The House Speaker, Bhofal Chambers (Left) and his Deputy Prince Moye (Right)

The speech delivered by the Honorable Speaker, at the opening of the 3rd Sitting of the 54th National Legislature, January 13, 2020

Esteemed Colleagues:

In Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord said, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This is what the true Lord has for all committed servants of the people.

Distinguished Colleagues! You will all agree with me that each of us comes strengthened by the confidence and trust of our devoted constituents and the support of our friends and families.

Honorable Colleagues, again, as on many occasions, I would like to graciously thank the great people of Pleebo-Sodoken District, District # 2 in Maryland County, to allow me represent them in this 54th Legislature, as was in the case of the 52nd and 53rd, and to equally thank you, my Honorable Colleagues, to serve you as your Presiding Officer and Speaker of the 54th Legislature going forward, I vouch to promote a more participative and achievement-oriented leadership drive.

As we have taken on the role of national leadership, let us all strive with all of our energies and mental efforts to become channels of nation-building, peace, unity, economic growth, and development.

It is imperative that we help in providing a brighter future for our struggling masses and generation to come.

The responsibility is inescapably ours. Without a doubt, we need to restore our great society. Constructive or positive legislative re-alignments are necessary in the process.

Now, than ever before, concrete steps must be taken for the visualization of sound economic growth. Economic growth is key for the nation’s transformative agenda.

We all have thoughts of undertaking and/or funding progressive priority projects for all of our people. This can only happen under a vibrant economy for a vibrant economy is critical for the proper funding of people-centered projects.

How can that happen, with respect to the whole thought of economic growth? Individually and collectively, we need to have all hands on deck.

This requires the process of expanding the Nation’s productive capacity and diversifying the economy by introducing structural changes necessary for sustainable growth.

Some areas that can profoundly and impactfully improve or expand our economy and guarantee service delivery to our people, include the forest, fishing, water and mining sectors. Briefly, some of the areas to accelerate economic growth will be highlighted below. They are:

The Forest Sector

There is an urgent need for critical reforms in the laws managing the forest. Laws that are antiquated and unhelpful to the State must be amended or repealed to suit the best model.

In the forest sector, there is almost zero growth. Sadly, increased conflicts within, amongst and between clans, communities, families, neighbors, friends and even counties are so rampant.

There are inter- and intra-community conflicts. Lessons could be learned from the German model.

Germany generates from annual sales of its forest or wood product about 170 billion Euros, and the market sector employs nearly 1.2 million Germans. The study on the German wood sector was done by Oishimaya Sen Nag, a writer/editor. She is an Indian native, currently residing in Kolkata. This study was last updated on April 25, 2017.

Fishery

Liberia is making giant strides but more needs to be done. This sector can genuinely benefit from the laws and practices in countries such as Norway and Vietnam. In the fishing sector, Norway and Vietnam are known as few of the top fish and seafood exporting countries.

According to Oishimaya Sen Nag (25 April 2017), both Norway and Vietnam generate 8.8 billion USD and 5.8 billion USD respectively on an annual basis from the fishing sector.

Mining

It is an open secret that the minerals being extracted from the soil do not provide the required benefit to the State. The State needs to adopt a new practical or radical rethinking.

The State, through us, as representatives of the people, itself must look into running or managing some goldmines and use the contents as bullion to support the Liberian currency. Bullion is gold, silver, or other precious metals in the form of bars, ingots, or specialized coins that is said to maintain its value more than conventional currencies and is therefore kept as a form of emergency currency by governments and sometimes private individuals.

Typically, bullion is used for trade on a global market where government-back currencies may not be sufficient. Other laws in the sector need to be changed to suit the economic reality to ensure mutual benefit for investors and the State. Botswana is a classic case as to the fairness in the mining industry.

Esteemed Colleagues! When the economy is stable, the society will certainly develop. Therefore, as direct representatives of the people dedicated to speedy national economic recovery, our concentration should be creating the environment for an enhanced business-friendly climate. Our crystallized cognitive ability will lead us successfully.

Distinguished Colleagues, during our course of session in 2019, we received several invitations to represent you from our colleagues in other countries from around the world, including multilateral, bilateral and other institutions concerned with democracy, world peace, and good governance.

We honored some to include that of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the United States Congress, and the United Nations, amongst others

Let me also commend our colleagues who are members of the various international parliamentary bodies representing Liberia’s interest. In September 2019, Liberia hosted, at the behest of this Legislature, the ECOWAS Parliament for a seminar in Monrovia on Conflict Prevention.

