Though Relatively Short, President Weah’s Maiden Annual Message Had Plenty for Us to Debate

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Compared to those of his predecessor, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President George Weah’s first Annual Message to the Legislature was short.  He spoke for 41 minutes, whereas President Sirleaf’s Annual Messages averaged two hours or more.

It must be stated, of course, that President Sirleaf’s first Annual Message, too, was relatively short.  Volume 3 of Dr. Elwood Dunn’s trilogy (three volumes) on the Annual Messages of all Liberian Presidents, from J.J. Roberts to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,  showed that her first Annual Message, delivered on January 23, 2006, spanned five pages, compared to her second, delivered on January 23, 2007, which took 25 pages.  That was because she tried in each of her Annual Messages to give an account of the activities and important accomplishments of most parts of the Executive Branch—all the Ministries and parastatals as well as initiatives undertaken by her from the Executive Mansion, including reports on her travels, etc.

President Joseph Jenkins Roberts’ first Annual Message covered 10 pages, while his third was 14 pages, according to Volume 1 of Dr. Dunn’s trilogy. The first Annual Message of President W.V.S. Tubman, Liberia’s longest serving President, delivered November 1, 1944, covered 25 pages.

But short though President Weah’s maiden Annual Message was, it was loaded with issues that Liberians and the public in general will debate for a long time to come.

Three of these stood out: his proposal to change the constitutional provision restricting citizenship to blacks or people of Negroid descent; selling land to people of non-Negroid descent; and his proposal to allow dual citizenship in Liberia.

Let us deal first with the dual citizenship issue, which is far less controversial than the other two.

There have been many in the country and abroad who have been arguing over a long period for dual citizenship.  Among the proponents of this idea have been hundreds of thousands of Liberians in the United States, Europe and other parts of Africa.  Many of them, mainly for economic reasons, have been constrained to acquire American or European citizenship.  Most of them are very highly skilled in various professions, including the arts, aviation, engineering, medicine and medical arts, science and technical and vocational expertise.  Without local citizenship, these Liberians—and not them only but other foreign nationals, found it next to impossible to benefit from promotions or to climb the corporate ladder.  So they took on foreign citizenships not because they did not like the lands of their nativity but simply to submit to economic and political realities.

This newspaper, the Daily Observer, too, has for a long time advocated that our people in the Diaspora be granted dual citizenship.  Our arguments have been three-fold: first, many of them are loaded with expertise that we need desperately in Liberia; second, many have money or access to it; and third, they have valuable financial, professional and other contacts that we need in our still backward country.

Several of our Legislators have been the main ones opposing dual citizenship, purely, we believe, out of ignorance. The Daily Observer has tried over the years to explain that how Israel became the most highly developed nation in the Middle East because it welcomed back home, through direct and dual citizenship from Israelis from throughout the world, including Australia, Europe, New Zealand, Russia and North and South America.

Most controversial among the proposals presented in President Weah’s first Annual Message were his proposals to grant citizenship and the possibility of selling land to all races.

As we noted in our Tuesday Editorial, these issues have been presented twice in recent years in referenda—1985 and 2011—and both times have been overwhelmingly rejected.

Our problems as a newspaper with these matters are timing and the condition of the Liberian masses, who live in abject poverty.  You put propositions to such people living in destitution, they could sell the only thing they have—land—and live the rest of their lives in even deeper poverty and utter hopelessness.

We hope that our foreign friends of a lighter hue (color) would place themselves in our shoes and understand the reality of poverty in Liberia. What we need to do is to take very serious and urgent measures to build a Liberian middle class that will empower Liberians and make them less vulnerable to the drastic, even dehumanizing consequences of such fundamental constitutional changes.

But as we said earlier, these are prime subjects for debate and we are sure that Liberians are ready for it.

Authors

4 COMMENTS

  1. The notion that YOU support a person (“foreign friends of lighter hue”) be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the COLOR of his skin morally offensive, racist, and doesn’t deserve any intellectual merit. People who judge others by the color of their skin are ignorant and ungodly creatures!

