Roles Of An Informed Citizenry In Nation Building

first_imgBy Siddiq KonnehA nation with a weak judiciary, an inactive and uninformed citizenry is an unstable nation.  An informed citizenry and a strong judiciary are two catalysts for sustainable growth and development in any modern nation. For democracy to flourish and for government to be held accountable, citizens must take initiatives and be active participants in every aspect of governance; they must learn those basic democratic principles that are necessary for their survival and the growth of their nation. We must go further by demanding that our leaders also adhere to these democratic principles. Informed citizenry will ensure that before one is put in a leadership position, he/she is adequately prepared and suited to lead them. They will also choose leaders who will have respect for an independent, strong and vibrant judiciary. As brilliantly put by President Andrew Jackson, who says: “All the rights secured to the citizens under the Constitution are worth nothing, and a mere bubble, except guaranteed to them by an independent and virtuous Judiciary”. We can have all the best laws in the world, but if we do not have an impartial judiciary, they will not serve any purpose for the ordinary citizens. These two, informed citizenry and a strong judiciary, must work in sync for any nation to develop and achieve its full potential. Liberia as a nation has never been fortunate to have these two catalysts for sustainable growth and development working in sync, at any point in its 171-year history. We seem to have an abundant of callous leaders with no vision for the country and its people, and an inactive citizenry that gravitates towards these ineffective leaders. A nation is as good as its citizens, everything must center on the furtherance of life, liberty, and social and economic upward mobility of its citizens. According to Adlai E. Stevenson, “…citizens of this democracy, you are the rulers and the ruled, the law-givers and the law-abiding, the beginning and the end”. There will be no nation without people, and as people we must be informed enough to know that we are in charge of our democracy and we decide who leads us. We must also demand that those who lead us be informed, because they are ordinary citizens like ourselves before they are chosen. It is a disservice to self and country not to seek the best to lead you.  As free citizens under the right circumstances, we decide who leads us, who represents our collective interest and values in and outside of Liberia. When it comes to political participations in Liberia, our choices in leadership are hardly based on tangible leadership qualities; they are often based on short-lived inducements like- few bags of rice and a little cash, tribal and religious affiliations. Aligning with individuals with similar tribal and religious background is not a crime, but when such alignment undermines our ability to appreciate those qualities that a good leader must have, then it becomes a societal issue. We have institutionalized our tribal and religious identities into political parties in Liberia; it has created over-zealous sycophants and cult-like institutions and figureheads. Sometimes out of sheer ignorance, we follow individuals who are not prepared enough to become leaders. These choices have prolonged negative consequences that do not end with us; they trickle down to generations yet to come.One can argue that being an informed and active citizen is part of our civic duties and responsibilities. An informed citizenry sets standards for its leaders, understands the roles of its leaders and how their actions can either positively or negatively impact the lives of every citizen. In countries where citizens are cognizant of their rights and the responsibilities of their leaders, there is peace, stability and development; there is unity and respect for the rule of law. They often keep their leaders in check and hold them accountable. For so long our nation has been led by men and women with selfish agenda; they take advantage of the gullibility of the electorates most of whom are driven by ethnic and religious sentiments, instead of substantive issues that are vital for nation building. That’s why it is important that the few good people don’t sit and let others dictate their affairs. In Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract, he writes: -“As soon as any man says of the affairs of the State “What does it matter to me?” the State may be given up for lost”.  And like my mentor Shaykh Mohammed Ayoud Dukuly always tells me, “When the qualified are not available, the unqualified become the available”. We must stand up and add our voices to others in calling for an end to the devaluation of our identity and nation.We hardly critically engage people who come to us to be our leaders, we don’t ask them hard questions, their views about governance, rule of law and nation building; we do not examine their values and moral uprightness, and past accounts. We cannot move forward and secure a better future for our children if we are bent on electing spineless and clueless individuals to lead us. Thomas Jefferson once said, “An informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy”. Nations are built by conscious citizens who are informed and able to identify those prepared individuals from amongst themselves to lead them. If we respect and value ourselves, we must select people who will respect and value us. We have to be willing to change our attitudes in order to change our condition. An alien will not come to our aid; we must petition our leaders to govern us justly and with respect.We’ve all heard the saying that goes,” Rome wasn’t built in one day”. Sure, no nation can be built in a day, but neither it is built by unconscionable criminals nor bastardized advocates. Liberia has been around for some 171 years and we are one of the least developed nations in the world. Even though, we have the natural resources that can bring sustainable growth and development to us, but we have never been able to transform our lives and live in peace and harmony. One may ask why? The answer is simple: we have refused to be informed and active citizens; we have surrendered our rights to hold to account our leaders, we have relegated good governance and equal opportunities in exchange for instant gratifications and satisfying our few momentary urges. That’s how low we’ve allowed ourselves to stoop.  In the long run, these actions ferment public discontents and agitations against leadership; they cause conflicts and civil upheavals.Citizens of all great nations go to great length to fully learn and understand the responsibilities of their leaders to them, and they are active participants in the governing process. They petition only individuals who will deliver the most dividends. For them, choosing an effective leader does not begin and end due to similarities in ethnic and religious values, it goes beyond those boundaries. They take honesty, integrity, wisdom and past interactions into account when choosing their leaders. That’s why their leaders deliver on their promises. When these leaders are vetted, it is done not just to offer few jobs to their loyalists but to actually bring social and economic transformations to everybody. The advocacy of a good leader doesn’t begin or stop when they are given the mantle of authority. It is a vocation for them.We all must stand up and engage those of our compatriots who are not informed to be cognizant and actively participate in their governance, because they have the means to change their social and economic condition by being informed and through participation. If you can contribute by writing one sentence or speaking a word, do it. If our actions convince an individual to become an informed and active citizen, I think, that can be counted as a success.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