It was considered as one of the most successful Legislative Sessions or meetings in the West African Sub-Region.

We, again, want to thank the Executive Branch of Government under the stewardship of His Excellency, Dr. George MannehWeah, for identifying with the Liberian Legislature for the smooth hosting of the ECOWAS Parliamentary Program in Liberia.

Also, during said period, we received a High Level Congressional Delegation from the United States Congress, headed by Congressman, the Right Honorable David E. Price, under the US House Democracy Partnership Program.

A month later, after our American counterparts’ visit, we received another High Level Delegation from the Chinese Parliament, headed by the Right Honorable Wu Weihua, Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of Chinese National People’s Congress.

Thereafter, we received another High Level Delegation from the United Nations Peace Building Commission Office in New York, the USA, headed by the Swedish Ambassador to the United Nations.

I wish to also mention that in the year 2019, we received a Delegation from the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), amongst the host of other governmental and non-governmental bodies.

Esteemed Right Honorables, for the record, during our last sitting, the following bills were passed or concurred with, while others are still in Committee Room:

Total number of Bills passed- 58, total number of Bills in Committee Room -22, total number of Bills introduced in the House – 80.

It is worth noting that, of the 80 bills introduced in the House, our statistical report shows the following actions:

1. Thirteen (13) bills from the Executive Passed 2. Four (4) bills from the Senate concurred with. 3. Twenty-two (22) bills from Executive Passed 4. Eleven (11) bills from the House, Passed 5. Five (5) resolutions Passed 6. Three (3) bills from the House in Committee Room. 7. Nine (9) bills from the Senate  in Committee Room. 8. Seven (7) bills from the Executive in Committee Room. 9. Three (3) Petitions in Committee Room.

Also, during the Second Sitting, we had 56 regular sessions, 34 Executive Sessions, two Special Sessions, and 40 Extraordinary Sessions, totaling 132 Sessions.  We conducted 38 Leadership Meetings and 17 Public Hearings in the Second Sitting of the 54th National Legislature.

My Esteemed Colleagues, in this 3rd Sitting, let us do nothing less than promoting and enacting more people-driven bills. To conclude, Honorable Colleagues, as elected Lawmakers, let us be reminded that we are here to serve the people’s cause by performing a number of roles vital to the functioning of a healthy democracy.

We may choose to support the Government or serve as opposition that offers alternative policies and programs in a constructive manner. Essentially, we are also here to intelligently provide our constituents with sympathetic hearing for their individual complaints, concerns or problems, and articulate their cause or case effectively.

This means, as public servants, we are under obligation to uphold and respect the principles of representative democracy and set positive examples of responsible citizenship.

Colleagues! Our people depend on us.

We must deliver. It is a fact that we are the true guarantors of a functional government and a just society. Therefore, we cannot defer our assigned task(s).

I exhort or strongly encourage all of us to work together so that Liberia can become a just, safe, peaceful, united, tolerant and prosperous society where all of our rights and responsibilities will be properly balanced.

I wish you all, during this year and throughout the 54th Legislature, good tidings, prosperity and great joy. Long live the State and God bless the Legislature! WELCOME BACK!

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Jos Garneo Cephas Sr. has reported as online and broadcast Journalist on Human rights, Civil Society and development issues for the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS/ELBC) for about nine years. He worked in West Africa for Ghana Daily Guide Newspaper for ten years, as Human Rights Reporter, Liberia Desk Editor, and an international volunteer and Fellow of Journalist for Humana Rights (JHR). He Founded the Communication for Awareness and Development, a Non for Profit International NGO and the Vision Newspaper in Ghana, as publisher, Editor-In-Chief and stringed for the Voice Of America(VOA) at the height of the refugee crisis, covering more than 42,000 Liberian refugees in Ghana including other West Africans for several years in the sub-region. Jos Garneo Cephas Sr. has a BSc in modern-day Development Studies, and AA-Degree in Journalism, Public Relations and Entrepreneurship and Founder and Chief Executive Officer(CEO) of Liberia leading Social enterprise, Heartbeat Tourism for Sustainable Development(HTSD), Liberia Inc. He has numerous publications on opinions and developmental issues for leading Ghanaian and Liberian newspapers and magazines and online, and has provided national and international media consultancies, and is researching for a publication on “Tourism Its Impact and Youth Employment”.

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