Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor Remarks at the 4th Session of the Liberian Senate

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Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:

Before I begin my comments on this first day of the fourth sitting of the 54th Liberian Senate, permit me to begin with words of Wisdom drawn from the Holy Bible, which is

a perfect guide for leadership and good governance for National Leaders.

Firstly from the Book of Colossians: Chapter 3:23-24, which reads thus –

“And whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as unto the LORD and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive an inheritance as your reward, for ye serve theLord, Jesus Christ.”

And secondly from the Book of Philippians Chapter 2:14-15, which read thus-

“Do all things without grumbling or questioning; that youmay be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation; amongst whom you shine as lights in the World.’’

The word of the God, for the people of God. Amen.

Honorable President Pro-Tempore;
Honorable Members of the 54th Liberian Senate;
Members of the fourth Estate,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;

Allow me begin by firstly giving Praise and Honor to the Almighty God; for his endless mercies and manifold blessings that we continue to enjoy as a Nation and People.

Because of these blessings, I am grateful for the opportunity given each of us, to be able to converge once again in this historic and sacred edifice; and for the fortuity to be the representation of about 5 million Liberians at home; and many, many more abroad.

TO GOD BE THE GLORY FOR GREAT THINGS HE HAS DONE, AND GREATER THINGS HE WILL DO.

Honorable President Pro-Tempore, Honorable Members of the Liberian Senate, Members of the fourth Estate; Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;

As we gather in these sacred halls, I am saddened by the remembrance of the passing of so many of our compatriots who are no more with us. The Liberian Senate has since 2006 lost 11 of its members.

Please allow me to call the roll of Necrology:

Senator Isaac N. Johnson,

Senator Hannah G. Brent,

Senator John F. Whitfield,

Senator Lahai B. Lansanah,

Senator Samuel S. Tormetie,

Senator William C. Sandy,

Senator George D. Moore,

Senator Frederick D. Cherue,

Senator Geraldine Doe Sheriff,

Senator Edward B. Dagoseh; (and last but never the least)

Senator Mobutu Vlah Nyenpan.

Though they have traveled to the Land of our ancestors, from whence they can never return, whenever we gather in this place, we can still hear their voices being raised in heated debates or hushed in the silence of compromises or in strong defense of their points of view.

OH, HOW ART THE MIGHTY FALLEN!

As we reminiscence each of them in our own way;

as silence fills our ears whenever their names are called;

as tears fill our eyes in remembrance;

and as we ponder on when our own time will come;for surely it will;

Let us be reminded as history teaches: that each one who is opportune to become a National Leader, must keep in mind that he or she is responsible to set their course for the benefit of those they represent. As each will be graded by the people and the results there from will form their legacies, forever etched in the sands of time. This sobering reality goes further, as it affects not only the Leader, but their succeeding generations. My mother had a regular saying which made us tremble every time I heard it. She said and I quote: “Be careful what you wish for, as it just might come true. What then will you do?’’

As we each ponder these words, and are swept in the myriad of emotions of those we have lost, we also remember the passing of other Officials of Government and the passing of other citizens during the past year.

I ask that you kindly stand with me for a moment of Silence, in memory of their passing from our World to the great beyond.

May their souls and the souls of all faithful departed, Rest In Peace and Light Perpetual shine upon them.

I thank you.

Honorable President Pro-Tempore, Honorable Members of the Liberian Senate, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen; as I look back over the past 12 months and the many challenges at home and abroad, my family and I are exceedingly grateful to Yahweh, God of the Universe for restoring to me the most precious gift of life; after I contracted COVID and developed severe health complications as a result. I spent 35 days in the Intensive Care Unit and another 10 days in recovery at a hospital facility in Accra, Ghana. I thank God for keeping me alive, for so many have died. I am also truly grateful to our President, His Excellency George Manneh Weah, the Government of the Republic of Liberia and the Government of the Republic of Ghana for the support afforded me to obtain treatment for recovery.

I am also grateful beyond words to National Gate Keepers, Fathers, Churches, Praying Mothers, Women and Girls and ordinary citizens at home and abroad; who prayed and interceded on my behalf for full recovery and return when I was ill last year. It is said in the Holy Bible – ‘’that the Fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much’’. I must admit that prayers offered on my behalf provided grace for the sustenance of the miracle of life. In addition the many good wishes, messages and concerns from many brought healing to my body and joy for my soul. I am also grateful to all the Doctors and Nurses, here at home and abroad; who attended to my care.

Thank you so much for the amazing love shown to me. I am indeed grateful.

May God return the same to you, in your hour of need.

I THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART.