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Court action filed to compel President, Cabinet to resign

first_imgFormer Attorney General (AG) Anil Nandlall has approached the court to compel the David Granger-led coalition Cabinet to stop meeting and resign.The proceedings were filed on Monday. However, a date is yet to be fixed for hearing of the Fixed Date Application.In the court documents seen by Guyana Times, Nandlall is asking for an order compelling the Cabinet, including the President, to resign consequent of the Government being defeated by the vote of a no-confidence on December 21, 2018— which is in accordance with Article 106 (6) of the Guyana Constitution. He is also seeking a Mandatory Order compelling the Cabinet, including the President, to give effect to the resignation of the Cabinet, including the President, which occurred by operation of law following the successful passage of the No-Confidence Motion (NCM).The former AG is also seeking a Conservatory Order, or an order restraining the Cabinet, inclusive of the President, from meeting, making decisions, or performing the functions of Cabinet, consequent of the successful passage of the motion as outlined in the Constitution.Article 106 (6) states: “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by a vote of majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly”.In his affidavit, Nandlall posited that as a politician and elected representative of Guyanese, he has a public, parliamentary, political and constitutional duty to ensure that the laws of Guyana are obeyed and complied with, especially by the Executive.“I file these proceedings in the discharge of those duties and am clothed with the requisite locus standi to do so,” the Opposition Member of Parliament stated.Nandlall pointed out that provisions of Article 106 (6) clearly mandates and compels the Cabinet, inclusive of the President, to resign once it is defeated by a vote of no-confidence.However, nine months after the passage of the motion, Cabinet has failed and neglected to resign in accordance with the unambiguous prescription and mandate of Constitution, and continues to function in contravention of Article 106 (6).He noted that in January 2019, multiple legal challenges were launched against the validity, legality and constitutionality of the said No-Confidence Motion, and despite the courts— including the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)— ruling that “upon the passage of this motion of no confidence in the Government, the clear provisions of Article 106 immediately became engaged” as well as a recent letter from Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, who requested the President and his Cabinet to resign and dissolve Parliament, the Head of State did not accede to the request.“It must be emphasised that the Leader of the Opposition did not request the President to resign from the Office of the President but to simply resign as a Member and the Chairman of Cabinet. Since then, numerous Members of the Government, inclusive of the Attorney General (Basil Williams), have publicly stated that the Cabinet, inclusive of the President, will not resign, thereby continuing to perpetuate a breach of Article 106(6) of the Constitution,” he outlinedTo this end, Nandlall reminded the Court that it is the guardian of the Constitution, and has an inherent duty to grant appropriate remedies whenever the Constitution is likely to be, is being or has been contravened.The People’s Progressive Party Opposition, of which Nandlall is an Executive Member, has been contending that Guyana is in a constitutional crisis as the government continues to delay the hosting of early elections which was triggered by the passage of the NCM.According to Article 106 (7), “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election”.This meant elections were to be held since March 21, 2019. However, with the legal challenges, that timeline was on pause but was subsequently reinstated after the July 18, 2019 CCJ ruling, which validated the passage of the motion.Against this backdrop, the Opposition was pushing for a September 18, 2019 polling day. But President Granger had insisted that he cannot set a date without first being advised by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on its preparedness to host General and Regional Elections.GECOM had come under heavy criticism for deliberately delaying the elections by going ahead with the controversial House-to-House Registration. The constitutionality of this exercise was then challenged in court.In fact, Chief Justice Roxane George earlier this month ruled that the conduct of House-to-House is not unconstitutional or illegal. However, she noted that GECOM cannot operate as it would in a normal elections cycle. Given that the NCM triggered early elections, the Chief Justice had stated that there are other methods that can be used to sanitise the voters’ list in a timely manner, such as Claims and Objections.She had also ruled that it would be unconstitutional for GECOM to remove qualified persons already on the voters’ list. The Opposition had said this was a signification victory since the House-to-House exercise was aimed at creating a new National Register of Registrants (NRR) Database.Nevertheless, the Justice Claudette Singh-led Elections Commission on Tuesday announced that the registration exercise would be scrapped at the end of this month, and the information gathered thus far will be merged with the existing databaseIt was noted that GECOM would then move to an extensive Claims and Objections exercise before a Preliminary List of Electors (PLE) is extracted.President David Grangerlast_img read more

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