  2. It’s not racist when you consider the racist-based disdain these middle eastern elements display to Africans, including Liberians. Scott, what do you say to the enslavement of Africans in Libya in this 21st century? Is it not based on the black color of their skin? Show me how many Indians and Lebanese interact positively and socially with Liberians outside of the workplace where poor Liberians receive slave wages and endure verbal abuses all-day! Africans generally love and are always warm to persons of all races, but unfortunately the other races, especially those with white, red or pink colors or even of a ‘lighter hue’, are the ones who, for whatever ignorant or supremacists reasons, hate anyone with black skin. So what do you expect us to do, pretend that all is okay between us and them? Perhaps you need to befriend your President in the U.S., Mr. Trump, who refers to your country as. ‘s..t h..e’.

  3. ToP(The Opinionated Patriot)
    Fellow Liberians,
    I had expected a shit storm after President Weah gave his first address to the nation. And I am disappointed to say the least—because nothing even remotely happened. Yes, articles by journalists and comments by concerned citizens are making waves—but not in the way they should have.

    However, what worries me even more than the fact that our newly elected President finally articulated his true intentions and allegiance whom he really will be serving, is the fact that:
    nobody, neither professional journalists nor concerned citizens/commentators, intepreted and named President Weah’s statements for what they really are. So, I am asking myself—why still all this HONEY MOUTHING, after our newly elected President uttered these despicable words in his embarrassingly bumpy English.
    Wake up guys and let’s face it—in the moment President Weah proposed the notion that the constitution should be changed with respect to citizenship and property ownership, HE VERBALLY COMMITTED TREASON. That’s exactly what it is—TREASON. By doing so, he also called upon lawmakers and citizens to follow him and do the same—betray their country in the worst possible way. Obviously, the Liberian people and lawmakers should not allow to turn these treacherous notions into a referendum.
    Here’s another fact: English is the official language of our country. President Weah had more than twelve years to prepare himself for this moment. Why is his English still so clumsy? It’s embarrassing.

    People!! We are talking about the highest office in the country. What does it tell about ourselves, if our President can’t eloquently express himself in the official language of the country he pretends to serve? The ugly truth is this—voting a man into highest office, who didn’t care to advance at least his language skills to a professional level, says everything about ourselves.
    Now, here’s what I suggest with respect to English as the official language—because language in particular is an expression of cultural identity, a link to the past and to the future! Abandon English as the nation’s official language–this would be a strong signal! After all it’s the language of our colonial masters. Oh—right, we were never a colony. Liberia is and always was the land of the Freed. The only problem that still persists—there were already free people in the land before it was taken over by the Freed. May be we should change our flag too. After all, it resembles the Flag of the USA.
    Now—if we would consider to abandon English as the (only) official language, we would face the obvious—there are many to choose from. BUT, it’s actually not the real issue. When we, for instance look at South Africa, featuring 11 official languages—The Rainbow Nation—a term, treacherously coined by no other than the highest ranking Catholic in the country at that time, i.e., Desmond Tutu.

    http://theconversation.com/south-africas-rainbow-nation-is-a-myth-that-students-need-to-unlearn-66872

    So the real issue with respect to language is—how do we define ourselves at the root and in our hearts and minds? As Liberians—are we Black Africans only by the color of our skin? —how do we see ourselves as a Black African Nation among other Black African Nations? This is in particular an important question for the Liberian-American fellows among us. And, if you think that’s not a serious matter think twice, and ask yourself this: which country on this Earth, except Liberia, allows non-citizen to vote or run for public office let alone run for the highest office? It clearly demonstrates, that the Liberian people are still trapped in a mindset defined and imposed by their colonial masters. Now, a so-called native son was voted into highest office.
    However, proposing to change the constitution with respect to citizenship and property ownership, and therefore expressing his commitment to support the continued total sell out of our land and natural resources, President Weah had made it crystal clear where his allegiance stands. In other words, he’s no better than all his predecessors.
    As a reminder, during EJS’s tenure, and despite her successful national debt relief initiatives, no trickle down effect by any FDY had been registered. On the contrary—concessions to Firestone, BHP Billiton, Arcelor Mittal, Severstal (a major Russian mining and steel company), and China Union (all under renegotiated license agreements), didn’t amount to any significant increase in government revenue. Which of course, comes to no surprise. WHY? Because corporations only serve their shareholders and their top management, not their employees, let alone the countries they suck dry. Or why do you think, corporations (their Holding companies) by default are registered in so-called “offshore” jurisdictions, i.e., tax havens?
    Now, President Weah unleashed all this pathetic smoke screen chatter about salary reduction and rice price subsidization. Don’t you think Liberians should have become successful rice producers a long time ago?

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