OFFICIAL OPENING ADDRESS By Chief Dr. Jewel Howard-Taylor

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OFFICIAL   OPENING   ADDRESS

By

Chief Dr. Jewel Howard-Taylor

Vice President of the Republic of Liberia/President of the Liberian Senate Delivered at the

FIRST SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE 54th LEGISLATURE

Monday, January 14, 2019

Senate Chambers

Capitol Building, Capitol Hill

Monrovia, Liberia

The Honorable President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Senator Albert T. Chie;

Distinguished Members of the Senate Leadership;

Distinguished Members of various Senate Committees;

The Honorable Secretary, Chamber Staff, Directors and Staff of the Liberian Senate;

Our International Partners and Friends of Liberia;

Esteemed Members of the 4th Estate;

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

Permit me to raise my voice in giving Praise and Honor to the Almighty God, whose mercies fail not, for his manifold blessings upon us as a Nation and People. And to especially give HIM thanks for allowing each of us to gather once again in this historic edifice.

For I am reminded, as I look around this Chamber, see the faces of the TEAM MEMBERS and retrospect on the journey we are on; I can truly say indeed – THAT ALL POWERS BELONG TO GOD ALONE. AND THAT AS THE BIBLE SAYS IN PROVERBS, CHAPTER 9, VERSE 10,the fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the holy one is understanding.” Amen.

Distinguished Senators;

As President of the Liberian Senate, it is my earnest prayer, as the Liberian Senate commences this 2nd regular session of the 54th Legislature, that God will pour out a double portion of His spirit upon us, thus enabling us to have the tenacity and fortitude required to handle the enormous task which has devolved upon us; and grant us wisdom and understanding needed to be true servant leaders of our people.”

For let each be truly aware, that every action or inaction on our part affects the peace, stability, unity, progress, development and future of our people and our beloved MAMA LIBERIA. And like the analogy given in the folk story where a son asked his Father the fate of a bird in his hands, each of our actions will determine whether our Nation will survive and prosper or perish.

I entreat you to always bear in mind that the everyday choices we make during this Session, though singular in intent, when taken, affects the whole. As such we must be prepared to take full responsibility for decisions taken and the attendant consequences on the wellbeing of our people and state of our Nation. FOR AS THE FIRST BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT, WE CAN BLAME NO ONE, BUT OURSELVES.

Mr. President Pro Tempore, Distinguished Senators, Ladies and Gentlemen;

How quickly time flies………..barely a year ago, members of the 54th Legislature assembled together on these hallowed grounds to perform their duties; and, in the presence of man and GOD, made a solemn pledge, as prescribed by Article 31 of the Constitution of our Land, which states that:

 “Each member of the Legislature, before taking his seat and entering upon the duties of Office, shall take and subscribe to a solemn oath of affirmation, before the presiding officer of the House to which such person was elected and in the presence of other members of that House, to uphold and defend the Constitution and laws of the Republic and to discharge faithfully the duties of such office.”

As I reflect on the deeper meaning of these words of solemn commitment, I am of the opinion, that the Forefathers of the Nation and Framers of our Constitution penned these mandatory words in order to remind each of us, of our sacred responsibility not only to the state, but so that we would reverently consider the decisions we would take and their implications on the livelihood of the people we have come to represent.

Though our Constitution does not go further to stipulate penalties for the breach of Article 31 as it is in constitutions of other countries; I believe, that the Framers felt in their minds that the passion which ignites the soul and propels it to aim for greater service would naturally make those privileged to serve, perform conscientiously this binding responsibility, thus living up to the spirit and intent of those words.

It is my solemn prayer that the commitment to which we have individually subscribed, will attend all of our actions during this period.

Distinguished Senators, Ladies and Gentlemen;

As we bear the trust of our people, I am repeatedly reminded of the period attending the 2017 Elections and the subsequent overwhelming mandate from the People of Liberia which catapulted each of us to National Leadership. Let us be reminded of the sweat, tears and blood of many others, on whose shoulders we now stand to superintendent our Country to nobler heights. Their sacrifices are note worthy, and should serve as a constant reminder to work for the common good and subjugate our parochial interests.

