>Liberia: Presidential candidate T.Q. Harris Press Conference


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HELD AT THE FRIENDS OF TQ HEADQUARTERS18TH STREET, SINKORMONROVIA, LIBERIA


JANUARY 12, 2011

GOOD AFTERNOON:

I WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE PRESS CORP FOR BEING HERE TODAY AND FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTION TOWARD INFORMING AND EDUCATING THE LIBERIAN PEOPLE ON THE MANY ISSUES THAT ARE CRUCIAL TO THEIR DAILY SURVIVAL. WE LOOK FORWARD TO A CONTINUING PARTNERSHIP WITH THE MEDIA IN THIS ENDEAVOR TO REBUILD THE LIVES OF THE LIBERIAN PEOPLE AND RESTORE LIBERIA FULLY TO THE COMITY OF NATIONS.

AS PREPARATIONS ARE UNDERWAY FOR PRESIDENTIAL AND LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS AND THE CITIZENRY EAGERLY LOOKS FORWARD TO A NEW BEGINNING THAT MARKS THE END OF WAR, SENSELESS VIOLENCE, LAWLESSNESS, IMPUNITY AND MORAL DECADENCE; IT IS IMPORTANT THAT VOTERS AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY ARE REMINDED OF ISSUES WEIGHING HEAVILY ON THE PROGRESS OF THIS NATION.

THE PURPOSE OF THIS ELECTION MUST BE MADE CLEAR TO ALL BEFORE THE VOTES ARE CAST; OTHERWISE, IT WILL YET AGAIN BE ANOTHER EXERCISE IN FUTILITY.

THE INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS MUST NOW BE FULLY AWARE OF THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE LIBERIAN PEOPLE IN THIS PURSUIT TO SHAPE THE FUTURE OF THEIR COUNTRY THROUGH THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS. NO ONE UNDERSTANDS OR KNOWS BEST, OTHER THAN THE LIBERIAN PEOPLE THEMSELVES, HOW TO RESOLVE LONGSTANDING ISSUES FACING THIS NATION.

SO WE SAY TO ALL THOSE DESIRING THE BEST FOR THE LIBERIAN PEOPLE THAT YOU PLEASE LISTEN…AND LISTEN ATTENTIVELY…TO WHAT IS BEING COMMUNICATED IN OUR UNIQUE STYLE AND FASHION. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO IMPOSE REMEDIES, OR EXHIBIT BIASES IN YOUR GOOD INTENTIONS TO CONTRIBUTE TO LIBERIA’S RECONSTRUCTION. THIS IS AN OLD NATION WITH A UNIQUE SET OF ISSUES WHICH CANNOT AND WILL NOT BE RESOLVED BY APPLYING CLASSIC FORMULAS. NOT BECAUSE WE HAVE NOT TAKEN TO THE STREETS, SMASH WINDOWS, BURN TIRES AND, OR LOBBED FIRE BOMBS MEANS THAT ALL IS WELL. WE ARE GENERALLY A PEACEFUL PEOPLE THAT HAVE BEEN PLUNGED UNWILLINGLY INTO AN OCEAN OF VIOLENCE BY INDIVIDUALS WITH SELFISH MOTIVES.

ALL IN ALL, WE ARE MOST GRATEFUL TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY FOR THE SUSTAINED EFFORTS TO RESTORE LIBERIA TO NORMALCY.

WE THANK YOU FOR COMING TO OUR RESCUE IN OUR HOUR OF GREATEST NEED;

WE THANK YOU FOR THE UNITED NATIONS PEACE KEEPING MISSION;

WE THANK YOU FOR RELIEVING US OF THE HEAVY DEBT OBLIGATION; AND

WE THANK YOU FOR CONTRIBUTING TO THE OVERALL REVITALIZATION OF THE COUNTRY.

THE PURPOSE OF THIS PRESS CONFERENCE IS TO REGISTER OUR CONCERNS AS IT RELATES TO THE FOLLOWING:

1. IMPLEMENTATION OF RECOMMENDATIONS PUT FORTH BY THE INTERNATIONALLY SPONSORED LIBERIAN TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION (TRC): THE FINAL OUTCOME OF THE 2011 ELECTIONS MIGHT BE DETERMINED BY HOW THESE ALL-IMPORTANT TRC RECOMMENDATIONS ARE HANDLED. THIS ALSO SHALL HAVE A DIRECT IMPACT ON POST-ELECTION GOVERNANCE, AS WELL AS LIBERIA’S STANDING WITHIN THE COMITY OF NATIONS. THE TRC REPORT OFFERS THE BEST OPPORTUNITY TO END THE ERA OF VIOLENCE AND LAUNCH LIBERIA INTO THE AGE OF SUSTAINED PEACE, STABILITY AND ECONOMIC PROSPERITY. THEREFORE WE STRONGLY SUGGEST THAT DECISIONS ARE TAKEN ON THIS MATTER BEFORE THE START OF OFFICIAL CAMPAIGNING.

