Liberia’s undisputed integrity icon, Cllr. Tiawon Saye Gongloe says his emergence in the political theatre has catapulted him as a viable alternative, an outstanding factor, and a political dark horse amid the changing dynamics of the Liberian political landscape.

Cllr. Gongloe made these remarks as a guest of the flagship program ‘the Issues Room on Friday, December 2, 2022, in Philadelphia, U.S.A. Responding to a wide range of national issues ahead of crucial elections in 2023, Cllr. Gongloe intimated had the collapsed Collaboration remained solid; the focus should have been on fundamental issues, and a cogent agreement to solve them.

By: Ekena Wesley

The Liberian People’s Party (LPP) Standard Bearer observed that politicians seeking political office must see themselves as employees of the electorates who are their employers. The quest for power by any collaboration should be guided by a firm belief in systems rather than personality.

Cllr. Gongloe historicized the case of the 1985 elections when Dr. Edward Kesselly, and Jackson F. Doe; both former Ministers in the True Whig Party government failed to do the needful by coming together in a united front but chose the path personality. That experiment should constitute a lesson for political actors who want to come together in any collaboration.

In 1997 again he said, we saw the Alliance crumble along the fringes of personality instead of A collective resolve. He however alluded to the Ganta declaration ahead of 2017, which became a pointless endeavor. Cllr. Gongloe said whenever personality takes the center stage, leaders fail to put issues that affect the Liberian people above all else, and as a result, the outcome is dismal.

While coming together is crucial, he noted “I am prepared to come together with anyone who sees through the same lens those fundamental issues that affect all Liberians and is committed to solving them holistically. In his words: “I want to be the project manager of Liberia.”

On a succinct note of caution, he said just one hour in the life of a politician can destroy a whole nation. He however averred that when the surgeon makes a mistake, one person dies. “When a politician makes a mistake, thousands of people would die…One decision can turn the country around…coming together based on identifying the Liberian people’s problem and finding the best way of solving them is essential,” he underscored.

On the question of why Cllr. Tiawon Saye Gongloe is different from others; he reckoned it is unfair to his competitors. Notwithstanding, he said he brings a unique wealth of experience that makes him stand out contrary to others in the race. He recounted his consistency in advocacy dating back to the reign of the erstwhile True Whig Party, cum the military regime led by Samuel Doe when he was a student activist as well as under Charles Taylor’s dictatorship when he was arrested, beaten, and tortured for speaking truth to power. “I have a long history of standing by the people and their cause.” Cllr. Gongloe said he variously defended journalists and is widely respected as a poor man’s lawyer.

As a trained lawyer with 34 years of experience, and an economist, I see myself as a transformer having served as Executive Assistant to late Interim President, Amos C. Sawyer, Solicitor-General of the Republic of Liberia, Labor Minister, President of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), adding my work in the various areas bespeak who I am and what I stand for. On the question of love for country, he termed ‘love’ as an action word that must be defined in content and character. As President, I will take cognizance of the good things Presidents Tolbert and Doe did for Liberians and build on them. He acknowledged Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy as one who truly loves his country by his very decision and preparedness to die for his people.

On what he has done to reach out to the people, Cllr. Gongloe comically said the hosts were again unfair to his competitors. He said he is bar far the only one who has decided to go to the villages and helmets to see at first hand the people. His tour in Bong County took him to 37 villages, an opportunity that took him to towns he has never been to in his lifetime. On the second leg of his tour, he visited 106 villages and towns in Nimba County. He referred to his historic visit to Butou – a border town that became the launching path of the December 24, 1989, armed insurrection. On arrival in Butuo, the ecstatic town’s people said since the visit of President William Tolbert in the 70s, no Liberian leader has ever visited them. Regrettably, not even now incarcerated war indictee, Charles Taylor who staged his rebellion from Butuo ever visited the town.

Cllr. Gongloe described his visit to Butuo as revealing especially given the enormous development across the Cavalla River in Ivory Coast amid paved roads, electricity, and a host of social amenities.

