HARBEL, Margibi â€“ Just a few months after taking office, Rep. Ivar Kokulo Jones of Margibiâ€™s second district has donated to his districtâ€™s development council what he says is 50 percent of his salary.
Jones presented two separate cheques â€“ one for US$15,000 and the other for L$475,000 (US$3,345) â€“ to his constituents as fulfillment of his campaign pledge.
He explained his rationale to his constituents, â€œLike I always said, I came to politics reminded of the quotes of former American President John F. Kennedy, which says, â€˜Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.â€™ I have taken this responsibility knowing well that I remain a servant of my people.â€
He said it is time for everyone to come together and work tirelessly in moving the district forward.
The lawmaker said his constituents have not been given their fair share of the national budget even though they host Firestone and the Roberts International Airport.
â€œLet me disassociate myself from the perception that the district is getting a huge support from Firestone Liberia and the Roberts International Airport because it [is] host to these entities,â€ Jones said. â€œWith millions of dollars generated, these institutions are giving less to the people of the district.â€
Jones threatened to take legal action against leaders of the District Development Council if they mismanaged funds deposited into the councilâ€™s account.
He also stressed that he has no influence over the accounts: â€œTo prove that I have no influence on these accounts, I am not a signatory to the accounts created but the heads of the district development council [are].â€
The cheques were written from accounts of the lawmakerâ€™s personal business, Favour Marketing Inc., and represent salaries from February to June, according to Jones. However, Jones was not clear on which portions of his compensation he was donating to the council. But based on the approximately US$15,000 total that representatives receive monthly in compensation, Jones was only remitting half of his total compensation for two months. Lawmakers’ remuneration is broken down into a variety of categories including salary, special allowance, transportation allowance, etc.
The cheques were presented to the head of the District Development Council, Joseph Charlie. In an interview with The Bush Chicken a week ago, Charlie vowed to be accountable to the people of the district.
â€œAs a man of God, my presence at this council requires a lot. Accountability will be the core value of my leadership,â€ he added.
Prior to the presentation of the cheques, Charlie had been under pressure from district residents to provide an update on whether he had been receiving the funds in line with the lawmakerâ€™s pledge.
Adolphus Gbennie was one resident who had called on Charlie to specify the lawmakerâ€™s salary and the amount that constituted the 50 percent.
Meanwhile, Jones has received many commendations for following through with his promise.
Ebenezer Wilson, a resident of the district who had considered running in the last representative election but later decided not to, described the lawmakerâ€™s action as commendable.
â€œThe presentation of US$15,000 and L$475,000 to the district Development Council of Margibiâ€™s Second District with no doubt in the delivery capacity of the Development Council, we are confident it will be well,â€ he wrote in a post on Facebook.
Dekontee Sayway, the national secretary general of the youth wing of Liberty Party and a strong critic of the representative, congratulated the lawmaker for the venture.
â€œWe have been strong critics since he took over as representative of the district. We think that our criticism has come from the background that we want to see the district moving forward, since in fact he [Jones] was succeeding former representative, Ballah Zayzay, who was very magnanimous in his doings to the citizens of the district,â€ Sayway said.
â€œIt is not about criticising him every time. When you criticise and there are some good things being done, you point out that a venture is good, and you make it known to the public.â€
Although the lawmaker was not completely transparent about his salary, this commitment is the first of its kind in the county. A few years back, Senator Oscar Cooper promised to give 20 percent of his salary for use by the people of the county, however, the senator has not provided information on how he is fulfilling that pledge.
Senator Jim W. Tornonlah also promised to bring to the county all of his benefits from the capitol due to the growing needs of his people when some of his colleagues called for salary deduction. However, Tornonlah has also not been forthcoming about the donations and he is rarely seen in the county or at public functions.
Featured photo by Jefferson Daryoue