Are We Still Speaking About “Natives And Indigenous People?”

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh(PNW)

Today, I wish to employ the process involved in high court’s decision in countries in its appellate process (review of cases before it) when at times some of its judges dissent to that of the majority of their colleagues, or at times reinforce the decisions of the majority in a separate expose by concurring with the majority of their colleagues.

It can be recalled that few days ago, this paper in one of its editorials, captioned: “DISAGREEING WITH THE NEW PARTY’s CHARACTERIZATION,” took serious exception to the country’s newest political party- the People’s Unification Party (PUP) for referring to itself as the“native people’s party” and “indigenous people”

The paper among other things vehemently detested these characterizations of the party because they are very divisive and counter-productive to the kind of NEW LIBERIA this country is striving to build after years of cavil conflict, which was also the result of this kind of divisive politics.

Considering the consequences of such nicknames and characterizations, the paper in that editorial urged the leadership of the party, seeking to lead this country, to reconsider these native and divisive phrases. Political parties should be organized to espouse the agenda for all and not certain class of citizens, whether natives or what, as this is a dangerous trend.

The issue of the nickname of the party was contained in après release issued on Sunday, announcing the result of its primaries during which time it elected aspirants for several counties for the pending senatorial election. The party in that release said it isalso seeking “those indigenous people” with the leadership ability to lead Liberia but not those who are corrupt and morally bankrupt and also not those who cannot intellectually discern the country’s political reality from the appalling economic condition of the people.

In announcing the result, last Saturday, PUP’s acting chairman, Senator Henry W. Yallah, among other things called on “the downtrodden natives to be mindful of highly corrupt individuals who are in the habit of using their ill-gotten money to shoot their ways into state-power.”

Furthermore, the acting chairman maintained that PUP is the only option available to the people to transform Liberia for the better; adding that “make no mistake, only the indigenous people can turn this country into a developed country.” He said the party will do whatever it takes to ensure victory for the PUP’s candidates.

As I said in the opening paragraph ofthispiece that I am taking theformat done by higher courts of country in which after as ruling some of itsmembers can concur (agree to the majority opinion) or dissent (disagree withthe majority’s decision) on a particularcase after it had reviewedit.

It is an open secret that as part of theeditorial staff of thispaper contributed and participated in deciding on this paper’s position by uncompromisingly stateour oppositions to such characterizations, as these are someofthelittlethings if not checked timely, could snowball into greater things beyond our control and imagination, as a nation and people.

Notwithstanding, while there is no doubtthat I consciouslyconcur with the others on this matter, I decided to expand reasons why such a characterization is not conducive for this country coming out of years of conflict. In fact, some of the issues that contributed to the war are yet to be resolved and so to bring back those bitter memories, by referring to one group as “native and indigenous people” would only add insult to injury or can be akin to adding fuel to a furnace.

As the editorial rightly observed, this paper respect therights of anygroup of Liberians toorganize and form political party which is a useful instrument in seeking state power, but atthesametime, such must be donetopromote unity, oneness and cohesiveness, as anything contrary to these could only be counter-productive and send this country to the dark days.

Coincidentally, just as I was internalizing on this piece, I received a communication from the Governance Commission headed by Dr. Amos Sawyer’s address to media heads about the slogan of VISION 2030 which emphasizes unity.In thatcommunication signed by one of its commissioners, Madam Elizabeth SeleMulbah, the commission said, “The Governance Commission has embarked upon a campaign to popularize the Vision 2030 Slogan, in the interest of National Unity and Development, and would like to forge a partnership with your organization to ensure its success.”

Whether this was in reaction to the issue of native or indigenous people, the Commission however said, “The National Vision Slogan, “One People, One Nation, United for Peace and Sustainable Development” was adopted during the Vision 2030 National Conference in Gbarnga, Bong County on 12 December 2012 as an expression of our love for Liberia, the belief in our common destiny, and a commitment to national socio-economic development The Vision Slogan, and the statement of which it is a part, draws its legitimacy from extensive consultations throughout Liberia and the Liberian Diaspora and calls on Liberians to think, speak and act different in building the of the new Liberia.”

The communication went on: “We therefore hope that you will consider it a national patriotic duty to help us popularize this Slogan because of its potential to unite and mobilize the Liberian People to collectively take part in the social and economic development process; More specifically, we request that you kindly insert the Vision Slogan at a prominent place in your newspaper, and that you consider publishing feature articles to popularize the Slogan.”

Again whether this was in reaction to the PUP’s press release, I decided to share this with you today because of the importance of unity and oneness, as nothing can be achieved in this country if its people are not united.

The preamble of the very constitution that guarantees the rights of Liberians to associate such as forming political parties uses thepersonal pronoun, “We” to denote “unity” and onenessand not the Indefinite Pronoun, “Some” to suggest part of the citizenry. Besides, the constitutional provision which gives rise to the formation of political parties talks about forming political parties “to advocate the opinion of the people,” and not the opinion of some of the people.

Chapter VIII Article 77 of the Liberian Constitutionsuccinctly states, “Since the essence of democracy is free competition of ideas expressed by political parties and political groups as well as by individuals, parties may freely be established to advocate the political opinions of the people. Laws regulations, decrees or measures, which might have the effect of creating a one-party state, shall be declared unconstitutional.”

And so to see a political party using such divisive nicknames is worrisome and counter-productive on the part of the country’s newest political party.

In all fairness, the said nicknames or slogans of the party is inconsistent with its professed ideology of seeking power to developand unite people. The slogans or nicknames is ill-conceived and needs to be revised.

I am not against the party having a nickname or slogan, as these are important means of communication and identity, but the present ones are divisive and are also antithesis to what all Liberians are yearning foras there are no rooms for tribalism, sectionalism, cronyism, marginalization, discrimination and segregation.

Until thisparty sees reason to revise these divisive nicknames that are bad public relations for the party, I REST MY CASE,” with reservation to return if the status quo remains unchanged. But for now, I concur with this paper’s editorial on the matter.