Liberia’s 168th Independence Day orator, Ambassador Charles A. Minor, has taken exception to Liberians who are excessive in their criticisms against and distrust for each other and the government.
Ambassador Minor made the observation yesterday in Greenville, Sinoe County when he delivered the Independence oration on this year’s theme, “Celebrating our Community as a Strong Foundation for Accelerated Development,” Inspiring Hope for the People of our Country.
Minor, who is an eminent son of Sinoe County, currently serves on the Liberia Board of Tax Appeals. Prior to this he served as Liberia’s Ambassador to the United States of America. His father, popularly known as Boakai Manneh, was a senior citizen of Sinoe and for many years he served as the county’s Representative in the National Legislature.
“It is fast becoming a trend (craze, fad) and the popular thing to be not just critical of each other, but even sarcastic to the point of expressing caustic remarks against our leaders in government, in civil society and in the private sector,” observed Ambassador Minor.
The perception is that no one can be trusted. No official is honest, and the PhD no longer represents a terminal academic degree, but means “pull him down” mentality.
“I have known Liberians to criticize and oppose every government since the time of President Tubman. And when given the opportunity to lead and govern, those who were most vocal in their criticism and opposition, demonstrated no better skills, no greater attitudes or any higher level of honesty than those they criticized,” declared Ambassador Minor.
He said as Liberians today enjoy their freedom of speech and expression “we need to also demonstrate a sense of responsibility and not engage in malicious rumors that bring injury to individuals, families and institutions,” Ambassador Minor said, perhaps in a veiled reference to his own experience with some media practitioners who have repeatedly linked him with alleged fraud during his assignment as Liberian Ambassador to Washington.
“The promulgation of half-truths, misinformation and disinformation that cast aspersion on people and divides our community does not demonstrate personal or social responsibility,” chided Ambassador Minor.
According to the Ambassador, around towns and around the country, Liberians are becoming pessimistic, critical of each other, not trusting each other, and especially vocally expressing lack of trust in their elected and appointed officials.
Admittedly, some criticisms are justified, he noted, adding, “We must also admit that criticisms are important in our growing democracy because it can sometimes warn us of worst things to come.”
“Even when we consider some criticisms to be negative, unproductive and divisive, they ensure that those who govern, those who are given responsibilities to lead and manage people and resources do so with care, diligence, accountability and trust.”
He said accepting criticisms goes with the responsibility of leadership. Criticism reminds us of our fiduciary (legal or ethical) responsibility to be accountable.
Another negative attitude among many Liberians, he observed, is that which is characterized by “I win and you lose”.
According to the orator, in the job market, for example, one finds this syndrome well played out since many individuals desperately search for jobs, but their intention is not to carry out the functions of the job. They mainly seek means to obtain money. As soon as they can, they begin to make “profits” on the job.
“‘Profit’ is another definition of what is illegally or fraudulently taken from their employers or the entities. They say to themselves, ‘What is mine is mine and what is yours, I should take away from you, even from our national coffers, and make it exclusively mine!’ And that goes across our society, in the upper, middle, and lower classes. In some circles, that is referred to as ‘chopping’, a term used both as subject and predicate,” said the orator.
Such “chopping” more often than not is obtained fraudulently.”
Ambassador Minor warned that this attitude of extra “chopping,” is becoming a measure of how good a job is. Paymasters “chop” something from the employees they pay. Service providers expect fat extra tips that exceed their daily wages or even their salaries, he said.
Some employees are leaving their jobs if those jobs provide no opportunity for “chopping!”
Civil servants expect lunch money to enable them to render the service they are paid to do. Even some agencies of government are now making provision for “facilitation” fees in their budgets and expenditure accounting to ensure they can pay whoever needs to be paid off in order for the entities to accomplish their missions.
“Those attitudes and practices cannot be parts of the foundation blocks for accelerated development in our society,” Minor warned.
He then wondered why graft has become so rampant. He said the natural tendency is to pass the blame, to accuse others of being responsible.
“Too often we hear that it is the government to blame. It is the government that is responsible. It is the government that has failed us.” Some contend that our forefathers and mothers have passed on to us such legacies. Some have even blamed our partners, especially Western countries and now also China and their nationals who have and continue to exploit us.”
“My fellow Liberians and friends, it is very simple and extremely easy to pass the blame, to point the finger. And now, in our new dispensation of extremely free press and particularly with the increasing number of instantaneous radio talk shows with growing callers’ participation, there is no shortage of criticisms and accusations by people who themselves participate in this unwholesome pre-occupation,” charged Minor.
“Today, on this our Independence Anniversary, as we ‘Celebrate our Community …’ all that we are; even the years the locusts have eaten, let us profit from the errors of the past to build a better foundation for a more positive tomorrow,” urged Minor.
Ambassador Minor envisaged (imagined) a tomorrow when Liberians will have substantially reduced poverty, when we can eat tomatoes, cabbages, peppers and other vegetables grown in our back yards and in nearby gardens.
He also visualized a tomorrow when many in the public sector will realize that it is not in that sector that wealth is created so that those genuinely interested in creating wealth can give up their white collar jobs and return to the land to produce our staple rice and other food crops to reduce our dependence on imports, ensure a greater level of food self-sufficiency and earn a higher standard of living for their labor.
“We are today laying the foundation for a tomorrow when Liberians will work together more effectively and compete seriously with foreign contractors to build our own roads, even to the extent of making them toll roads, thereby reducing the continuous increasing burdens on government, which we all know will never be in the position to meet all the expectations of all our people.”
Although Ambassador Minor took into consideration many positive things the country has achieved in its 168 years of existence, he challenged Liberians to also admit and recognize that too many of the citizens have allowed the candle of vibrancy and vitality, the hope for a better future that enthusiastically glowed in early 2006 when we ushered in the new administration, to grow dim.