-Blamed Liberians for giving a bad definition of public service
Former Minister of Labour and Public Works, Atty. Samuel Kofi Woods, II, has called on the newly elected leadership of the Firestone Agricultural Workers’ Union of Liberia (FAWUL) to show love to their fellow workers.
According to Atty. Woods, leaders that love their people will not steal from them, buy expensive cars, build big houses and leave them in poverty, pain, and suffering.
“So today I have come to you to speak on two important things in our society ‘Love and Service,'” said Woods, who served as keynote speaker at a program marking the induction ceremony of FAWUL’s new leadership over the weekend in Harbel City, Margibi County.
“The first thing is love. The Bible says that the greatest of all is love. It also says love thy neighbor as yourself. But, too many times leaders don’t understand these biblical verses; too many times they see one another and pretend to be in love, but loving thy neighbor is more than the romantic love we show to one another. It is deeper than we understand it,” Mr. Woods said.
He told the gathering that people who are elected to serve need to understand the real meaning of love for the people they serve.
Atty. Woods said, “If you are elected and you understand that you are called upon to love thy neighbor as thyself, then you will not steal from them. When you are called to love thy neighbor as thyself; you will not prioritize buying your own cars or building your own houses.”
Woods further noted that if one is called to love his neighbor as himself, he must realize that their progress must be linked to the progress of their neighbors and they will realize that they don’t have to be rich at the detriment of the suffering and agony of their neighbors.
“Too many times, we think that we must exploit people and fail to realize that we can do well and by doing good, we do well to ourselves. We must realize that we must do good and by doing so we will give life a purpose of living. That is why in our world today, we see the pains of people begging, we see the difficulties of the challenges to put bread on the table of people because we fail to love each other.
“We fail to love each other because we feel that to exploit others is good. Love does not mean to be better off than your friends. When friends and brothers combine their love for one another, their lives can be better off.
“So, my friends of FAWUL, my brothers and sisters, I have been on this road for a very long time with you and I have come knowing the workers in different ways and appreciate not only their suffering but their dignity and perseverance,” he said.
Atty. Woods called on the FAWUL new leadership to show love to the workers by ensuring that the next Collective Bargain Agreement between the Workers and the Firestone Management will improve the lives of workers of the plantation who are living beyond the trees and crying for justice.
Atty. Woods again made reference to the Holy Bible and “The Bible says the greatest among you shall be your servant. Too many times, we misinterpret leadership; we think we have to be served. Some believe that as leaders, we must take charge of everything, but we are called to serve.”
He said those in a position today must reflect on the time that they will be on the other side of the table. “As a Minister of Labour, you must enact laws and policies, so that when you are no longer a minister and you are now an employer or employee you must respect those same policies and laws; you will recognize them to be just and fair. So when you are a minister or leader, you must see your policies and actions from the other end of the table. You must also see service as a possibility to lead honestly and walk the street with dignity. This is the importance of public service.”
Atty. Woods, however, noted that too many times “we think that service is about getting rich or we see service about getting your children better off than those of your neighbors. This is not service. We see public service from a different perspective.”
He blamed Liberians for giving bad definition to public service, noting that “if you don’t steal, we don’t honor you. If you don’t corrupt, we don’t love you. We appreciate those who corrupt and steal from us. Those who abuse us are those we honor. We need to change our value of service because how we define it is wrong. So, we as a people ourselves have a problem and we should change our mentality of how we see public service.”
He called on the workers of FAWUL to encourage their leaders not to steal from them, but to help them become accountable and better stewards. He said that workers of Firestone have a lot to offer not only to the company but to Liberia.
Woods admonished the new FAWUL leadership to continue with the conversation with the management noting that they too understand the benefits it brings.
“Today working along with workers, management and government we have a High School to be proud of and this is a success story for all,” he said.
The Chairman of the Leadership of the FAWUL, Abel Fallah Ngigie said that Liberia is rich but underdeveloped and its citizens are poor and suffering due to bourgeois concessional agreements signed by past and present leaders and as such, foreigners are exploiting the country’s natural resources on a daily basis, while other Liberians are fronting for these “so-called foreign investors.”
He added that such unwholesome practices that benefit the few and punish the majority must be brought to book, especially under the Agenda of the Pro-Poor Government.
“It is, therefore, our fervent hope that the management, the union and the government will co-exist in fostering industrial peace and harmony on this plantation, while at the same time ensuring that our members are treated with dignity.”