By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
Yesterday was an important day in the life of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) as the national army received a gigantic donation by the People’s Republic of China of US$4 million engineering equipment for its engineering battalion. By listening to the occasion carried live by LBS TV, I noticed that many of those who spoke at the occasion including Public Works Minister, Dr. Weeks, Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai and earlier the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Chairman of the House Standing Committee on Defense, Bong County Representative George Mulbah, stressed key issues such as budgetary support, maintenance and operation. The equipment includes tractors, heavy duty trucks and other valuables.
At the ceremony held at the national Defense Headquarters in Monrovia, Chinese Ambassador to Liberia, Zhang Yue said that his government has not only provided Liberia with engineering equipment gratis valued at US$4million, but also will send an engineering expert team to Liberia to work with the engineering personnel of the AFL. Ambassador Yue said the equipment will enhance the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) to contribute positively to Liberia’s social and economic recovery, and will raise the AFL’s profile in terms of civil-military relations.
For his part, Defense Minister Samukai lauded the Chinese Government for the gesture and assured that the equipment will be used for the purpose they are provided for by the AFL. Minister Samukai said the AFL Engineering Company will work with the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Public Works to rehabilitate roads throughout the country and stressed the need for budgetary support for maintenance and operation.
During the turning over ceremony, Internal Affairs Minister, Morris Dukuly, said the equipment would be utilized to build roads in various parts of the country. He said when roads are built throughout the country they will enable Liberians to move freely across the country.
Also speaking, the Minister of Public Works, Antoinette Weeks said her ministry will work along with the ministries of Internal Affairs and Defense to rehabilitate specific road corridors throughout the country.
Madam Weeks added that both the Ministry of Public Works and Defense would benefit from a twenty-four weeks training with Chinese engineering experts in March.
As I stated earlier, I had the opportunity, while driving to listen to part of the program, especially with the main speakers. By listening yesterday, I consider these three words, mentioned earlier, as very important in making sure that the desire and intent of the done, the Chinese government becomes a reality. It is common sense to surmise that the donation is part of the Chinese government’s many assistance to the nation’s post-war reconstruction program and that the equipment, would go a long way in this drive, especially so considering the issue of road construction and maintenance, which are of major concern in the development of the country.
The Three Key Words
The first word is maintenance which is very crucial to make sure that proper care would be done to keep the equipment usable and serviceable. One of the problems faced with government’s properties in this country is the lack of maintenance, something for little spare parts, thus leaving the properties to ruin. This mentality of “government thing” in which people exhibit “don’t care” attitude must not be the order of the day for these donated items. The next word is operation which also is crucial if these pieces of equipment are to be used for their intended purpose. This means that everything should be done to make sure of the availability of fuel and spare parts.
But all in all, the last, but not the least word, is budgetary support which is the most key word of the three because without budgetary support, which the Representatives assured of yesterday, maintenance and operations of the capital-intensive equipment would not be realized. It is the budgetary support that would serve as the lubricants to lubricate the wheels to keep the equipment usable. This is why attention should be given to what the Defense Minister said about these being forming a “line item” in the budget to ensure that there is fund exclusively for such initiative.
This means that the Ministries of Public Works, Internal Affairs and the receiver (Ministry of National Defense), whose heads spoke at the program yesterday, should coordinate to make sure that this budget line issue be successful. It is a known fact that the issue of road construction and maintenance is crucial; therefore, with this kind of huge donation by the Chinese to the engineering battalion of the army, this is a great opportunity to make to make enormous contribution toward road construction and maintenance through budgetary support.
While commending the Chinese Government and others, including the American Government for the recent donation of items for the Coast Guard, it now behooves our policy makers to make sure that these donated items be properly maintained to keep them operational in the reconstruction drive. These items should not be treated or handled messily or carelessly, as had been with other government’s properties. Let us maintain these, because by this, the donors would be encouraged to do more, as anything contrary to this would be detrimental to this country in dire need of such donated items for development.
As it is often said, “One turn deserves another,” and so, these donated items should be used properly and wisely to encourage our friends to do more for us. Again, these must be used for their intended purpose, and not as items for private use, by serving individual interest and not the people’s interest.
Let us beware that these items were donated by the “PEOPLE’s” Republic of China,” therefore, they must be used for the “PEOPLE” of Liberia. I Rest My Case, until next week when I shall have returned from the Liberia National Bar Association’s assembly in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County.