A staunch critic of the George Manneh Weah-led government, Senator Oscar Cooper, has said that the National Legislature plays key roles in the declined state of the country and not the Executive alone. He said for over forty years now the Liberian presidency has been an area of focus for transforming the Liberian governance structure—which has come with little or no success though many heads of state have lost their lives in the process. This is now time, he added, that Liberians focus on the legislature, which is the first branch of government and has oversight responsibilities over the other two branches of government, to change the political status quo and usher in the needed transformation that will move the country forward.
“We, the 103 Lawmakers of this country, are part of the problem, not Weah alone,” he said, furthering, “This is why we are now calling on people with integrity, patriotism, and love for the country to be given legislative power.” “If we have 16 like-minded and good Senators this country will do better. It will be on the right trajectory and the President won’t have his way as it is happening now. The change that Liberians are yearning for must begin from the Liberian Legislature,” he said.
Known for his boldness on issues most of the time, Senator Cooper was one of the few Senators who did not sign for the printing of the LD$4 billion requested by President Weah. Though he would have favored printing the new banknotes, the Margibi Senator said that his decision not to vote was as a result of the lack of confidence in officials that are in charge of the fiscal and monetary policies of the country.
“We have always focused on the presidency and the problems in the country continue to persist. This has led to the deaths of William R. Tolbert and Samuel K. Doe. This is now time we have a paradigm shift and focus on the Legislature by electing responsible men and women who can change the course of this country.”
Senator Cooper’s comment highlighting the shortcomings of the National Legislature comes after some lawmakers in the House of Representatives had said earlier in a public gathering that the Legislature “Lack integrity.” It can be recalled that in August 2019, some lawmakers including Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis of Montserrado District 4 and Roger Domah of Nimba County District 7 amongst others stated during a justice conference organized by civil society groups in Liberia that the Legislature was being placed into the pocket of the Executive that anything that pleases the President is what the majority of lawmakers go after.
He said no one party has really controlled the upper house, though the former ruling party Unity Party went close to doing that. “No one party has a real majority in the senate. Sadly too, many of the Senators do not back the aspirations, dreams, manifestoes, and ideologies of their parties upon entering the Senate. These are the real issues we want to fight against. People enter with selfish interests and not to serve the state and its people,” Senator Cooper noted.
He added that it does not worth it that people get easily carried away or easily persuaded by favors from the Executive. The Margibi County Lawmaker added that his time at the Senate was a challenging time because of his critical stance on national issues. He said the incessant ignoring of critical voices on the Senate floor is meant to deny them of making their points or express their thoughts or grievances, which according to him led some of them to join the Council of Patriots—a movement whose founding took place on his famous “Cooper Farm” in Margibi County. “This was an alternative means for some of us to be heard,” he said but added that constant protest is not the best solution in improving good governance and productivity in the government.
In order to correct the prevailing situation in the Senate, Senator Cooper said: “The best way we can do this, which is a long term plan that few of us have embarked upon, is to have critical and likeminded people with integrity elected in the Legislature in the upcoming mid-term senatorial elections.”
This initiative, he noted, will be led by the four collaborating political parties. “We have started the process already and a steering committee has been formulated. We want to maintain the peace and stability of the country. So this is the path we are now pursuing, which we think will help strengthen our democracy, ensure sustainability and stability, as well as help, nurture our peace,” he added.
Meanwhile, Senator Cooper says in order for the George Weah Administration to be successful in managing the affairs of the country to divert attention from its current state to a better path, the President should institute some stringent actions that will seek the interest of the state rather than individuals.
According to the Margibi County Senator, taking some stringent decisions will curtail the numerous protests that have practically become a daily routine, and will ensure peace and stability of the country.
Senator Cooper said the unfortunate prevailing situations—economic hardship, political instability and the liquidity that has hit the financial sector—are repercussions of some grave mistakes President Weah made from the onset of his administration, especially the appointment of several incompetent officials, who lack competence have kept the government and the country stagnated.
The Senator noted that it is now time that the President rights the wrongs of his administration by firstly carrying out a long overdue reshuffle of his cabinet and appoint competent Liberians who have the face and integrity to do the Liberian people’s work. “There will be no protest in this country if the requisite people are appointed and they are doing the Liberian people’s work. Why will someone want to protest when your government is working for you?” he asked rhetorically.
Liberia has been gripped with the fear of constant protests since the ascendency of the Coalition of Democratic Change government headed by President Weah. “Liberia is headed nowhere with this situation. Our President must do the right thing by reshuffling his cabinet and bringing on board the right people to help him take the country out of such a shameful state,” he added.
He named Samuel Tweah as one of the many excesses of the President that need to go. “We all can see where Tweah has plunged our economy. How he handled the US$25M mop-up exercise and other issues. I’m one person who strongly believes that he cannot take us anywhere out of this mess,” he said.
Senator Cooper added that Liberians need to maintain the peace and stability of the country, and President Weah must take the lead. The Legislature is the first branch of government that makes law; with the Senate being the only body in the Legislature responsible constitutionally to confirm appointed officials who are subject to confirmation. Senator Cooper is, therefore, a member of the Senate through whom public officials subject to confirmation have passed through to occupy public posts such as the Ministry of Finance.
He lauded the intervention of the International Community in the standoff between COP and the government that is gradually turning into a political crisis.
“What the international community is doing is the right thing. They no longer want to see a confrontational situation in our country. They have spent a lot and made a lot of sacrifices on this soil and they can no longer allow us to slip back into crisis,” Senator Cooper said.
He dispelled the thoughts of some that the US, AU, ECOWAS, and others are meddling into the sovereignty o the Liberian state. “You can talk about sovereignty when you can feed yourself; when you can handle your own problems, but these are the same people we run to when we have a problem. How can we tell them to stay off our issues? This is not fair. They have a stake and they must be involved,” he concluded. Culled William Hamon/Liberian Observer
Main Photo: Senator Oscar Cooper