OP-ED: Debating A Fresh Start For The New Liberia

Debates are necessary when there are opposing sides. Whether we were discussing security, equal opportunities, economic benefits or basic services for citizens, the August 17th presidential debate miserably failed on all counts because the content of the debate expressed the platforms, views, and agenda of Liberian politicians, not the citizens.

“All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit…” With abject poverty, ritualistic killings, excessive salaries and benefits of politicians and skyrocketing unemployment amongst our youths, the real debate should have been about getting rid of the corrupt, deadly and broken representative system and the costs and benefits of the participatory democratic system in the USA, Switzerland and the European Union.  Instead of “business as usual”, there are three arguments for debating a fresh start for the new Liberia.

First and foremost, all Liberian politicians are on one team working against the citizens and the country’s interests. That is why all politicians have similar platforms, originating from the politicians, not the masters – Liberian citizens.

“I’ll improve education, I’ll fight corruption, I’ll improve agriculture, I’ll improve the economy, I’ll fix the roads and bridges, I’ll bring foreign companies to create jobs … I’ll cut my salaries!”

Nonsense! Who’s the boss? Truth be told, like past elections, most candidates in 2017 race are mere job seekers who, at the end of the race are destined for excessive salaries and benefits, irrespective of the outcome of the election.

As an example, former Senator Gbehzohngar Findley’s career path is a case in point. From senator to being the Senate pro tempore with a US$1.2 million budget. When the citizens voted him out, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appointed him to the Liberian Airports Authority, although he has no known aviation experience.

As the Unity Party political currents shifted, Findley now looks poised to be a member of the Coalition for Democratic Change, maneuvering to secure another government job, free car, free gas slips, and a fat salary. Liberia’s corrupt system was designed by the politician and for the benefit of elite politicians – it must go away!

Second, in the August 17th debate, not a single presidential candidate identified Liberia’s corrupt representative democratic system as problematic. Blinded by either ignorance or the potentially enormous financial benefits under our current broken system, politicians overlooked the long-term damage to our environment, the depletion of our natural resources, and the misery of our people.

Finally, our politicians are not bad people but our system is corrupt! Liberia needs a different system. The Bible suggests systemic change is wiser than a continuation of systemic corruption. Jesus said in Matthew 7:18, “A good tree cannot produce evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree produce good fruit.”  In other words, our corrupt system will always yield corruption.

Many politicians argue that the participatory democratic system cannot work in Liberia because of Liberia’s high illiteracy rate. But Article I of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia is proof that ordinary citizens, literate or illiterate, have inalienable or God-given rights and the authority to change and replace Liberia’s corrupt system: “All power is inherent in the people. [The people] have the right to [change] the [corrupt system] when their safety and happiness so require.”

With ritualistic killings and poverty, Liberian citizens are not safe and not happy, making the change [is] necessary!

After 170 years, the priority for Liberia isn’t voting for old or new politicians to continue with “business as usual.” Liberians must urgently convene a Sovereign National Conference to create a new constitution that empowers citizens to exercise their powers to change the detrimental, deadly, corrupt and broken system!

Matthew 12:33 says: “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.”

I call on all candidates desirous of advancing the greater common good to lay aside their personal political ambitions and join citizens in prioritizing the removal of the “clear and present danger”: Liberia’s deadly, corrupt, and broken system of governance.

Every Liberian who sincerely believes the system is broken must register today at www.mastersday.com and vote for change to demand a fresh start for the new Liberia in 2017. The alternative is unthinkable!

A pastor and human rights activist, Torli was instrumental in lobbying with US congressmen and policymakers to increase the quota of refugees from Africa being allowed into the US. He has also worked tirelessly in the New England region and beyond to champion the rights of refugees and immigrants. His organization, Universal Human Rights International, worked with thousands of immigrants from 38 different countries over the span of 20 years. He has been honored by the National Peace Corps Association and the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

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