Over the past 10 months we have seen so many die of this pandemic; thankfully many others have been given the gift of life and have survived. This phenomenon and its effect Worldwide is especially poignant, for as we look back at what has transpired and seen the dramatic changes around us, our task is clear. It is to ensure that our Nation and people are given all they need in order to survive the new realities.

The global pandemic has shaken the World to its core; incapacitated thousands; taken the lives of millions around the World and forced a shift of the entire World into a new reality, with Governments at a loss of how to protect its citizens. This pandemic has focused the spotlight on the need for our government to invest more in the healthcare and educational systems. The need for same is long overdue with the effects of Ebola in 2014 and COVID in 2020, further weakening our systems.

This pandemic and the fear of succeeding ones makes it imperative to ensure the necessary changes in our structures and systems are put in place. There is no better time to do this than now; before our systems become overburdened. The decisions for how our Nation addresses this menace lie in your hands. Remember that we have taken an oath to protect and defend our people at all cost, may we now move beyond the normal national conversations, and with deliberate and intentional actions provide the financial support and oversight needed to improve the infrastructure and systems for the benefit of all. I therefore implore Members of this Senate to make this one of your immediate deliverables.

Honorable President Pro-Tempore, Honorable Members of the Liberian Senate, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I am of the opinion, and I hope you will agree with me; that the long-awaited dream of our people for a United and Prosperous Nation; the purpose for which we have been so elected to these high offices at such a critical time in our Nation’s history; can become a reality if we are determined to put the hopes and aspirations of our people FIRST; and make their dreams a reality. It is POSSIBLE.

As we commence this 4th sitting, I gladly welcome back 15 seasoned Senators. There were 15 others who went for reelection –of that number two Senators were reelected to include one female, Senator Nyongblee Karnga Lawrence. There are for the moment 5 certified newly elected Senators, making up a number of 21 Senators. Let us keep in mind that the total membership of the Liberian Senate should be 30 members; and so we await the National Elections Commission to complete their duties and subsequently remit to the Secretary of the Senate, the names of the remaining elected Senators to complete our ROLL.

I therefore heartily CONGRATULATE EACH OF YOU for your VICTORY in those tightly contested elections. In spite of same, it is often said that “the race is not to the swift, but he who endures to the end.” Please accept your victory with MAGNINIMITY, and never forget the loud message of CHANGE that was delivered by the PEOPLE through their votes.

That being said, I would be remiss were I not to remind each of us, as we commence our duties, that we stand on the shoulders of great patriots of our Land; some of whom have passed through these walls and left behind them positive footprints in the sands of time.

But this reminder pales in comparison to the fact that we stand on HALLOWED GROUNDS – representing the BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS OF OUR FOUNDING FATHERS, THE TENACITY OF OUR GALLANT WOMEN, THE HOPE OF PRECEDING GENERATIONS AND THE LOUD VOICES OF OUR YOUNG COMPATRIOTS WHO MAKE UP A MAJORITY OF OUR CITIZENRY.

I therefore call in remembrance — ALL OF US — to a sacred duty, based on the premise of TRUE LOVE FOR COUNTRY, NOT JUST IN WORDS, BUT IN DEEDS.

May God grant us the Patriotic Grace to SUCEED where others have failed.

Honorable Pro-Tempore, Members of the Liberian Senate, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen; today more than ever before, I am burdened as many others are, but truly cannot explain in the proper words the emotions and deep sense of responsibility which devolves upon us as National Gate keepers of our Nation in these challenging times.

Looking around this Sacred Chamber at each of you seated here, thru the eyes of faith, I see the reflection of the faces of our people, in high expectation that this time, during this 4th Session of the Liberian Senate, our work will yield positive effects on the lives of common citizens throughout the length and breadth of Liberia.

For their hopes are ignited to each of you, that with the authority granted to you by the Constitution, you will chart a course that will definitely take them into the future of their dreams; with no more excuses, no more apologies and no more promises for another day. For truth being told, you are members of the First Branch of Government and you have the full authority to make their dreams come true.

With this foremost in our thoughts, we must realize the realities of the awesome responsibilities which weigh on our collective minds; which beckons each to work to fulfill the sworn oath of office taken; as written in the words of the Constitution of the Republic. In Article 1, it calls for Government “to ensure democratic government which responds to the wishes of the people, and provides for their safety and happiness.”

Indeed, this is our true assignment – to make our people safe, prosperous and happy.

