MONROVIA – The Standard Bearer of the Collaborating Political Parties(CPP), Alexander B. Cummings has spoken about the urgency to deal with the food insecurity situation and the need to improve agricultural production in the country, stressing that the “situation cannot be resolved by resorting to tentative actions and panicked reaction to shortages and crises as the Weah led government has been prone to do over the last 5 years” just as he spoke about the imperative of ensuring holding of a free, fair and transparent elections next year.
Mr. Cumming made the assertion yesterday, Monday, October 31, 2022, when he spoke to the nation upon his return from a foreign trip that took him to the Canada and the United States of America where according to him he “held very important meetings with Liberians and global political, business, and educational leaders concerning the development of our country”
He said while holding discussions with Liberians and other stakeholders on his visit abroad, he proposed a comprehensive strategy to include emergency provision of rice, the nation’s essential staple, at concessionary price while pursuing an accelerated and sustained program of domestic production. He said the program will entail intensive training of Liberians at universities in rice producing states, provision of experts, investment and financing for equipment and machinery and that the program must be private sector driven to succeed while the government provides assistance and extension services.
“There are plenty of databases to tap into. Liberia once hosted the headquarters of the West African Rice Development Association (WARDA), which together with our Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI), developed high yield seeds. The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and other global institutions have also made commendable progress in the areas of rice production and other cash crops such as cocoa, coffee, cashew, etc. Our government only needs to demonstrate seriousness in engaging these institutions to achieve its goals and cannot continue to play with the lives of our people by fooling them about fake shipments of rice. The Legislature must assert its oversight to ensure that millions of dollars allocated for rice subsidies are properly accounted for.
“Our country is not poor, and our people are not lazy. Our soil is fertile, and our weather is favorable to growing what we eat and to export the surplus. What we lack is determined, competent, serious and responsible leadership that will make the right decisions and investments in the productive sectors rather than spend most of the national budget on enriching and caring for five politicians – the President, the Vice President, the Speaker, the Pro-Temp and the Deputy Speaker, while the nation starves, hospitals are without beds and medicines and schools are struggling”, Cummings said.
Speaking further on the outcome of his travel, the businessman turned politician said for such critical sectors such as education, manufacturing, communications to infrastructural development, he engaged with international partners and industrialists who are prepared to invest in Liberia but they are however concerned about the current climate of rampant corruption and abuses of power that have overtaken the Weah Administration. “These serious investors need a responsible and competent Liberian Government that can be trusted to stop the stealing, strengthen the justice system and improve accountability. As I have said many times before, our country is too rich for so many of our people to be so poor”, he said.
“This is why a Cummings Administration will stop the stealing, end impunity, improve accountability and guarantee the trust of the international community. We will do this because we need to end the suffering of the Liberian people, unite our country, grow the economy, provide opportunities for our youth, empowerment for women, and create decent-paying jobs for Liberians.
“The cost of living is increasing everyday. This is why, for President Weah to cut people’s pay while the costs of food, transportation, rent, hospital bills and school fees are only going up is wicked! As hard as people are trying, too many cannot find jobs, and those who are lucky to be working can barely care for their families because their salaries have been “harmonized”. President Weah and his administration promised to create jobs. Not only did they fail to keep their promise but they have created chances for themselves to steal from the Liberian people who are already suffering. No responsible government that cares for its people will do this to them.
“Drugs and crimes have taken over our streets and communities. Proud Liberians are being forced to beg in a country that God has blessed with so much natural wealth. After five years, President Weah and his administration have no idea how to fix the problems they have made worse. Now, as we prepare to end their failed leadership in 2023, they are conniving to create problems in the elections and undermine our hard-won democracy. We strongly warn them to desist and conduct themselves more responsibly”, he said.
