The Independence Day Oration delivered by Cuttington President, Dr. Herman Browne, last Thursday left little untouched of the national ills. He mentioned, among other critical national problems, social inequality, unpatriotic attitudes, corruption, egocentricity (selfishness, self-interest), disrespect for cultural values, discourtesy to public officials and a poor education system.
With no sympathy for the media that were relaying his speech to the audiences, Dr. Browne was vocal in spotlighting media shortcomings. He described most newspapers as “tabloids” in content, and observed that many radio stations, instead of creating topics for public discussion, often laid down propositions to ridicule government, institutions and individuals.
In his opening statement, Dr. Browne warned he was going to speak his mind, and this would cause some abhorrently to brand him as an opponent.
With no doubt in his mind that every Liberian is partly responsible for our impoverished condition, it was, however, unrealistic that Dr. Browne praised the administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf without mentioning some of the shortcomings of her administration. We are certainly not against lauding the President and her government for the achievements thus far. No! We are not against that. Our concern is that since the National Orator put everyone under the impression that his speech was not going to set anyone aside from problems affecting the country, listeners including us expected him to present a balanced picture by identifying the administration’s successes and failures. Instead, he praised especially the President, and gave the impression that she and her administration are not part of the problems affecting the country.
Taking the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration into perspective, we can reason that it has brought some great changes over its 12-year rule. Construction of some major roads, hospitals and clinics, schools, restoration of the country’s international image, freedom of speech and of the press are among the positives. But the orator failed to tell the Liberian people some shortcomings, even failures of Ellen’s administration.
Yet she herself, in her Annual Message last January, admitted that her government had failed to fight corruption and to reconcile Liberians, as she had promised. She also took full responsibility for the bankruptcy, under her son Robert Sirleaf’s watch, of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL). In addition to NOCAL’s own resources, beginning with at least US$31 million left in its bank accounts by former NOCAL Chairman Clemenceau Urey, there was also the US$10.5 million Sustainable Development Initiative (SDI) which CHEVRON donated to NOCAL that cannot be accounted for (see today’s lead story).
President Sirleaf, who extensively criticized some of her predecessors for nepotism, is on record for appointing her children, relatives and friends in lucrative government positions.
The President sits and watches the Ministry of Commerce failing to regulate prices of locally produced commodities without any action or inquiry. She sees the inflating rate of the US dollar compared to Liberian dollar; yet her government has instituted no policy action to redress this skyrocketing conundrum.
The President took an oath to defend the Constitution of Liberia in every way, and she is aware of U.S. Human Rights Reports that cast a dark cloud over the country’s justice system.
The orator praised the President for resolutely leading fight against Ebola; yet he failed to acknowledge the gallant role of many health warriors, including some who gave their lives, and Liberians themselves who faithfully adhered to the many preventive measures that greatly contributed to the successful fight against the deadly virus.
It is always a positive thing to praise; yet it is also important to strike a balance between the good, the bad and the ugly. This will cause listeners or readers to take much more seriously what a speaker or writer had to say.