There is a distressing situation at the Roberts International Airport right now, with its employees not being paid by the Weah-led government for five or six months.
The CDC-led government is grossly incompetent in not only abusing human rights, neglecting responsibility, and abusing power and authority, but in this matter. Previously, Bishop Bishop J. Allan Klayee, former Managing Director of the airport, was dismissed from his position by the President for administrative reasons, and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission was tasked with investigating the matter.
In the interim, he was cleared of corruption allegations; however, it appears that the dismissal of the former managing director was not the real issue. PROTEST AT THE ROBERT INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT.
The Roberts International Airport employees were seen protesting today, December 30, demanding delayed salaries that the government has refused to pay. People shouldn't be disrespected for offering their services, showing up to work every day, and applying their technical and professional skills to meet government obligations.
Keeping state employees out of payment, especially those working at the airport, is like smoking cigarettes in a room full of gas bottles. What happens when a plane is landing and no one is found in the control tower? Is the government also considering that it would lose millions of dollars if flights refused to come to Liberia? When an angry employee refuses to show up to work or works with anger, and causes a technical problem on a landing flight, what happens?
There will be fatal consequences, and we are unprepared for that.
DEATH OF FORMER POLICE DIRECTOR, JOE TATE, AND HIS DEPUTIES IN PLANE CRASH AT RIA
Several years ago, I watched as former Police Director, Joe Tate, and two of his deputies died in a terrible plane crash about two miles from the Roberts International Airport. I witnessed in the sky how the plane attempted to land multiple times at the airport, but was never able to do so because it was completely dark. It floated in the air for more than 10 minutes, and then came much closer to Smell No Taste, which is now Unification City, only 5 minutes from Roberts International Airport.
It was very close to landing on the main road leading to the airport, but it did not succeed due to darkness. It was a sad moment. Prior to the crash, workers at the airport were unpaid. As such, they often left the airport before 8:00pm. This was one of the reasons the plane carrying Joe Tate, and the rest of the people crashed, because there was no employee at the airport.
The runway was dark, and no one was at the control tower. Although I saw a fleet of cars belonging to the ATU moving towards the airport while the plane was still in the air, but when they arrived with the hope of using their lights for safe landing, the plane had already crashed. We got on the scene as soon as the plane crashed to rescue the passengers, despite the fact that I didn't know what had just happened.
It was a sad moment, as I watched Joe Tate, and his deputies being roasted like fish in the burning plane. The flames of fire were so huge and we had to use palm leaves to cut off the fire. I could see top government officials, including Chucky Taylor, and his ATU boys, who were very effective in driving to the airport in an attempt to rescue the former police boss, and the other deputies, weeping profusely on the scene as we all watched them burn. It saddens me to see the same negligence being demonstrated by the Weah-led administration.
Those small and tiny CDCians should learn from past mistakes. While millions of dollars are being siphoned, our people in Margibi are languishing in poverty and desperation, especially when they work for the government, but cannot get paid. What is even disgusting is, 90% of those in top positions are recruited or hired directly from Monrovia while Martgibians are ill-treated, dashed and placed in low level positions. As such, they treat our people with total disrespect.
The management of the airport collects thousands of dollars daily as revenues for the government, but why our people cannot get their salaries? It has been over 5 months now, and no pay. This nonsense has to stop. It is important to emphasize that it makes no sense to ignore the plights of our people. Those who are protesting today at the Roberts International Airport due to lack of salary payment are mostly low-level employees from the surrounding towns and villages in Margibi.
They have their children to feed, educate, and pay house rents. Christmas was bitter for them, and they cannot afford to enter the New Year without receiving their duly entitled salaries. They must be paid! No monkey works, and bamboo draws. Please pay our people, Gbekugbeh!
PROMISES NOT KEPT During the 2017 elections, President Weah promised the people of Margibi he would redeem them from economic degradation, and restore their lost hopes. The youth of Margibi were promised jobs, especially in concession areas, including the RIA. President Weah also promised to re-equip the BWI, KRTTI, and the Harbel Multilateral High School to fully train young people for the labor market. It saddens me that the president has forgotten and become a tourist in his own country without recognizing the difficulties faced by his people. He travels all the time, but I am thinking that if he sometimes passes through the main terminal, interact with the employees like he does when he plays sports with other people.
I would expect him to do that in order to get the actual picture of how the airport is run, feelings from the people he represents, and make critical decisions to improve their lives. Margibi contributes about 40% of the government’s annual income, but it bothers me very much to see that our people are not paid on time. For too long, employees in government intuitions, or state run enterprises, have been ill-treated, and dashed by their leaders.
The airport is a strategic area, which must not be compromised. Drugs could easily slip into the country especially when a few unpaid employees are bribed to sneak drugs into our country to destroy the future of our young people.
The technical managers, and heads of the airport receive huge salaries, eat five times a day, sleep in good homes, and steal from our people, but the ordinary employees cannot be paid. The broad day robbery of our state coffers is gradually destroying the image of our country, and making a few groups of state bands to get rich. It is time the CDC-led government pays our people their arrears owed to them. No more monkey works, and bamboo draw. Please pay our people in Margibi, Gbekugbeh.
About the author: Vandalark Patricks is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Governance.