last Saturday night when he addressed members of the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota (OLM), United States in observance of Liberia’s 168th Independence Anniversary.
He spoke under the theme, “A Collective Effort to Transform Liberia.”.
“Without your contribution to Liberia, the lives of so many of our people would be worse. Your continued outspokenness on the financial, political, civil and economic governance of our country is making an impact on our oversight responsibilities,” Pro-Temp Jallah told his compatriots.
On the controversial dual citizenship issue, the Gbarpolu County lawmaker was not categorical as to his position, but rather stated: “I want to say that in principle, I want us to have a position that basically acknowledges that once a Liberian, always a Liberian.” We want you all to come home and bring in your vast talents and skills; and with such wide variety of skill sets and talents, it’s difficult to convince me that Liberia lacks human capacity.”
Admonishing them to return and help in the rebuilding of their home, he said Liberians should not depend on foreigners to do it for them. “Without you coming home to help rebuild your country, no foreigner is going to do it for you. In fact, your long absence will only encourage foreigners to flock in and benefit from your birthrights. For me, therefore, it makes simple economic and business sense for all Liberians to be included in the rebuilding process.”
From 1847 to 2015, Senator Jallah observed, the country’s political leadership could have done better to elevate citizens’ people out of the shackles of poverty and despair. “But that was not done; and even during present times, we continue to struggle to change that reality. For me, therefore, the challenge is no longer about what has gone wrong in Liberia. We all know the problems we’ve faced in the past and how they continue to diminish our collective ability in building a vibrant society.”
The country, Senator Jallah noted, boasts of some of the best-educated people that have served in Government, from London School of Economics to Harvard to Yale and Oxford; and that review of cabinets from the first in 1847 to current one will find men and women with solid educational background, but with all that education, the country is not as competitive on many fronts in Africa.
“The challenge has been that we have failed to recognize that the international community is supposed to compliment our efforts. Instead, it seems, we have used the international community as a substitute for solving all of our problems. We will continue to be heavily donor dependent unless we make a fundamental departure on how we operate as a nation and as a people,” Senator warned his compatriots.
He said the thinking of Liberians now should be geared toward generating socio-economic partnership with elements of the International Community, with mutual benefits on both sides, but that Liberians must get in the driver’s seat and take the lead.
As of the need to make private sector investment a suitable way for Liberians to be wealthy, Jallah informed the gathering that he is currently working with the Governance Commission in developing legislations that establish a framework through which Article 7 of the Constitution of Liberia which provides that Liberians should be involved in the management of their national economy and extraction of natural resources on condition of equity can be enforced.
“In line with my commitment, I along with Senators Sando Johnson of Bomi County and Geraldine Doe Sherif of Montserrado County, working in collaboration with the Association of Liberian Engineers in USA (ALEUSA), have introduced a legislation to establish a Liberian Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), with the aim of prompting Science and Mathematics education in Liberia; the bill has received its first reading before the Senate floor, and passage is expected during our next sitting.”
Refusing to blame the public and media for the bad reputation which he says the government of Liberia has received since 1847, Jallah said the fact remains that “we have not done more to combat the corruption menace and unless we can decisively deal with the issue of corruption, it would be hard for us to build quality education and healthcare systems, and a durable infrastructure on par with countries in our region. “
In fact he said, the problem in Liberia has not only been about the lack of money but how the little available can be used.
“The question that lingers in my mind is that even if the international community or some philanthropists were to give us $100 billion to fix Liberia, how will we use that money? Will we invest in our people and infrastructure or will it end up in the pockets of people who see government as a ‘get rich quick venture’?”
Meanwhile, the full text of Pro Temp Jallah’s speech is published in today’s edition of this paper.