Although they were officially invited and seats reserved for them, the leadership of both the House of Representative and the Senate were nowhere to be seen at the C. Cecil Dennis auditorium at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the national launching of the Common African Position (CAP) took place.
All of the seats reserved for heads of the National Legislature, at the high table, were empty throughout the entire two-hour program, there by constraining President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to single out praise for the only noticeable lawmaker at the event, Senator Isaac Nyenabo, who had gone to witness the event.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Alex Tyler, was listed as one of those to give remarks, but the mcee did not bother to call his name as it was visually clear that he was absent and there was no proxy.
The lawmakers’ action brings to two the amount of high profile occasions that have been snubbed consecutively by public officials, including Cabinet Ministers.
The other occasion that some public officials failed to attend was the signing of the Book of Condolence for fallen statesman, Charles Gyude Bryant.
The Common African Position (CAP) was officially launched at the Foreign Ministry’s C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium on Monday, May 26. It is the first of its kind, a document that all of Africa have agreed with one voice on a common agenda. President Sirleaf described it as a “unique and a historic development initiative.”
According to stakeholders the CAP national launched is intended to inform policy makers and all stakeholders of the development agenda that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015 and enable Liberians take full ownership of the next process of the agenda.
This framework translates the views and aspirations of the African people expressed through multiple consultations and meetings attended by a wide spectrum of stakeholders at the national, regional, and continental levels with members of the public and private sectors, parliamentarians, civil society organizations, women and youth associations, and academia to reach a consensus on what should succeed the MDGs that comes to an end in next year.
But the absence of the lawmakers again brings to light criticisms from the public and other national stakeholders about lack of coordination in the government, especially on national priorities such as the CAP, which seeks to eradicate extreme poverty on the African continent, including Liberia.
It is not clear whether there were any written excuses sent from the leadership of the Senate and the House as their absence created a barrage of criticisms from the participants at the occasion. Many said that the Speaker’s absence might have had to do with stiff resistance he is facing from stakeholders, including the Executive Branch of government, regarding the proposed US$73 million district development fund.
One eminent Liberian, who once voiced out his frustration about government officials not coordinating in order to achieve national goals and priorities is the Chairperson of the Governance Commission, Dr. Amos C. Sawyer. He recently said that there is no coordination amongst the three branches of the Liberian government.
"These are important events [concering which] our national leaders are supposed to come together and ensure that [they are] properly discussed. This initiative speaks about ending poverty; and our lawmakers, who are the direct representatives of the people are absent.
“If even they do have differences with other people, there is no need for them to stay away because this is a national duty and all other individual issues should be put aside,” a concerned Liberian, who was also highly disappointed with the lawmakers’ action, said.
“It is now becoming customary that public officials now chose what kind of national event to attend, but not as a national duty anymore. And if this continues we see Liberia going nowhere,” another participant said.
A government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “Liberian politicians on a daily basis continue to show that they are not ready for development and improving the lives of the common people through the actions that they exhibit. They don’t want to even unite Liberians because all of their actions and thoughts are divisive. There is a need for them to really work on this.”