History reminds us, that on January 22nd, 2018, that His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah was sworn into Office as the nation’s 24th President and I, because of the singular choice of the Standard Bearer of the Coalition of Democratic Change, for which I remain eternally grateful, became the First Female Vice President of the Republic and also the first female President of the Liberian Senate. Such historic placement devolves upon me onerous responsibilities which I, in all humility and optimism, assumed in consideration of the uncommon opportunity given me to be one of the many building blocks of our nation.

Thankfully, as we each strive to perform our duties in ways which justify the confidence reposed in us; we should be reminded that history will judge us harshly and unsympathetically if we fail to justify the trust and confidence of our people. Lest we forget, irrespective of the length of our tenure of service, the day of reckoning will surely come. I believe this singular thought should abate the normal human tendencies of self and urge us on in the performance of our sacred duties as enshrined in the Constitution, Statutes and Standing Rules of the Liberian Senate. 

Mr. President Pro Tempore, Distinguished Senators, Ladies and Gentlemen;

As we commence our duties, permit me to solemnly bring to your remembrance, that in the midst of the struggles of life there is sadly also death; and how it dances amongst us is hopelessly left to Divine Providence. I am saddened to inform this body of the demise of:

  • The beloved WIFE and Life Partner of Senator Oscar Cooper from Margibi County, Mrs. Bindu Taylor Cooper, over the break, on December 24 (Christmas Eve).

Senator Cooper, I am aware that there are no words in the English dictionary which can soothe your broken heart from this deep loss. So please permit me as President of the Liberian Senate; to on behalf of the Leadership and members of the Liberian Senate, I say in our Liberian way – Never mind ya! May the peace that only God can give soothe the pain of your loss.

  • And Counselor Francis Y.S. Garlawulo, who also succumbed to the cruel hands of death during our last session. The learned Counselor was a tower of strength from Bong County, who was a member of the 51st Legislature, and served as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He departed this world on May 14, 2018.  I again extend the deepest sympathy of Members of the Liberian Senate to his Family.

May I ask that you please stand to honor those referenced and others who lost their lives in service to our nation, whilst serving in the Legislature.  May their souls, and the souls of all faithful departed, rest in eternal peace.

 

THANK YOU.

On a lighter note, permit me the honor to FIRSTLY welcome back our Ranking Senators, with a deep appreciation for the long hours and extended sessions that ensued last year. SECONDLY, we welcome back our First year Senators – Senator Saah H. Joseph and Senator Dr. Henrique F. Tokpah.  And LASTLY, but never the least, we also welcome in our midst the new Freshman Senator from Sinoe County, Senator Augustine S. Chea.

Mr. President Pro Tempore, Distinguished Senators; Ladies and Gentlemen;

As we begin this new session, it is only prudent to take note of some of the events which attended national activities of the past year. Let me firstly extend my gratitude and appreciation to our President, His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, for steering the affairs of the nation over the past year and also thank him for remaining sensitive and responsive to the socio economic needs of our People.

I acknowledge with satisfaction the significant progress recorded in the first year of our administration, notably in the areas of road connectivity, health care delivery, education and electricity. These milestone achievements, serve as a beacon of hope, signifying the commitment and determination of our Government to improving the living standards of our people.

We should also note, that there were some challenges attending our first year; with concerns being expressed in some quarters of our society about alleged missing funds; claims and counter claims of corruption and bribery; Bank Liquidity, perceptions of disrespect and mistrust amongst functionaries of government; and issues of the alarming rate of sexual and gender based violence in our nation.

Also noteworthy is a Bill of Impeachment presented to this August body by the House of Representatives, for adjudication during this sitting. This is a critical issue which has attracted the attention of a broad spectrum of our society and the international community.

Let us therefore be reminded that the manner and form of its disposition by the Liberian Senate will forever be recorded in the annals of the Legislative – Judiciary and political history of our Nation. I trust that justice will be served in consonance with our organic laws. Let each of us be aware that it is our collective responsibility to provide closure to these issues which are of concern to our people.

