MONROVIA, Montserrado â€“ Four major presidential candidates have met at a national forum to defend their individual platforms to lead the country.
All Liberian Party standard bearer Benoni Urey, vice president and standard bearer of Unity Party Joseph Boakai, the Alternative National Congressâ€™ Alexander Cummings, and Charles Brumskine of Liberty Party participated in the debate.
Presenting his platform, Urey said if elected as president, his administration would work to get the country back on its path of progress and development by strengthening the economy, reconcile the population and decentralize the countryâ€™s resources.
He said development in the country depends on every citizen, thus making the need for unification a pressing imperative, irrespective of ethnicity, religious and political backgrounds among others.
â€œWe believe the involvement of the entire Liberia and not a selective few will carry us a long way,â€ he said.
According to him, Liberia will only move forward when its people agree to put aside the past and change their minds and ways towards their country and one another.
Boakai said his government would better manage the countryâ€™s resources through the provision of an accountable, responsible, and experienced leadership.
He promised to provide citizens the opportunity to actively participate in the rebuilding of their country by employing a system that would increase youth employment and technical and vocation skills training.
He said he brings to the table a long history of practical experience about the issues that affect ordinary citizens.
â€œIt is about time that we think Liberia, love Liberia, and build Liberia,â€ he said, evoking his campaignâ€™s slogan.
Also presenting the summary of his administrationâ€™s programs was Cummings, who promised to initiate new strategies to move the country forward.
He said after 170 years of independence, Africaâ€™s oldest republic remains among the least developed country on the continent and among countries of the world.
He said as Liberian goes to the polls in October, its citizens must now reflect the countryâ€™s high level of poverty and a per capita income that is among the lowest in the world.
According to him, one fundamental truth that must be understood by every citizen is that the country will continue to remain the same if nothing changes about the form of leadership.
â€œIf you keep doing the same thing, you will not get different results,â€ he said.
He said another fundamental truth is that the best predictor of future performance and future behavior is tied to past performance and past behavior.
Cummings said he has been opportune to work in large corporations around the world, and has delivered results, adding that his experience and achievements puts him at an advantage to provide better leadership for the country.
However, he said to achieve this, his administration under an ANC platform will include other qualified Liberians, scout out resources to groom the private sector and leverage technology.
For his part, Brumskine promised that his leadership would focus on empowering ordinary citizens, improving health care delivery, building the capacity of Liberian businesses restoring hopes to abandoned youths.
He said to restore the quality of education, his government would fix the problems affecting the education system.
â€œI thought of young people in Liberia who graduate from high school, some of them with honors. Yet, they fail [the University of Liberia] entrance exams. There is something fundamentally wrong with the education system of our country. That we must fix, too,â€ he said.
The Liberty Party standard bearer promised that he would work to reconcile the country and restore family values and improve basic infrastructure. All these he promised to do using his integrity, experience, and capacity to get political will from others in government. He also committed to cutting down his salary those of other public officials, including his vice president and cabinet members.
The candidates were speaking on Thursday at Paynesville Townhall during a debate organized by Deepening Democracy Coalition and sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.
The coalition comprises of media and civil society organizations including the Press Union of Liberia, the Liberia Media Center, the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia, Transparency International and the Liberia Women Media Action Committee.
The debate focused on key thematic areas, including economy, security and rule of law, peace and reconciliation, agriculture, youth empowerment and development and anti-corruption.
Abdulla Kamara, the Head of Liberia Holding Consortium, said the debate would help inform the judgements of electorate.
Kamaraâ€™s organization, in its third survey report released on the elections, indicated that more than 260,000 registered voters, representing 13.6 percent of the total registrants, are still undecided on who to cast their vote for on October 10.
George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change and Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment had also been invited to the debate but they were not able to attend. The organizers said Weah had traveled out of the country while Jones had been in rural Liberia, campaigning.
Featured photo by Gbatemah Senah