Monrovia – As Alexander Cummings, Macdella Cooper and J. Mills Jones mounted the stage, Joseph Boakai, Charles Brumskine and George Weah were missing in action at Liberia’s second and final presidential debate organized to streamline individual policies, vision and mission for the quest for the country’s highest seat.
It is not clear why Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party failed to show up for the debate, but Senator Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) said he had been invited to meet with members of the European Commission while the Unity Party said they had a scheduled campaign launch in Grand Cape Mount County.
Thematic issues on the agenda for discussion included economy (with emphasis on poverty alleviation), youth empowerment (with emphasis on education and job creation), land rights (in the context of natural resource management and gender empowerment.
Dr. Jones and Ms. Cooper were not present at the first debate. However, the two candidates, including Mr. Cummings of the ANC seized the opportunity to further explain their political platforms.
Strategy On Job For Youths
Cummings: Cummings reiterated the ANC lead by him and Mr. Jeremiah Sulunteh view the youth as assets. He said, their government will invest in the vocational training to give young people the skills they require to contribute to the economy, which will in return, according to him, grow the economy.
He said investing in agriculture will serve as a double edge sword by creating jobs for young people and at the same time making Liberian self-sufficient when it comes to food production.
He stressed the need for investing infrastructure. By so doing, he said, jobs will be created for the young people of Liberia.
Jones: The former Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia noted that to grow the economy, both investment in agriculture and investment in the youth are keen. He called for the training and skills developing of young Liberians whether in arts or science to help bring them out of poverty.
He noted that when he was at the Central Bank, he advised government of to invest in agriculture to create jobs for the young people and at the same time grow the economy.
Cooper: The only female candidate in the race said she does not believe in putting money in the pockets of young people, rather her government would invest in the “human industry and agriculture industry”.
She said as part of her policies, she would rehabilitate disadvantaged youth on the streets who have turned into addicts and provide them skills training. Her government, she said, would also work public school systems, increase teachers’ salaries and make sure they’re paid on time to ensure that they are motivated to deliver quality education to young people.
Jones: According to Dr. Jones, to improve the country’s education sector, there’s a need to train teachers better and create the environment for the students to compete with other regional countries. He said Liberian students are not competing because there’s no adequate training. He called for the increment in the education budget.
Cooper: She believes not much has been done by the current regime to improve the education sector. She called for the cutting of unnecessary spending and ghost names on payroll and to create room for salary increment for teachers. Her government, she said, would want to see certified teachers and provide decent salary for the teachers.
Ms. Cooper also called for synchronization of the education system and have superintendents making reports on who’s in or not in the classroom. She, however, stemmed that it will all require political will. By synchronizing, she means partnering with private firms to improve the quality of education.
Cummings: He emphasized the need to invest in primary education as a means of improving the country’s education system. He added that there is a short term and long term approach towards improving the education system. The short term, according to him, is investing in primary education, while the long term is getting the legislature to apportion a good size of the budget, preferably 25 percent, to education.
Economic Empowerment For Women
Cummings: Cummings’ government, according to him, would strongly consider looking at the rights of women when they are married – traditional marriage rights, too. He also stemmed the need to protect their rights to land as land is an economic asset that can be turned into economic value.
Cooper: Ms. Cooper called for laws to protect women. She lamented that tradition has effect on women in Liberia, but said her government will ensure that every girl child is enrolled in school and that women must be protected from tradition that hinder their ambition.
She kicked against early marriage and called for the protection of women against Female Genital Mutilation.
Jones: A Mills Jones’ government will do everything possible to ensure that women have equal rights, he said. He called for the empowerment of market women, petty traders and spend time and money on training girls and creating mentoring opportunities. He said women should have access to properties and emphasized that all women should have equal access as men.
Cooper: To protect the environment, Ms. Cooper advised that tress should not be fell. People must be educated on climate change and its devastating effect on the environment which she said include flooding and erosion.
Cummings: He called for resourcing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement environmental laws. He said, Liberia has to play her part in reducing hazards and emphasize the need for putting more resources into keeping the environment safe.
Jones: He recognized global warming as a problem. He noted that it’s not enough saying that protecting the environment should be high on the agenda, but there’s the need to protect the environment by paying attention to those things that are responsible for degrading and exploiting the environment.
Jones: Dr. Jones called for the education of young girls and boys that rape is unacceptable and those involved would be turned over to the police for prosecution. He also called for speedy trial of those accused of rape and ensuring that those found guilty serve their sentence.
Cummings: ANC government, according to the standard bearer, will improve the judicial system to ensure that it is adequately prepared to dispense justice.
Cooper – She called for a program that will help young girls and women to handle issues of stigmatization and protect them survivals of rape. Ms. Cooper further called for stronger laws for the protection of women.
Cummings: The ANC government would give 30-40 percent of jobs to women. Cummings said he believes in the affirmative action law because gender equality would be a priority of his government.
Cooper: Ms. Cooper believes the Legislative branch of government must comprise 80 percent women. She said her government would work hard to ensure women’s participation at all levels.
Jones: Dr. Jones believes women and men must be at the same table and they must be seen as people who have ideas; he believes that women would challenge the men to do better if there are given the opportunity to compete with the men.