Liberia: Telia Urey Eyes District 15: Daughter of Businessman Benoni Urey Says Legislature Needs Non-Compromising Voice
Monrovia – Looking to step out of her father, businessman Benoni Urey’s shadows, Telia Urey has big dreams for District 15. The Core Investment CEO who has been enhancing her visibility as a key critic of the George Weah-led government of late is keen to use her networking and business savvy in bringing development and job creation to a community still mourning the loss of Rep. Adolph Lawrence, who recently died in a tragic motor accident off the Robertsfield Highway.
Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
“I’ve always been radical and outspoken and I feel this is what we need in the lower house right now,” she told FrontPageAfrica over a breakfast coffee interview at the weekend. “Someone that cannot be compromised which is what is really needed in today’s politically-charged environment.”
Telia Urey’s venture into politics comes just days after the National Elections Commission declared that it has received a notification from the House of Representatives announcing a vacancy in that august body created by the death of the late Representative Lawrence.
Looking to Fill Big Shoes
The Liberian Constitution, under article 37 says that in the event of a vacancy in the Legislature caused by death, resignation, expulsion or otherwise, the Presiding Officer shall within 30 days notify the Elections Commission thereof, and the Commission shall not later than 90 days thereafter cause a by-election to be held, provided that where such vacancy occurs within 90 days prior to the holding of general elections.
NEC has set July 2, 2019 as the Election Day to conduct jointly the Senatorial and district #15 Representative By-elections in Montserrado County.
So far, only one other candidate, Abu Kamara has expressed his intentions filling the void left by the late Representative Lawrence but Telia says while Rep. Lawrence’s impact in both the District and the House will forever live on, District 15 needs a very strong voice to continue the legacy he started and the bonds he helped forged. “I was just telling someone recently that he left behind huge shoes to fill in. He has projects across sectors in the District and it is anyone who is elected duty to make sure those projects not only stay alive but to evolve into even bigger and more impactful initiatives for our district and beyond. In the House, he also left a huge legacy. He was a man of integrity, vision, and commitment to his country. He stood against wrong up to his death and anyone that will replaces him should have a record of exhibiting these qualities.”
Telia Urey, who says she will be contesting on the All Liberian Party ticket, will be hoping to get the backing of the three-party coalition – ALP, Unity Party, Liberty Party and the Alternative National Congress.
Will Target People-Centered Legislation
Ms. Urey says the lower house is in pretty bad shape and needs a representative with a dynamic and radical approach to legislative politics that will disrupt the way things are being done today and make positive change that will lead to more people centered legislation and initiatives. This is where she says she fits in. “I have been in political advocacy for over 9 years. I have been apart protests, supported civil society movements, engaged media, supported candidates and political campaigns to fight in my fight for change. This is the same fighting spirit I intend to take to the legislature. I am saying this with the understanding that one person cannot bring all of the change, but with conviction that with more people highlighting the wrongs and having integrity and vision, it is a step in a better direction.”
Telia, 28, started selling hair when she was 18-years-old while still in school. “Today, I own a restaurant on my own, have apartments I am renting, and much more. I employ over 100 people and I am only 28 years old! This shows that I know the importance of being able to get a job to make ends meet. I’m saying this to show you all of my life.”
Despite growing up in the shadows of a popular businessman, Telia says life all was not so rosy. “My parents never made life easy for me by handing me things to me on a silver platter. Just as I have worked for myself from such a young age. I can work for this district to fight Unemployment. I can use my network of contacts and my experience to attract investments in the district that will create jobs for the youth. Although this is not an easy task considering the state of the economy, I know that it is a fight that I can win.”
Weighing in on the rapidly declining economic outlook, Telia says innovation would be key if she is given a chance to represent District 15.
“We know that the country is struggling financially. The government does not have enough money to spend on health, education, youth capacity building and more, so as a district, we have to look outside of The Government of Liberia for assistance in these sectors. This means we will need a Representative that can go abroad and seek partnerships with people, International Organizations, and businesses that can be of help to us in these areas. I am running because I believe I am able to seek partnerships that can boost the district in these areas. I am not becoming a Representative to sit down and wait for the government to do anything.”
A Mind for Business
Commonly called Tee, Telia Urey, grew up in Liberia, where she attended high school at the Child Development Academy in Monrovia. Her passion for politics developed in high school and this led to her choosing Political Science and Economics as her Major and Minor concentrations in college at Columbia International College.
Her business career started in Canada, when she opened a business called “Melyke Inc.” that sold hair and hair products to women across Canada. In 2010, Ms. Urey opened the first veterinarian clinic (Pet Palace Inc) in Liberia, located on 4th Street Sinkor, since the war. In 2011, Telia says she saw an opportunity in the real estate market in Liberia and formed Core. Investment Group (CIG), a company does real estate development. Today, she rents over 30 apartments. And Core Investment is a leader in the real estate industry in Liberia. Fuzion Restaurant is also another business owned by Ms. Urey. Fuzion is one of Liberia’s top restaurants located on 14th Street, across Lutheran Church.
Her involvement in Liberian politics also started at a young age. She supported, campaigned and raised funds for the party during the 2011 elections.
Looking back, she says realized that the CDC was not vocal and active enough on the issues affecting Liberians, particularly women. So, in 2017, she threw her weight behind the ALP, where she supported her Father, Benoni Urey.
Ms. Urey is hoping to fill not just the voice left by the late Rep. Lawrence but also raise the representation of women in the legislature.
A 2017 research funding by the government of Canada, the EU, Sweden and the UNDP on women’s participation in elections concluded that despite considerable progress over the last decade to promote meaningful participation of women in Liberia’s political and electoral affairs, the nagging gap in gender politics persists.
For Telia Urey, given a shot to represent District 15 could help close the gap. “I firmly believe that any single female emerging as a Representative is a substantial step toward gender equality. Having a female representative means an increase in women’s voices and perspectives being represented in the deliberations, decisions, and legislation. At the core, this is important for shaping discourse. However, a more active women centered legislative agenda needs to be pushed by women in the house for us to truly say their election represents a movement towards gender equality or betterment of lives of women in Liberia. I am committed to a women-centered legislative agenda.”