Speaking about corruption, Cllr, Gongloe said: “I have been against corruption since my days as a student. As head of the Intellectual Discourse Committee at the University of Liberia, we invited and grilled senior government officials that came to speak at the university. I have always spoken truth to power openly without fear or favor. I remain clean after serving as Executive Assistant, Solicitor, Labor Minister, and President of the Bar Association. Let the word go forth that the salaries of the President, Vice President, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Pro-temp, Chief Justices, and Associate Justices will be published on the Executive Mansion’s website.”

Amid mounting hardship vis-a-vis the minimum wage in Liberia; Cllr. Gongloe told scores of Liberians that it is a result of the old Labor Law, which has been in existence for many years. He said the minimum wage is set based on the International Labor Organization (ILO) concept. He paid tribute to his predecessor; Atty. Kofi Woods started the process that was continued under his administration. He indicated that the minimum wage is determined because of the cost of living and standard of living further to consultations between the government and trade unions. Cllr. Gongloe referenced the National Tripartite Council, which was set up with a view to advising the labor minister from time to time. Cllr. Gongloe decried the astronomical disparity between civil servants and political appointees and said it is unfair. He promised to raise the salaries of the police and military. If elected, we will make sure nobody makes less than $100.00 a month in government.

In his message to the electorates; Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe said he comes to the race with ‘A Better Liberia is Possible Agenda!’ By that, he says, it is possible by strengthening the rule of law, expanding the economy to create jobs, improving social services, quality education, primary and second education to be free; embarking on the setting up of computer laboratories; free medical service for all pregnant women in Liberia, which he described as a national emergency; that Children under the age of 5 will get free medical services, open vocational schools, stop the importation of rice from India, give; give incentives to investors starting investments 50 miles out of Monrovia aimed at providing jobs; order the military to grow 100 acres of rice in each of the 15 counties. His administration hopes to reduce massive rural-urban migration; then trained carpenters, mechanics, and plumbers.

Cllr. Gongloe said although getting electricity from Ivory is good, but we have more water bodies in Liberia, and we can also become producers of electricity. He said the small dam at Firestone is a classic example of the enormous potential we have in the face of so many water bodies. The spoke of the introduction of lifestyle audits – for public officials from time to time to ensure their lifestyles match whatever salaries they receive.

The former Bar Association President said waste and abuse would be aggressively curbed under his administration. Unnecessary travel would be cut, including huge delegations, especially for the President. Rather than giving lawmakers $30,000.00, we will prioritize agriculture, health, and education. We will set up a Commission of Inquiry that will be empowered to scrupulously retrieve stolen monies. The fight against corruption will be holistic!

Responding to President Weah’s prolonged stay out of the country in what appears an auto-pilot leadership style, Cllr. Gongloe averred that: “I would not be a president and choose to stay out of a country dogged by census uncertainty, unpaid salaries, insecurity, the rising cost of living, unresolved rice crisis among other disturbing national challenges.

Cllr. Gongloe argued: “It takes no sense for President Weah’s extended stay in Qatar after the World Cu opening session particularly when Liberia is not playing in the games. That is a complete waste of public resources! It is high time the senate started looking into the conduct of the President. If the president’s prolonged stay out of the country is tantamount to gross misconduct and constitutes dereliction of duties, the senate should probe him.”

Regarding the most recent increase in rice price from $13.00 to $17.50, Cllr. Gongloe believes the government owes Liberians an explanation and must come clean on the $11 million contained in the national budget intended to subsidize rice importation. He described it as an act of bad governance. While we agree that there is a global problem. Coming forth with what has happened to the $11 million budgetary allotment is imperative.

Cllr. Gongloe zero-in on the commitment of his government if elected prioritizing people with all forms of disabilities and minority groups. He said there will be employment for everyone – particularly women – physically challenged, minority groups in the country. We will unequivocally support and give voices to people with disability wherever they are. Nobody will be discriminated against because of their status, creed, or section.