‘Opposition Not Enemy of Government’

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Simeon Freeman, the political leader for the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC), is known for his extremely critical responses to President Sirleaf’s annual messages over the last few years.

Since he lost his first presidential bid in 2011, he has not skipped a beat, advocating his radical, business-like paradigm of governance, albeit beclouded by his often scathing and often damning remarks about the President’s handling of the state. This time around, within his response to President Sirleaf’s 2016 annual address appears a slight shift from critic to ‘critique’, prefaced by an apparent justification of his rhetorical choices. Hear him:

“We have always, as a responsibility, responded to the President’s State of the Nation address,” Mr. Freeman told journalists over the weekend in Monrovia. “This responsibility grows not out of arrogance or any implied sense of superiority, but a clear expression of our strong desire to realize a better Liberia for all. He added that historically, “we have received very unfavorable reactions from government whenever we thought and progressively made suggestions.”

“When you are willing to extract substance from what we say, no matter the form and manner in which it is said, the probability of successful governance would have been higher,” he said.

“The opposition is not an enemy. We share many similarities. We do not, however, share the same perspectives, approaches and perceptions on Liberia’s development agenda. Our voices are loudest when an approach you embraced bites hardest.”

He quoted President Sirleaf from her January 24, 2011 address to the National Legislature, which she found “inspiration and strength in the resilience of the people of Liberia, those who never gave up, those who toiled in every possible way to keep this nation going and those who fought every day for peace, justice and a fair society.”

Mr. Freeman responded, “We are both the victims and beneficiaries of your governance approaches. You were preferred to lead not because you possess the best ideas but squarely because yours were better packaged and sold harder.”

He said the opposition therefore reminds the president of her responsibility on certain approaches that hurt the opposition in the government’s continuous propagation of wrong methodologies that have led “us in a direction that wanders far from the end we like.”

A well-developed Liberia, he indicated, will lift “our pride amidst the comity of nations; therefore, it is hard time you reviewed your approach to the opposition and chastise some of your people for their mannerism.”

In many respects, he said the opposition in any country are the brave and the fearless, whose love for country transcends personal gains and returns.

“They will speak without fear on issues that matter. Any that enables their deposition but carefully consider the content of their deposition and its applicability to national renewal.

“The opposition is the most relevant portion of the democratic structure. We desire no favors for what we say or how we say what we say. We are bound by no limitations and are armed with the audacity to speak the inconvenient truth; truths that enable a humble leader to leave behind lasting legacies to be heralded by its beneficiaries.

“We do understand and appreciate your strong emphasis on loyalty, the perception that a loyal person agrees with, and supports your aspirations, lowers the bar of admission into the ranks of your closest lieutenants.

“When your definition and perception is the most inhibiting factor to the realization of the goals that enabled your election as president, then you must change your definition and perception,” he said.

The true enemies and the enemies of the state, Mr. Freeman said, “are the perceptions and definitions you formed that enabled the not so bright and feeble to perform the task of the bright and brave, which in itself is the source of hopelessness, poverty and depravation.”

He also stated that being president does not mean Madam Sirleaf is “the smartest, brightest or bravest because no single person has a multidimensional discipline, but surrounding yourself with Liberia’s brightest and brave would have accelerated the realization of goals that enabled your election.”

“We will not worship you,” he said. “We will speak the truth; no matter the size of your power, we are independent and willing to suffer or be isolated for the values we espoused. We are driven by values and not by greed. Our interpretation of life is not about living in abundance at the expense of our integrity or the embrace of immorality for gain.

“We will not be abused by another for short term gains nor are we so moved because that the betrayal of our people has becomes an option. You are the president but our love for Liberia and its people is greater than our love for you,” he added.

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