Cummings who is also the political leader of the Alternative National Congress(ANC), a constituent of the CPP, said the last and important duty of any democratic government is to provide for the free and fair conduct of democratic elections so the people get to decide who will lead them, and the transfer of power is smooth and peaceful. He stressed that repeatedly, the Weah Administration has acted not to obey the constitutional demand for the timely conduct of elections. “We will not permit it this time – enough is enough!”, he said.
“Let there be no mistake: The Presidential and General Elections, as well as all of its attending processes and procedures, must be adhered to as provided for in the Liberian Constitution. As opposition, it is our duty to hold the Weah Administration to its sworn responsibility, and not allow a compromise of the character and integrity of our democracy and elections. I assure the Liberian people that we will not fail in this sacred duty.
“We know that since 2018, President Weah has fooled around with the conduct of the National Housing and Population Census. Less than a year before the Presidential and General Elections in 2023, the administration is still playing around with the conduct of the Census which is a constitutional demand. No President of Liberia who will not obey and honor the Liberian Constitution deserves to be regarded as President”, he said.
Speaking further about the preparation towards the 2023 elections, he said he was alarmed about the growing perception of incompetence and corruption surrounding the contract of a vendor for the biometric voter registration. He said the National Elections Commission (NEC) is strongly advised to scrupulously follow the public procurement process and contract, preferably from other democratic countries, only the most highly competent and reputable vendor, one whose track records and proven abilities are impeccable and without doubts. He delivered his own verdict on the procurement process that the current controversial vendor is unacceptable.
“We know that the credibility of free and fair elections is not determined on Election Day. It is the credibility and transparency of the processes that lead up to the actual voting on Election Day that will guarantee the credibility of the elections and safeguard our democracy. President Weah and his administration therefore have a duty to provide the resources that are needed – and to do so in a timely manner – so that the electoral processes and procedures are done credibly and within the required constitutional timeframe.
“This is why we urge the National Elections Commission to immediately request technical assistance to execute the smooth transition to the biometric system. Obviously, the NEC has no internal experience or proven capacities given it has never worked with a biometric system. We also demand, on behalf of the Liberian people, that the government pays for this much-needed technical assistance.
“Liberia’s democracy belongs to the Liberian people. Many sons and daughters fought, bled and died for our democracy. We can outsource for expertise but we must never outsource the proud ownership of our democracy. Owning our democracy, including by funding it, is an important measure of our independence. The Liberian Government therefore must appropriately and adequately fund the continued credibility and integrity of Liberia’s democracy. It is time to stop the stealing and fund the Liberian people’s cherished democracy!”, he further said.
Cummings said while he was aware that upgrading to the biometric system from the previous manual one is a matter of growing concern for many of our citizens, the country must move ahead if it is to continue to deepen the democracy and guarantee its integrity. “We also know that all successful transitions to the use of technology requires running the new system next to the old. The best value of technology is to help people do their work faster and better. Technology, and certainly that which is related to elections, is not intended to exclude people. Running the new next to the old will achieve more inclusion of Liberians, and further ensure the transition is relatively problem-free while deriving similar and improved outcomes”, he said.
“Finally, we note that the schedule of the NEC is already being dangerously delayed. We are seriously concerned about these growing delays, as well as reports of the lack of much-needed resources for the NEC. Over the next few days, we will be meeting with leaders of the opposition to further discuss these lurking dangers for our democracy. Meanwhile, we strongly encourage the government to act consistent with the Liberian Constitution, to provide the needed resources to the NEC, and to do so with urgency.
“We have seen the Weah Administration failed, performed incompetently and continue to act irresponsibly. Many have come to the conclusion that Liberia is on auto-pilot because our President does not know what he is doing, nor does he know what he needs to be doing. However, failures to ensure that the will of the Liberian people is truly reflected in their votes will not be a failure or act of irresponsibility we can or will be expected to accept. It is globally known that elections that are not credibly free and fair are triggers for conflicts. We will act in time to ensure our election is credibly free and fair, and that our country remains peaceful and safe. We ask the President to wake up, and lead his administration to do the same”, he concluded.