CPP reacts to President Weah’s Annual Message
Opposition political parties under the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) have debunked a statement by President George M. Weah during his annual message that the current state of the nation “stable”. The CPP described the statement by the President as “untrue.”
Members of the CPP, coming with an opposing response to the President’s assertion are Alexander Benedict Cummings, Political Leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), Benoni W. Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP); Senator Nyonblee Kargar-Lawrence of the Liberty Party (LP), and former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai of the Unity Party.
The parties’ pronouncement was contained in a statement delivered at a press conference in Monrovia, read by Mr. Cummings. Whenever the President delivers his or her state of the nation address to the National Legislature, it is normal for political pundits to issue responses containig their reservations or commendations based on what they viewed about the speech.
According to Mr. Cummings, contrary to what the President said, “The state of our nation is weak. Many civil servants now live on sell-pay and digging a hole cover hole” means.
He said market-women, street vendors and small business people who depend on their daily hustles to feed and educate their children are struggling to provide food for their families or pay school fees because businesses are doing poorly.
Mr. Cummings said Liberians are hardworking and resilient people with enormous potential, but it is unfortunate to see them working hard daily to earn a decent living in the presence of tense economic hardship in the country currently.
He said the people are not responsible for the current economic hardship in Liberia, adding that the President in his 3rd annual message blamed the economic woes on trade and geopolitical factors, projecting 1.4% growth in 2022.
“If this was the case, our neighbors and other countries in the region would experience similar, if not the same, economic situations. However, all of our neighbors are experiencing economic growth and projecting high growth for this year alone, 2020,” Cummings said.
Mr. Cummings said inflation increased to 31%, the exchange rate went as high as L$209 to one US Dollar, and the fiscal deficit hit $200 million.
According to Cummings, Liberian-owned and foreign businesses are losing money and laying off workers while market-women are forced to sell without profits.
“Last year, Sime Darby laid off hundreds of workers and closed its operations. Firestone also laid off 800 workers. Liberians are finding it more difficult to provide for their families today than they did before this government came to power,” he said.
“For example, Sierra Leone is projecting 4.20%, Guinea 6.10% and Ivory Coast 6.5%,” Cummings argued. “What this means is that our country will continue lagging behind our neighbors while our people continue to suffer.”
He said the economy is in terrible shape with the prices on goods and services, from rice to transportation are increasing daily while unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, continues to rise.
“Teachers, nurses, doctors, and civil servants are not being paid on time. Liberians have to stand in long queues at banks to withdraw Liberian Dollars [as though] we are a bankrupt country and now we are in long queues to get petroleum products due to shortage on our market. The crime rate, to include incidence of rape, armed robbery, etc has increased,” said Cummings.
Mr. Cummings said that Liberia is further divided along several lines and, sadly for them, President Weah did not offer any immediate or long-term actions aimed at helping to unite Liberians.
“Reconciliation was not mentioned even though he recognized the need for peace in Liberia, forgetting that peace is not the silence of guns; and there cannot be true peace without reconciliation. Our people are suffering and the economic hardship continues unabated,” he said.
Mr. Cummings said the CPP commended the President for the promise to invest in youth empowerment programs, expressing hope that his promise will be fulfilled in order to impact the lives of young people and provide trainings and job opportunities.
He said the government harmonization is compounding the suffering of hard-working public and civil servants by reducing their salaries.
“It is unacceptable to be reducing civil servants’ salaries that are not paid on time by 30-50% while prices of everything- rice, oil, chicken, and transportation, – are increasing by 30%. This is not harmonization,” Cummings stressed.
“This is a wicked and malicious attack on our people’s standard of living. Instead of harmonizing workers’ salaries, it is time for the President to harmonize his frequent private jet travels, cutback on building more mansions for himself and cutback on the corruption that has taken center-stage in his government,” he added.
Mr. Cummings said President Weah was not truthful when he stated that he had met his promise of a 25% salary cut and was the first to have his salary harmonized.
He said, “Unfortunately, the President was untruthful when he reported that citizens have enjoyed their rights under this administration and there has been no arrest nor guns shot in response to protests.”
Cummings said, on the contrary, peaceful civil action, which is the bedrock of democracy, is being denied as was seen with the unjustifiable dispersal of peaceful citizens protesting against current economic hardship and governmental corruption as noted by The Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR).
Substantiating the CPP’s claim against the President’s statement, Cummings noted that 26 peaceful protesters were summarily arrested by the government during the January 6 protest, one shot dead in a peaceful protest in Kingsville, Number 7 Montserrado County, and two other juveniles injured by state security officers under this very administration.
Cummings further noted that in the case of corruption and unaccountability as it relates to political governance, they remain key features of this government, a comment he said is confirmed by the 2019 Corruption Perception Index report released last week ranking Liberia as one of the worst decliners in the fight against corruption worldwide.