The standard bearer of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE), Dr. J. Mills Jones, has presented a blueprint on how he intends to govern the country if elected president in the October 10 presidential and legislative elections. Dr. Jones, who spoke during an interactive discussion organized by the Turning Point-Liberia Movement on Saturday, August 26 at the Centennial Pavilion, said MOVEE believes that it is time to take the government to the people. He said Liberians will be under what he called the “Liberian Tent,” and he will run an inclusive government regardless of color, creed, sex, and religion.
The forum brought together other standard bearers including Charles W. Brumskine (Liberty Party), MacDonald Wento (United People’s Party), and Alexander B. Cummings (Alternative National Congress). During the program, the organizers asked each presidential candidate a series of questions.
Asked about his stance on secret cults and societies, Dr. Jones said he would be president for all Liberians and if any secret cult or society runs contrary to the laws of Liberia the law of the land will take its course.
Speaking further, Jones said Liberians must elect a leader who has the will to serve, and not just about changing who leads the country. He argued that he has demonstrated such a will to serve, referencing his legacy as Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, where he built several financial institutions around the country, thereby decentralizing the banking sector.
“Do not vote people who continue to do the same thing. Think about your future and the future of your children’s children. Poverty is not our destiny,” he said, adding that change will come to make the lives of Liberians better after 170 years of independence, if Liberians were to elect a MOVEE-led government. “The future of Liberia is depending on you voting for the right people who would put in place the change Liberia has been longing for; change that will fight poverty, improve education and provide good health system in the rural areas… we welcome decentralization,” Jones said.
According to Dr Jones, MOVEE is not poised to contest the election just to replace a government. “We have been having changes since 1847, but some things have remained constant which are: massive poverty, underdevelopment and bad governance. However, what we want to change is the massive underdevelopment and widespread poverty among our people. This we pledge, we will change.”
“As Servant-in-Chief, we will not just be a friend to the poor, but will help the poor to get out of poverty,” he said. A MOVEE government, he said, will continue the financial inclusion policy that the CBL started when he served at the bank, adding that the desire of the Liberian people is economic development, which is the priority of a MOVEE-led government.
“A government that will work for the people, a government that will work for itself to fight poverty and improve the living conditions of the people, shall be my command,” Jones vowed. “We cannot choose continuity and yet hope for a new age, we cannot choose to do the same thing, we cannot choose the same people who have been doing the same thing because choosing continuity is like playing a game with our future.” He admonished Liberians to choose agents of change based on their track record because the future of the unborn generation is dependent on the 2017 elections.
Alexander Cummings, standard bearer of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), declared that under his watch as President of Liberia, the ANC government will provide different and better results for the Liberian people and create jobs for millions of Liberians by strengthening the private sector and tackling corruption. “Our mission and vision is to put Liberia first and we will do that by putting Liberian businesses first. I believe that working together we can change this country if we believe in ourselves,” Cummings said.
“I will be severe on corruption; no more ‘monkey work, baboon draw,’ and we will punish people guilty of corruption.” The former Coco-Cola executive averred that change can only come when the government and its officials are held accountable, in reference to President Sirleaf’s annual message. “An Alexander Cummings presidency will strengthen the president’s proposed special anti-corruption court and establish the enforcement mechanisms to hold corrupt officials to account. Fraud, abuse of office and playing by your own rules will not be tolerated,” he said.
Meanwhile, Charles Brumskine of the opposition Liberty Party (LP), who ran in the 2005 and 2011 presidential elections and lost, said he failed because he did not effectively communicate his vision for the country. This time around Brumskine said he is running to bring about reconciliation, reform, rebuilding and recovery. He said he and other opposition candidates should come together to stop what he called the “hegemony” of the ruling Unity Party from winning its third consecutive presidential election. “These are the four pillars (reconciliation, reform, rebuilding and recovery) of our platform that will take us into the next stage that Liberia should be in for its development,” he added.
Brumskine took responsibility for why his party did not do well in the last two presidential elections. “As the leader of my party and the candidate myself, I take responsibility for the lack of success in our first two attempts. And I believe it basically had to do with not having communicated effectively our vision for Liberia,” he said. By announcing his candidacy almost a year and a half before the election, the LP standard bearer said his intention was for Liberians to know about his party’s platform and gravitate toward the party.
He said he would be willing to let go his own presidential aspiration to join with other opposition parties so that they can come up with a single candidate. But he said it is a decision that must be made by all parties, and that whoever is chosen as the candidate must be able to win the respect and trust of the Liberian electorate. “It is our desire to work with every opposition political party and opposition politician to ensure that we together can succeed in 2017,” he said. “The Unity Party has won two consecutive elections. We must make sure they do not win a third election. Otherwise, the opposition in Liberia could crumble and then we will become a one-party state again, something that no one wants,” Brumskine said.
Liberia’s economy is still struggling to rebound almost 14 years after the end of the country’s civil war. It struggles with high unemployment rate and low global demand for the country’s natural resources, all on the heels of the recent Ebola epidemic that decisively crippled economic growth.
Brumskine said he will leave it up to Vice President Boakai to defend the record of President Sirleaf’s 12 years of governance. Nevertheless, he said the vision and programs of a Brumskine-led government will be different from the Sirleaf government. “For example, in our philosophy of government, we do not believe that government is the solution for everything. We believe that the private sector is the driving force for growth and development in any economy,” Brumskine said. “We want to make sure that education is dealt with differently by having teachers trained, by creating incentives for qualified people to get into the classrooms for our children and creating a learning environment for them,” he added.
Brumskine said his government’s health policy will focus on the clinical aspect as opposed to what it is today. Brumskine said he supports the decentralization of power to give the average Liberian a chance to have say in the running of the government. But he said those who support the idea of having superintendents elected by the people should take into consideration the impact it would have on the country’s economy. “A consideration should be given to whether or not we elect our superintendents because if we were to elect superintendents, that would mean the superintendent will not be reporting to the president,” he said. “If you have superintendents elected, you have to have 15 county legislatures to whom the superintendents will have to report. We may not be able to afford that economically, at least for now,” he added. However, Brumskine said decentralization can come about if Liberia reinstates the election of city mayors and tribal chiefs.
The United People’s Party (UPP) candidate, McDonald Wento, while presenting his 2017 platform to church leaders, disclosed that the party’s platform is an outline of the policy framework that will guide agencies of the Government of Liberia in the UPP-led administration. He mentioned peace-building, national healing and reconciliation as UPP’s number-one program; and that maintenance of existing and construction of new roads will be its second priority.
In foreign policy, UPP officials have hinted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be reorganized, strategically positioned, and staffed with experienced diplomats who are knowledgeable about how to tap into external opportunities to achieve the UPP’s domestic agenda. The UPP’s 2017 platform includes a plan that calls for using technology as a means to discourage corruption and undermine moral weakness, particularly in government. The UPP, Wento said, intends to make the prosecution of corrupt public servants a predicable response in the country.