Remarks by Massa Crayton at the 1st Presidential Debate in Liberia



Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

We are here again getting ready to perform our sacred democratic responsibilities as citizens of Mama Liberia; ‘A home of glorious liberty, By God’s command!’! This electoral cycle is an epoch-making one as we look forward to witnessing a peaceful transition of power through the ballot box after the October 10th 2017 elections. It is therefore our civic responsibility to engage our aspiring duty bearers about their plans for our beloved country and how they intend to govern. For far too long, elaborate and lofty plans have been prepared with very little or no interrogation by the citizens – the electorate. Now we all have the golden opportunity and we must use it and wisely too.

OSIWA’s commitment to supporting the Presidential Debate marks a turning point in this nation’s history as we bring our presidential aspirants to the people. We are giving the people of Liberia the opportunity to know – yes, to demand answers to the HOW and not just the WHAT. Our leaders owe it to us all as citizens and we must make it happen constructively. Our democracy has grown but we need to groom and nurture it till it reaches maturity. We need to get to the next level where issues and policies are deliberated upon and not just about who was here and who came later on or whose Ma or Pa laid what foundation. It is about what we should expect and hold our leaders to.

As Reyhand Sonay put it, ‘debate forums will be able to form a powerful ground for an understanding of efficient citizenship and a functioning democracy (powerful democracy). For, such forums are primarily those that bear the traces of how people wish to be governed in the context of preferences and expectations that have been voiced. Holding public debates on issues that concern society will also help creation of an open (transparent) and accountable administration. The risk of power abuse will be reduced to a minimum in an administration which is constantly supervised and held accountable through public debate.’

While our Constitution and laws of the land provide laws that govern us all as Liberians, the re-introduction of the debate compels us all to be tolerant of our differences and not resort to hate speech and divisive or abusive language. In essence, we should agree to disagree. That’s the beauty of democracy.

Let us all nurture this fledgling democracy and allow our institutions to work for us. We should not be seen to be undermining what we should promote and enhance. Through such polite confrontational engagements, the electorate will be given the opportunity to know the values and beliefs of the candidates as well as their ability to articulate their thoughts. It gives us the opportunity to know our leaders well or even better. Their temperament and tolerance in dealing with divisive issues are key elements. They must be in a position to leverage support and persuade opposing parties.

We at the OSIWA and the bigger OSF family are committed to promoting open society values that promote issue based campaigns, promote access to information and freedom of expression as well as accountable governance where corruption is on the wane. We will continue to support both the demand and supply sides of the aisle by contributing to the strengthening of Liberia’s democracy. We hope this debate will play a significant role in the political process and offer a valuable opportunity to hear candidates challenge one another on their policies and temperament. We sincerely hope that debates will become a standard part of our electoral process.

Let me end by congratulating President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s government for giving us all, activists and the general electorate the space to operate freely and hope that the NEC and other institutions such as the police and other law enforcement bodies continue to get the support required to deliver their mandates during this electoral period.

Special thanks to the aspirants for honoring the invitation to this debate and best wishes at the ballot box. Thanks again to the Deepening Democracy Coalition for organizing, the moderators for a splendid job and to everyone who took time off to come and witness this program.

“Long live Liberia, happy land!

This glorious land of liberty shall long be ours.”


YouTube Clip of the Opening Remarks by Massa Crayton can be viewed HERE

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