If I were to look at the events of the past year, as an optimist who sees the glass always half full; I may say that our first year obviously had to engender its attendant birth pains, involving a period of natural adjustment and realignment before landing onto some degree of stability which I pray is now upon all. Our hopeful expectation is that, if there were any feathers ruffled, they have settled and tides in tempers have eased.

Today, therefore prayerfully marks the commencement of a new cycle, which should find us wiser and more resilient to put our Nation first. As destiny ushers in new dynamics, let us submit that the responsibilities on our shoulders are herculean and demand the fullness of our attention and energy in seeking common ground and a recommitment to working for the peace, development, security and unity of our State.

Let us ascertain that the effects of our work will insure the betterment of all within and without our borders; and elicit greater cooperation and collaboration amongst us; keeping in mind that we are part and parcel of one unit; hence we all rise or fall together.

And so, as we reconvene in the serene ambiance of the Senate Chambers to proceed with the work assigned us, let us beseech the mercy of our Lord and Savior and seek his divine wisdom which will allow us serve our nation to the best that is within us.

In performing our mandate to do all within our powers to build a more equitable, profitable, and wholesome functioning society; where the majority of our population will be able to access the opportunities necessary to create a world of their own dreams.

 Mr. President Pro Tempore, Distinguished Senators, Ladies and Gentlemen;

May I gently remind this august body that Senate records show that the Liberian Senate inherited 55 legislations which remain in Committee rooms, with an additional 62 introduced during the period under review.

Of these, 34 were passed and two were vetoed. This leaves the Senate with an initial work load of about 83 draft legislations to consider during this Session, paramount amongst which is a listing of draft bills submitted to the Liberian Senate by His Excellency, the President of the Republic, during our special sitting; which include Financing Agreements; the Dual Citizenship amendment; Prohibition of Tenured Positions; a few Mineral Development Agreements; an amendment to the Revenue Code; and an amendment to the Public Financial Management Act, amongst others.

In spite of the heavy work load under consideration, I enjoin each of you to humbly accept the appreciation of the general public for the passage into law of two critical land mark legislations during the past year — An Act to Establish the Land Rights Law of 2018 and An Act establishing the new Local Government Law, Title 20 amongst other key legislations.

Notwithstanding this high achievement, may I equally kindly remind you that there are several other critical draft legislations necessary for the governance of the State that are still pending, key amongst which are: The Domestic Violence Bill, Proposals for Constitutional Amendments, The Gender Equity Bill, The law proposing the establishment of a Corruption Court, and The Corrupt Offenses Act amongst others.

Mr. President Pro Tempore, Distinguished Senators, Ladies and Gentlemen;

As we consider the scope of our work, it is my prayer that the Senate will improve its oversight responsibilities; which includes the review, monitoring and supervision of activities of all ministries and agencies under the Executive Branch and the Judiciary, the scrupulous implementation of all programs, activities and policies of Government to ensure the end results positively affect our people and provide due diligence in the discharge of all activities.  For it is only in doing so that the HOUSE OF ELDERS (THE PEOPLE’S HOUSE) will be able to secure the forward march of the NATIONAL PRO POOR AGENDA OF THIS GOVERNMENT, WHICH SEEKS TO IMPROVE THE LIVES OF OUR CITIZENS ACROSS THE NATION IN THIS DISPENSATION.

In closing, permit me to leave some food for thought for our guidance. Firstly, to our distinguished compatriots in the Opposition, I urge you to consider that in times like these, when our People yearn for greater patriotism from all of their leaders, it is incumbent upon all men of goodwill and generosity to unite for the greater good, regardless of party or political affiliation. Let us therefore work together for the common good.

And secondly, I pray that, as I did, each of you will draw inspiration from a New Year’s note sent to me by our Colleague and learned Counselor, Senator Varney G. Sherman, which I beg his indulgence to permit me to quote.

“Our future may lie beyond our vision; but it is not completely beyond our control. For it is the works of our hands, matched to principles and reason, that will determine our final destiny.”

Happy New Year to ALL!

May God bless us and save the State.

I thank you.

 

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