2. MULTIPARTY DEMOCRACY IN LIBERIA: WE SUPPORT THE MULTIPARTY DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM. HOWEVER, THE PROLIFERATION OF OPPOSITION PARTIES CONTESTING ELECTED OFFICES IN THESE DESPERATE TIMES IS UNHEALTHY AND COUNTERPRODUCTIVE. THEREFORE WE CALL UPON THE OPPOSITION, FOR THE SAKE OF NATIONAL HEALING, TO FIELD ONE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE AND A COMBINED SINGLE SLATE OF LEGISLATIVE CANDIDATES IN THE UPCOMING ELECTIONS. FOR DOING SO, AND AS A MEANS OF LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD, THE INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS WITH THE COOPERATION OF THE GOVERNMENT OF LIBERIA, MUST PROVIDE THE AMALGAMATED OPPOSITION ADEQUATE FUNDING TO COMPETE EFFECTIVELY IN THE 2011 ELECTIONS. THE CURRENT SITUATION DEMANDS THIS ADJUSTMENT; OTHERWISE, LIBERIA WILL YET AGAIN RETURN TO ONE PARTY RULE.

3. VOTERS’ REGISTRATION: THE VOTERS’ REGISTRATION PROGRESS MUST BE REVISITED TAKING INTO ACCOUNT ISSUES OF COSTS, TIME AND EFFICIENCY. ALSO, AS IT RELATES TO THE CURRENT VOTERS’ REGISTRATION DRIVE, WE HAVE CONCERNS REGARDING THE YOUNG PEOPLE WHO WILL TURN 18 BETWEEN FEBRUARY 7TH (THE LAST DAY OF REGISTRATION) AND ELECTION DAY 2011. HOW WILL THEY BE ACCOMMODATED SO THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS ARE NOT VIOLATED? IN LIGHT OF THE COUNTRY’S LARGE YOUTH POPULATION, THIS GROUP OF YOUNG PEOPLE COULD BE THE DETERMINING FACTOR. WE CALL UPON THE NATIONAL ELECTIONS COMMISSION TO GIVE ATTENTION TO THIS ISSUE IN ORDER TO ENHANCE THE CREDIBILITY OF THE 2011 ELECTIONS.

4. WOMEN IN THE NEW LIBERIA: WE SUPPORT AN AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PROGRAM THAT ENABLES THE FEMALE POPULATION ATTAIN PARITY WITH THEIR MALE COUNTERPARTS. THIS MUST BEGIN WITH ADOPTION OF THE 50-50 POLICY BEING ADVOCATED FOR BY WOMEN GROUPS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY, AND THE PROCESS MUST CONTINUE WITH THE PASSAGE OF LEGISLATION THAT MANDATE INCLUSION OF FEMALES IN ALL PROGRAMS FUNDED BY THE LIBERIAN GOVERNMENT. THE HEIGHT TO WHICH THIS NATION ASCENDS SHALL BE DETERMINED BY THE LEVEL TO WHICH ITS WOMEN ARE ELEVATED.

5. DOMESTIC FOOD PRODUCTION: IT IS APPALLING THAT TENS OF THOUSANDS OF LIBERIANS EXPERIENCE HUNGER DAILY WHILE LIVING IN A NATION THAT IS BLESSED WITH FERTILE SOIL, ABUNDANCE OF WATER, A MASSIVE RAIN FOREST, AND CLIMATE THAT IS HIGHLY CONDUCIVE FOR AGRICULTURE PRODUCTION. THE GOVERNMENT MUST ENCOURAGE FOOD PRODUCTION AT ALL LEVELS AND PROVIDE RESOURCES AND INCENTIVES TO THOSE WILLING TO ENGAGE IN FARMING. THERE MUST BE A PLAN TO TRANSFORM LIBERIA WITHIN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS FROM IMPORTING MAJORITY OF THE FOOD WE CONSUME TO EXPORTING A VARIETY OF AGRICULTURE PRODUCTS.

6. PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: THERE IS AN URGENT NEED FOR A RELIABLE, FUNCTIONAL PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM WHICH WILL ENSURE CONVENIENCE AND SAFETY FOR TRAVELERS. THE VAST MAJORITY OF COMMERCIAL VEHICLES ON THE ROADWAYS TODAY ARE UNSAFE, INADEQUATE AND DOWN RIGHT DANGEROUS. IT IS UNACCEPTABLE FOR LIBERIANS, OR ANYONE FOR THAT MATTER, TO RIDE ON THE ROOF OF A VEHICLE OR SIT HIGH ABOVE OVERLY LOADED TRUCKS TRAVELLING AT HIGH SPEEDS ALONG THE HIGHWAY. IT MUST BE NOTED THAT THOSE WHO EXPOSE THEMSELVES TO THIS RISK DO SO SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO OTHER ALTERNATIVE. ADDITIONALLY, EFFORTS MUST BE MADE TO KEEP TRANSPORTATION COST AFFORDABLE FOR THE AVERAGE CITIZEN.