Honorable PRESIDENT PRO-TEMPORE, DISTINGUISHED SENATORS, LADIES, AND GENTLEMEN: Although in Liberia today, challenges about with a myriad of issues, ranging from high insecurity, lack of banknotes, high cost of living, a sluggish economy, lack of basic services for the majority of our people, distrust, mistrust, allegations and counter allegations on many issues, however, a glimmer of hope subsists. I hope you will agree with me, in spite of it all, that our Democracy is alive and growing stronger; and that the voices of our people were loud and clear in the just ended 2020 Special Senatorial Elections. They have sent a clarion message to all and sundry that they no longer accept things as they are; but they expect much more from their Representatives at all levels.

The great news however is that we have a brand new opportunity, in a brand new year, in a brand new decade; to change the trajectory of our National walk together. One which we know can produce fruits of UNITY, PEACE, DEVELOPMENT and PROGRESS FOR ALL.

It is my prayer that each of us will so commit, being cognizant of the glaring fact that “THE PEOPLE ARE THE TRUE CUSTODIANS OF OUR DEMOCRACY, AND THEY LONG FOR A MORE UNITED, EQUITABLE AND PROSPEROUS LIBERIA.”

The CALL has been sounded and the decisions to heed them are yours to obey.

As President of the Liberian Senate, I will certainly count on your individual and collective support and cooperation in pursuit of the fulfillment of this long-awaited National Development Program for the prosperity of our people. I believe that the Forefathers of the Nation and framers of our Constitution penned these mandatory words in order to remind each of us of our:

“REVERED RESPONSIBILITIES, NOT ONLY TO THE STATE AS AN INSTITUTION; BUT ALSO THAT WE WOULD  HUMBLY REFLECT ON ALL THE DECISIONS TAKEN IN THIS SACRED CHAMBER,IN CONSIDERATION OF ITS IMPACT ON THE LIVES AND LIVELIHOOD OF THE MAJORITY OF OUR PEOPLE WHO SO GRACIOUSLY GAVE US THE OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE AND REPRESENT THEIR INTERESTS.”

Introspectively, let it be known that though this Article does not go further to lay down consequences for its breach, I believe that the Framers were convinced that ‘’the passion which kindles the soul and drives it to aim for greater service would naturally make those privileged to serve, perform this binding responsibility meticulously, thus upholding its intent.’’ I hold no modicum of doubt that this dedication will accompany all of your actions during this period, thus exemplifying your true “LOVE FOR COUNTRY.”

THE HONORABLE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE, Distinguished Senators; Ladies and Gentlemen: in preparation for our duties, it is imperative that we are reminded of trending national issues that have beset our Nation over the past years; for which we are all cognizant. However please allow me to restate some of the critical ones which should claim your immediate attention: issues of the ever-rising cost of living, limited basic services for all; minimal opportunities for growth and development, high taxes and the high crime rate across our Nation, amongst others.

Being, the first Female Vice President and a Gender advocate, these prevailing issues are further compounded by the alarming incidence of Sexual and Gender Based Violence being perpetrated against our most vulnerable citizens, girls under the age of 18 and at times as young as 2 years old; and the sodomy of our sons.

These ever increasing numbers tend to show that “our society is slowly degenerating at an alarming rate, with very little permanent solutions at hand.” I am thus reminded of the quotation that “a Nation unable to secure optimum care and protection for its most vulnerable, is also unable to provide protection and care for its majority.” If permanent solutions to these societal ills are not found and measures put in place to secure a safer society, you can be assured that in the minds of our people, these lapses will not only cast doubts on our collective ability to govern, but they will also cast doubts about our ability to give our citizenry the Nation they truly deserve. Though this is a collective responsibility for us ALL; the National Legislature as the first Branch of Government and the direct Representative of the PEOPLE, will be held primarily responsible for attending results.

HONORABLE President Pro Tempore, Distinguished Senators, Ladies and Gentlemen; the records of this August body shows that there were 34 Legislations introduced during the period under review. Of these, 27 were passed, 2 were vetoed, and 5 were sent to various committees for scrutiny and advice. As a result the Senate has an initial workload of only 5 draft legislations to begin this Session. This is quite commendable compared to previous years. I salute you for these achievements.

As you consider important issues for attention and resolution, permit me to draw your attention to the results of the just ended Referendum and the need to carve a way forward for a much needed holistic review of our Constitution, Gender Equity quotas, local vendor payments due, delayed salary payments in some institutions, the need for a more aggressive approach to the provision of basic services, National security, the need to expand the national tax base by creating new taxes (in the tourism and agricultural sectors) which will reduce the current tax burden on our people; the need to ensure a realistic budget for the National Pro-Poor Agenda, to include the provision of operational funding to government entities; the need to review concession agreements to ascertain that they live up to the intent of the agreements, especially as they relate to employment of Liberians; the need to provide oversight of all segments of Government; the need to ensure that Liberians working in both public and private sectors are protected under the Laws of Liberia; the need to provide oversight of the Judiciary to ensure that Justice is Served without bias and an environment created to give confidence to both local and foreign investors wishing to invest in our Nation; the need to open up more opportunities for women in the governance space at all levels; and last but not least, the need to provide job and entrepreneur opportunities for our young people to achieve their dreams and help create a middle class, amongst others.

