Senator Cooper Receives Praises Over Call to Reduce Lawmakers’ Pay

HARBEL, Margibi – Citizens in Margibi have praised one of the county’s senators, Oscar Cooper, over his recent call for 20% reduction in the benefits of lawmakers in the country.

Cooper has begun a campaign to reduce the total budget of the national legislature by 20 percent that will be given to the Ministries of Health and Education to attend to pressing priorities.

Setting the example, as recommended by the Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Cooper has vowed to give up 20 percent of his salary and allowance beginning this fiscal year. He said the amount deducted would be used to help citizens of Margibi in the areas of health and education.

“Let me say that I will deduct 20 percent of my salary and benefits every month beginning this fiscal period,” Cooper said.

He told The Bush Chicken in an interview that the US$ 38 million allotment to the legislature was purely unfair and must be halted.

Recently, following the call for a reduction, the Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Armah Jallah, sarcastically encouraged Cooper to take the lead.

Jallah told a group of Journalists in an interview that Cooper’s statements were embarrassing.

Meanwhile, citizens of Margibi have lauded their senator for his recent position. Tilberosa Tanponweh, who is campaigning to represent Margibi in the House, praised the senator for his position.

“Senator Cooper stance on this matter is appropriate and timely, especially in the midst of constant budget shortfalls in the country’s economy,” Tanponweh said.

He said it was inhumane for elected officials to allocate a huge sum of money and benefits for themselves while those they represent suffer in poverty and destitution.

According to Tanponweh, there are huge constraints in some sectors of the country. He cited low wages and salary for health workers and public school teachers and poor infrastructures among others.

“I am calling on every Lawmaker in the Republic to welcome the call of Senator Cooper rather than scaring him with suspension threats,” he said.

Forkpayea Mulbah, a student leader in Margibi, has also praised Cooper for his advocacy for fair budgetary allocation to especially health and education. The two according to him are key sectors to the survivability and improvement of any society and its people.

Mulbah encouraged Cooper to continue his advocacy and firmness of issues for the interest of the greater majority.

“I am admonishing the Senator to stand by his conviction and the truth for his people, we will stand by him,” he told The Bush Chicken on Monday.

Featured photo: Stephen Kollie

Gbatemah Senah

Senah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. Between 2017 and 2019, he won six excellent reporting awards from the Press Union of Liberia. They include a three-time Land Rights Reporter of the Year, one time Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Human Rights Reporter of the Year.

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One Comment;

  1. Torli KruaTorli Krua said:

    Great article! While I applaud Hon. Cooper, his proposal is woefully inadequate in addressing the problems of politicians’ control of power and money in the “Republic” of Liberia, a rich country with some of the poorest peoples in our world. The problem in Liberia is that politicians usurp the powers of the people. The solution is restoring citizens’ powers consistent with Article I of the Constitution which says citizens have supreme powers in the republic of Liberia. As masters in a democracy and republic, citizens must exercise their powers by setting the salaries and benefits of politicians-the public servants. This can be done by making citizens’ initiative law in Liberia, just as it is in Switzerland, the European Union and many states across America. In 2015, Law makers in the impoverished, post-conflict, Ebola and war ravaged country of Liberia earn more in salaries, let alone benefits than law makers in 48 states in the United States of America, a country with a higher cost of living and higher fiscal budget than Liberia. For example, in Massachusetts, a state without crude oil, gold, diamond or iron ore mines, the state’s 2015-16 annual budget is $38 billion dollars. A law maker in Massachusetts earns about $62,000 with no car, no driver, no police detail and no rent allocations. A senator in neighboring New Hampshire works as a part time legislator and earns $200.00 per two year term or $8 USD per month. In many western democracies, unlike African nations, public service is not the primary avenue for a person to get rich. It’s an opportunity to serve the country. Compare that to Liberia, where the budget for the Speaker of the House is $1.2 million dollars in a country with less than $1 billion dollars ($680 million). Hon. Cooper is right in his proposal but real solution cannot come from the politicians-the servants. The solution must come from citizens making a demand to take control of power and money from politicians. Europe and America were not always democratic. Change came when citizens made similar demands in England, France and the United States. If the revenue of the country is spent primarily on politicians, where will the money come from for education, healthcare, roads and investment for Liberian businesses? Unlike republics like France or the United States, where citizens have supreme powers and where governments exists primarily for the safety and affording equal opportunities of citizens, the ‘Republic’ of Liberia is neither a true republic nor a democracy. For nearly 168 years, the government of Liberia exists under false pretense in that it claims to be a republic but in practice, politicians manipulate the constitution in order to confuse the citizens and usurp the powers of citizens. Liberian politicians use the country’s resources and money to enrich themselves and their families. Hon. Cooper’s idea of a 20% reduction in benefits sound good but it’s arbitrary, at best. Why 20% and not 10% or 5% or 50% or 75%? If the problem is access by politicians why not turn to the masters-the citizens for a lasting solution? What is the per capita income of the people Hon. Cooper represents? Are his salaries and benefits representative of his constituency in Margibi? If not, how did he arrive at the 20%? Who has the authority or power in a company to determine the salary and benefit of the employee? Is it the employee,t(he servant) or the owner? Commonsense tells us the owner must set the salary of employees or risk economic chaos, bankruptcy and shutting down. By excluding citizens from the equation, Hon. Cooper’s proposal is lacking in its legitimacy. Jesus of Nazareth said. “A servant is not greater than his master.” How can Liberia ever make progress when politicians set their own salaries without regards to the living standards of the people they serve? For 168 years Liberians have been deceived to believe that highly educated politicians, especially those educated from America’s elite universities are the ones who can bring change to the country. This myth is like a colony of chickens hiring a fox to serve as their chief security because they believe a more educated and sophisticated Fox will be a better security and gatekeeper for the Han House where they live. The truth is foxes, by nature feed on chicken. Educated and sophisticated foxes have sophisticated means of killing and eating chickens. No chicken is safe in the custody of a fox because once a fox, forever a fox! Hon Cooper’s proposal is a good start. However, sustainable change in Liberia can never happen solely because of Hon. Cooper’s proposal because he is a politician and as such a public servant. Even so, Hon. Cooper can go the extra mile and call for the Masters of the Republic, the citizens to be clothed with the authority and powers that has been robbed for 168 years. Consistent with Article I of the Constitution, Hon. Cooper can go the extra mile and introduce legislation to restore power to the people by empowering citizens as masters the authority to set the salaries and benefits of their servants, the politicians as well as make laws through ballot initiatives, independent of influence from the president or the national legislature. This type of citizens’ involvement is called citizens’ initiatives. It is exactly what happens in Switzerland, the European Union and the United States-citizens. Not only do citizens have powers in these countries, citizens do exercise their powers without the interference of their servants(president or legislators) in meaningful ways that improves their quality of life. No country is perfect. And no country can prosper with politicians setting their own salaries and benefits in the midst of massive human suffering. The people of Liberia must stand up and demand change. “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” Fredrick Douglas. The solutions to Africa’s woes and Liberia’s problems are in the hands of citizens of Liberia, not politicians, not western powers and not the Chinese government. Whether we were talking endemic corruption, ritualistic killing, underdevelopment, wars, refugee and migrant crisis…citizens must make a demand for citizens’ initiatives to become law in Liberia just as it is in Switzerland, the European Union and the United States.

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