7. ROAD NETWORK: BAD ROADS ACROSS THE COUNTRY ARE NEGATIVELY IMPACTING THE RECOVERY AND PREVENTING ECONOMIC PROGRESS OF SMALL BUSINESS PEOPLE AND FARMERS; THIS IN TURN IS CONTRIBUTING TO THE COUNTRY’S HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT AND HARDSHIP FOR THE LARGER POPULATION. MOREOVER, BAD ROADS GENERALLY ARE THE CAUSE OF ACCIDENTS WHICH OFTEN RESULT TO MULTIPLE FATALITIES. ALSO, THE LACK OF PROPER SIGNAGE AND SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE TRAVELING PUBLIC HAS CONTRIBUTED TO NUMEROUS FATALITIES. ONE EXAMPLE IS THE CURRENT DANGER POSED TO MOTORISTS TRAVELING THE BUCHANAN HIGHWAY WHICH IS NOW UNDER CONSTRUCTION.

8. MEN AND WOMEN WHO FOUGHT IN THE WAR (AKA EX-COMBATANTS): THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO AT A YOUNG AGE WERE DRUGGED, ARMED AND SENT INTO COMBAT MUST BE CARED FOR, REHABILITATED AND PROPERLY REINTEGRATED INTO SOCIETY. THE IMMEDIATE NEEDS FOR THESE INDIVIDUALS ARE EDUCATION, VOCATIONAL TRAINING, EMPLOYMENT AND HOUSING. LEAVING THIS GROUP UNATTENDED IS INHUMANE AND IT POSES LONG TERM DANGER TO THE LARGER POPULATION.

9. ABJECT POVERTY: CURRENTLY, THE GREATEST THREAT TO LIBERIA’S NATIONAL SECURITY IS POVERTY. THIS IS A NATIONAL CRISIS THAT MUST BE TACKLED WITH THE GREATEST URGENCY. IF IT IS TRUE LIBERIANS ARE OFFERING TO FIGHT FOR BOTH SIDES IN THE CURRENT IVORIAN CONFLICT; THESE SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE MAY NOT ONLY BE THE UNACCOUNTED EX-FIGHTERS, RATHER THEY COULD ALSO COME FROM THE LARGER POPULATION OF DISENFRANCHISED YOUTH. BECAUSE HIGH YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT AND ABJECT POVERTY ARE REASONS MANY MIGHT CONSIDER ENGAGING IN RISKY EXPLOITS EVEN AGAINST THE STATE. THE CURRENT LEVEL OF POVERTY THROUGHOUT LIBERIA IS UNSUSTAINABLE, AND IT MUST BE ADDRESSED NOW.

10. THE JUSTICE SYSTEM: THE LIBERIAN JUSTICE SYSTEM IS IN NEED OF IMMEDIATE OVERHAUL WITH ASSISTANCE FROM THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY. EMERGING FROM A LONG BRUTAL WAR, LIBERIANS ARE IN NO POSITION TO REBUILD THE JUSTICE SYSTEM WITHOUT HELP. THIS IS EVIDENT BY THE GOVERNMENT’S INABILITY TO IMPLEMENT THE UNITED NATIONS ASSETS FREEZE AND TRAVEL BAN AGAINST PERSONS ASSOCIATED WITH THE RECENT CARNAGE. IT ALSO IS THE REASON MANY ARE CALLING FOR AN INTERNATIONAL WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL RATHER THAN TURNING TO THE COURTS FOR REDRESS.

11. HEALTH CARE SYSTEM: THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM IS IN SHAMBLES. PATIENTS WHO ARE CRITICALLY ILL AND UNABLE TO PAY FOR TREATMENT ARE TURNED AWAY. THIS CLEARLY IS INHUMANE AND MUST NOT BE TOLERATED. FURTHERMORE, WE HAVE BEEN TOLD BY THE PEOPLE OF COMPOUND #3, GRAND BASSA COUNTY, THAT THEY OFTEN TRANSPORT SICK PEOPLE IN HAMMOCKS AND WHEELBARROWS OVER LONG DISTANCES ONLY TO WATCH THEM DIE BEFORE REACHING THE NEAREST CLINIC. SIMILAR STORIES ARE TOLD IN OTHER COMMUNITIES. AS A CIVILIZED NATION WE CAN DO BETTER…AND WE MUST!

12. DESTRUCTION OF HOMES AND BUSINESS STRUCTURES: WE ARE STRONGLY OPPOSED TO THE GOVERNMENT’S DESTRUCTION OF HOMES AND BUSINESS STRUCTURES ACROSS MONROVIA WHICH ARE ESSENTIAL TO THE SURVIVAL OF THE BELEAGUERED CITIZENRY. THIS IS BEING DONE WITHOUT FIRST PROVIDING AN ALTERNATIVE. MOREOVER, THESE STRUCTURES OFTEN ARE DEMOLISHED WITHOUT ANY IMMEDIATE PLAN TO DEVELOP THE LAND. DEPRIVING WOMEN AND CHILDREN OF THEIR BASIC DECENCY IS HEARTLESS, INHUMANE AND UNACCEPTABLE. WE, THEREFORE, CALL UPON THE GOVERNMENT TO CEASE AND DESIST FROM THESE WICKED AND AGGRESSIVE ACTS.

THANK YOU.

WE WILL NOW TAKE YOUR QUESTIONS.

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