Although held down by five days of the malaria epidemic, with earlier plan to have made visible presence at occasions marking Liberia’s 165th Independence Anniversary, perhaps to have marked the first in recent decades at which the admirable Dr. Elwood L. Dunn had been selected to deliver the oration, thanks to technology that it did not however miss the ears, amidst the high fever.
Partly sequential, following the usual outdoor activities that have often been marked by parades by the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and other para-military units at the Barclay Training Centre (BTC) on the United Nations Drive at which this columnist partly grew up during the 1970s, the indoor became of paramount concern in view of the prevailing democratic challenges that the Liberian nation must gradually and not hastily overcome.
In view of the above considerations, it was at all not mistaken by Orator Dr. Dunn to have selected as ‘Topic’: “RENEWING OUR NATIONAL PROMISE,” allowing him to have holistically and contextually provided some food-for-thought on the what, why and how of the nation’s continuum and the role of values in national reconstruction that remains an ongoing process and not a one-stop shot.
Chronologically reflecting, if not recalling events of the 19th Century which he admonished Liberians to appreciate, since it was characterized by one idea, one vision and stimulating citizens to come into grisp with their own ideas, meaning a chosen direction, the succeeding two decades thereafter, in his views, that had witnessed Hilary Teage and Edward Wilmot Blyden as progenitors, led him to have classified Liberian children into three heritage, namely the Traditional, Islamic Civilization and the Western, the latter which he described as been pervasively practiced and requires debate on what and what not to accept ought to be treated with sobriety.
With bells ringing in the ear-drum or perhaps driven by earlier premises provided in the oration of Dr. Dunn, this columnist soon gained grisp once again when he referred to the three heritage expounded upon as the “Trippled Experience,” thus calling for review using the Palava Hut approach.
Whilst other salient issues vouched in the oration could be drawn into proper perspectives, as viewed by this columnist, moreso with dissent underscored in the political community, compounded by prejudices of the vision, thus questioning whether Liberians were prepared to seize the seminal moment, amidst several recommendations worth considering as instruments of cultural learning, opportunity for mediation became the suggestive prescription.
In his candid observations, Dr. Dunn listed Folklore, History, the depoliticization of narratives, preservation of museums as critical sites, the economy, law, the rewording of symbols and awards to reflect current realities, (the Arts and Humanities) for genuine reconciliation.
Further prescribing the setting aside of reasonable percentage of revenue to be placed in a locked-box, supplementing the process through fund-raising domestically and abroad, the negotiated transfer of the E.J. Roye Building to Humanities and Arts of Liberia to help fund the organization, a Liberian Youth Corp for campaign of service and nationhood, given the fact that youths are critical to any nation’s future, it is the opinion of this columnist that all of the above are rooted within the rule of LAW as rightly cited by the Orator.
Proceeding further by frowning on polarization, unacceptable divide involving poverty, wealth and privilege, the traumatized in villages and a dysfunctional society as national value deficits, infused by empathy, solidarity, trust, social responsibility, mutual respect, sense of the common good, accountability, innovation and tolerance, amongst others, Dr. Dunn was at all not mistaken to have emphasized that without moral commitment…Liberia risks everything, thus calling for critical evaluation in both low and high places.
At most times reminded about retired Catholic Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis Homilies delivered in some past decades, coupled with enormous efforts made by the late 19th President of the Republic, the Rev. Dr. William R. Tolbert, Jr. at identifying ills in society and providing practicable ways in resolving them through strategic programs during the 1970s, amongst the identified disciplines listed by the Orator immediately came Law as area of more concentration.
Feeble, though, in body, but instantly became energized by the few notes taken, it becomes even more forgiven by readers should there occur any error in the expressed views of this columnist on the topic addressed by Dr. Dunn, howbeit not at all a law student or graduate but very interested therein.
In frantic attempts and pursuit thereof, as --- well, a novice? ---at least a U.S. Professor of Law, Leopold Propisil’s four main theories serve as initial foundation, since it ascribes to the authority or power to induce or force members of a social group to conform to its decisions, as well as the intention of universal application, that is, the consistent, regular and predictable enforcement of norms.
Also involving obligatio relationship encompassing reciprocal rights and duties, and sanctions which are the physical and psychological devices for assuring compliance, Dr. Dunn’s firm recommendation that law students and lawyers offer pro bono services, in the face of constitutional inequality, deserves the greatest priority in the full sustenance of the peace, stability and democracy restored in the nation.
Indeed true that there is still room for improvement at Liberia’s jurisprudence, it remains unarguable that since the inception of the Unity Party (UP) leadership and as earlier overly-emphasized by the National Patriotic Party (NPP) during the late 1990s through the early 2000s, “This is a country of laws and not man,” no matter the dysfunctions still retarding the growth and development processes of the nation, the law must take its due course in a more transparent manner without biases.
Observably begun since the tenure of former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Cllr. Henry Reed Cooper, when students interested in studying at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law were provided scholarships, with an agreement reached to have them serve in other political sub-divisions of the country upon graduation, other than Monrovia, significant improvements have since been made.
Buttressed by Public Defender providing alternative law, construction of Magisterial and Circuit courts in many parts of the country continue to be gradually implemented as inducement, coupled with the provision of housings and other immunities for lawyers under his successor, His Honor Chief Justice Cllr. Johnny Lewis.
Providing more hope in the creation of an enabling environment within the Liberian society, howbeit the decades-long problem of stock-piling of dockets out of the refusal by party litigants to appear for hearings, it however ought not to be forgotten that “drastic disease calls for drastic medicine.”
Abridged, therefore, as this article had been intended due to the unhealthy state --- a fortiori ---of this columnist, in spite the orator’s revelation of inequality in the organic law of the land that warrants correction by lawyers, with the involvement of the Legislature through amendments, his quotation of an American friend that “The President’s power is still lying down like a loaded gun” may just have been recalled as additional stimulus to the Executive in quelling anachronistic measures still used in some parts of the country in restoring Liberia to its better pre-war status, tolerant as those at its helm have been over the years at the expense of freedom of the press and expression.
Buttressed by what this columnist may consider a baseline, seeking to restore and expand the Kendeja Cultural Center, the historic preservation of land and buildings, an Ad-hoc Panel of citizens to handle problems of conflicting values bordered on traditional practices, Dr. Dunn’s call for a National Curriculum Review in upholding core values and thus admonishing all Liberians to resolve in re-launching a strong Liberia of its fundamental values, building against the backdrop of the “Trippled Experience,” are indeed salient.
Rightly concluded, there is the imperative to reinforce the national foundation so that in decades to come, national progress, peace and the general welfare would have been realized. Tu comprend?