“Our priority is development, but not to empower political parties with taxpayers’ money.”
Following the recent passage of a controversial bill seeking budgetary allotment for political parties by the House of Representatives, there have been mixed reactions and sentiments, mostly reproaches, about this law.
The bill which surfaced at the Capitol Building few weeks ago, according to legislative observers, was passed in haste by members of the lower house, without the kind of scrutiny and consultations such a critical law requires. Fredrick P. W. Gaye reports.
The question that lingers on the lips of Liberians is in whose interest this law is being made; with many of those raising this question judging from the clear culture in Liberia where political parties are centered on individuals, mainly cash holding standard bearers, often times behaving or conducting party affairs like a sole proprietorship.
Many citizens are taken aback by the passage of such a law, describing the lawmakers’ action as ‘paying lip service’ to their citizens and the lack of political will to truly come up with revolutionary ways to upgrade affairs of the nation’s political life.
Views sampled from citizens in cities and major towns across Liberia show that the law is not necessary for now. This was the opinion of many interviewees: “Our priority is development, but not to empower political parties with taxpayers’ money.”
Ma Gorpu of Gbarnga bluntly asserted that ‘government shouldn’t give money to political parties because they do not contribute to development.’ According to the pepper seller, most, if not all of the political parties and their leaders only identify with citizens during electoral activities, masquerading with self-proclaimed titles: sons and daughters of the soil, people’s choice, unifiers, and grass rooters, while some craft for themselves local names just to win votes.
“My son you can see for yourself; the human beings that used to flock in Gbarnga and other towns during the elections have all abandoned us because the elections time has passed,” the old lady observed.
Similar views were expressed by almost all of the people spoken to, with some of them pointing fingers to the ruling Unity Party (UP) for being behind the law. They made reference to the constitutional referendum, which became the UP’s top agenda; even though some of the provisions were defeated.
In Harper, Maryland County, our correspondent say citizens interviewed were saddened when they heard about the passage of the bill. Their disappointments, according to our correspondent, was that the hasty manner in which the law was passed when other important bills continue to languish at the Capitol Building for years now; making reference to a draft bill seeking to make the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) a public broadcaster.
Joseph Swen, a logger in Sinoe County, says he finds it hard to determine the essence of supporting political parties from national budget. According to Swen, the action is being supported by people who want to use political parties as their resting place while working in government or using it as a fall back when booted out of government. “Whether working in government or not, they want to send the government money to political parties as their pocket change,” he opined.
Swen sees it as a clever attempt by crafters and their collaborators to divert government funds into their personal use. The Logger says he speaks from a situation where many political parties are yet to publish their campaign expenditures months after they were informed by the National Elections Commission (NEC) to do so. He said the NEC has not informed the citizens about this, saying, “If it has done so, then not in Southeastern Liberia.”
Some young people at an entertainment center recently in Zorzor, Lofa County, were bitter over the idea of supporting political parties from national budget. They were discussing after hearing that a draft bill had been submitted to lawmakers. They had the belief that the law was not going to get such a unanimous blessing it received from members of the House of Representatives. Imaginee how these young citizens are feeling upon hearing that the bill has been passed by the lawmakers, with only one person against.
Views sampled in Montserrado County were the worst of all; over 95% of people spoken to condemn the law. They termed the law as ‘irrelevant’ on grounds that founders of political parties and members need to demonstrate their interest in the country by wholly supporting their institutions.
However, handful of citizens say the law will strengthen the democratic process in Liberia. A Lawmaker who spoke to this paper off microphone indicated that the law was crafted in a good faith, but he named the disappointment as passing it without nationwide palava hut-like consultations to get sincere views of the citizenry.
He further said while the law is essential, it is also critical and needs high participation by a major segment of our citizens. A motion for reconsideration is expected to be tested for final passage or rejection. Analysts say the motion will be defeated because the controversial law was overwhelmingly approved by jubilant representatives.
It will be forwarded to the Liberian Senate for concurrence. Be as it may, until the lawmakers go back to the citizens to justify and convince them by holding consultations, the ‘In Whose interest’ question lives forever.