May I propose for your kind consideration the need to enact Local Content Laws which will empower our citizens, the possible amendment of the Law governing the National Election Commission for the removal of the duties for Civic and voters Education and the creation of a Commission which will deal with this important aspect of building a stronger democracy in the judicious way it should be handled. I pray that these will be just a few of the new issues which could attend this 4th Sitting.

Amidst the monumental workload before you, I applaud this distinguished body for the passage of many bills submitted by the Executive; key of which are two critical landmark legislations:

— “AN ACT TO AMEND CHAPTER 31 OF THE EXECUTIVE LAW OF 1972, TO ESTABLISH THE LIBERIA TOURISM AUTHORITY ACT OF 2020”

— “AND AN ACT TO ESTABLISH THE LIBERIA STANDARDS AUTHORITY AND THE RATIFICATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT WHICH OPENS UP BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES FOR LIBERIAN BUSINESSES IN THE EUROPEAN UNION.”

Notwithstanding these commendable achievements, may I kindly remind you that there are several other critical draft legislations in committees, which are necessary for the good governance of the State; key amongst which are:

The draft Act proposing the establishment of a Corruption Court, The Draft Corrupt Offenses Act, and the Draft Act creating Regional Appellate Courts which will reduce cases before the Supreme Court, amongst others.

Honorable President Pro-Tempore, Distinguished Senators, Ladies, and Gentlemen; in closing, permit me to extend my gratitude to the Great People of Liberia for their patience and patriotism; to all Government functionaries for keeping our governance structures intact; to our Religious Institutions for their endless prayers for the Peace, Unity, Development and Security of our Nation; to the Young people of Liberia for keeping hope alive and; to the Women of Liberia for being advocates and activists for upholding the Human Rights Barometers in our Nation. I also extend my deep appreciation for the enormous collaboration and contributions of our International Partners and Friends, Civil Society Organizations and all other stakeholders who continue to strengthen our fledgling democracy.

To members of the Fourth Estate your commendable role in National building deserves a special mention. Thank you for your engagements. I believe more can be done,

I plead with each Institution and their Representatives to live up to the creed of your calling, by helping to engender the peace and security of our society by providing information to the public in a fair, balanced and non-inflammatory way. Public information strengthens the Fabric of society and that is what society needs. In this vein, the media has an important role to play; by raising critical issues, stimulate governments to act on public policy issues, expose societal ills which need to be addressed, become instruments for addressing issues that [threaten] to divide families, communities and nations; thereby guarding the values of societies.

It is my prayer that this New Year will bring new responsibilities which ensure fair play in media engagements and encouragement to abide by general rules of civil engagements by all media institutions and their members. For we must all take responsibility to secure the peace of Mama Liberia. Let us never forget the ugly past, and be reminded that peace is an expensive commodity which should not be taken for granted and guarded at all cost.

May God Almighty give us the courage to continue to walk the path of true reconciliation, unite us in peace and grant us the fortitude to make the right decisions for a greater Liberia; irrespective of our political persuasions.  We have been called to build a Liberia suitable for our needs and lasting enough for generations yet unborn. History will record our actions and our commitment to answering this great call, thereby determining how our names will be recorded in the annals of Liberian History. May we pursue this noble path with the knowledge and courage that all our actions, a BETTER LIBERIA AND NOT A BITTER ONE.

Honorable President Pro-Tempore, Members of the Liberian Senate, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, as I close, let me state for the record, that these challenging times call for a new CALIBER OF LIBERIAN PATRIOTS.

— Patriots with new vigor and dynamic, Patriots bracing to stand up and make a positive difference;

— Patriots with deep abiding love for Mama Liberia and all of its citizens;

— Patriots who come willing to put self aside and work towards creating a Liberia of our dreams, still not yet realized for over 174 years.

As you ponder these words, be encouraged to pick up this mantle; as I leave with you sacred words spoken by former US Representative and Civil Rights Icon, the Honorable John Lewis from which I quote:

“Nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in their society.” End quote.

It is now my singular honor and humbling duty to welcome each of you to the Chambers of the Liberian Senate; as we together strive to build a better Nation.

Happy New Year to ALL!

May God bless us and save the State.

I thank you.