What can a Legislator or Government do?
Julius Kanubah, FPA Legislative Correspondent, email@example.com (+2316586240)
The appalling state of life for residents of the Peace Island Community in Congo town is not in hidden.
The awful condition is just visible all over the place as one walks within the Island which outstretches to the swampy belt heading toward Monrovia.
Soon you begin a journey to the Island, at first, you are you greeted with a bumpy road and a makeshift dusty look muddy bridge that remains threatening.
What is even more evident is the state of poverty and poor learning infrastructure in the area.
At a program to mark the residents’ stated intention of seeking the intervention of government into their nightmare, it became troubling for higher-ups of government assessing the community.
The Peace Island Community School was a discovery of a disgrace in the 21st Century Liberia. The school made up woven-mats is in ruins and the condition can just be described as appalling.
From Representative Edwin Snowe who represents the District in the Legislature to Planning Minister Amara Konneh, they look upset but not surprised by the dismal outlook of the mat built School and the living condition of the people as this too was Liberia.
In a petition statement submitted by the residents to government, they appealed to government to give a legal status to Peace Island amid reports that they risk eviction.
The Peace Island inhabitants said “they are faced with the challenge of health, education, security and sanitation as well as electricity.”
The petition was submitted Saturday (Sunday- May 8, 2011) during as assessment by Montserrado District-Five Representative Edwin Snowe and Planning Minister Amara Konneh.
Representative Snowe thanked the Peace Island residents for the petition and promised to lobby for them to get legal status.
“Openly I want to state that Peace Island has not been forgotten and Peace Island will never be forgotten”.
Snowe was clear that the condition of Peace Island Community which was established as a result of the 2003 fierce rebel battle for the Liberian Capital as thousands of people fled to seek refuge in Paynesville is being discussed at the highest level.
“We’ve sat with the leadership of this Country at the highest level which I mentioned to you the last time I was here with the President and we’ve explained the plight of the people of Peace Island. We made it clear to the President that we have over seventeen thousand inhabitants here that need security”.
Giving the origin of the foundation of Peace Island and defending why it should remain, Representative Snowe recounted that “because of the civil war; in search of life; in search of shelter, people came on this Island and have established themselves on this Island. Today that we have peace; it will do us no good, whether it is the President, whether it is the Representative, whether it is the Minister, to come on this Island to take people out of this Island”.
Representative Snowe explained that his interest in Peace Island is to make sure the residents have the necessary security. His statement comes amidst fear that government was planning to throw out the illegal occupants at the Island. But Snowe now says as a Representative of District #5; he will represent their interest to ensure they have the security.
The Peace Island is a significantly vote-rich territory as the National Elections during the voter registration process established two centers at the Island.
Snowe said with such: “that is why we want to ensure that the least we can have for you is to construct toilet facilities; the least we can do for you, is to make sure you have safe drinking water on this Island; the least we can do for you is to make sure our mothers have a market ground. And of course, to make sure our children go to school so that one day a Liberian child will stand-up and say I was born on Peace Island and today I’m a Minister in my Country; that one day a Liberian child will stand-up to say I was born on Peace Island, and today I’m a Representative; that one day a Liberian child will stand-up to say I was born on Peace Island and today I’m a Senator; and best of all that one day a Liberian child could stand-up to say I was born on Peace Island and that today I’m the President of Liberia”.
Snowe stressed it was important that the opportunities of children of wealthy parents in Mamba Point are the same to that the children of the poverty-stricken Peace Island get.
With such in mind, he was enthusiastic to introduce Planning Minister Amara Konneh- a key government strategist in the development process of Liberia. Prior to introducing Konneh, Snowe revealed how the Minister had described the mat-woven Public School building which he pumped money into in Peace Island as ‘unacceptable’ though he stressed it was time for government to now get involve as this was not what the people of Peace Island needed.
Minister Konneh dressed in short militant looking trousers with a T-shirt and glasses, took the stage to express his pledge to work to ensure basic social services are extended to Peace Island.
“As I stand here I’m touched by what I see. I admire you for dealing with the challenges that you have here. Life is difficult and our Country has been through a lot. To fix this country, it’s not going to be easy. It’s not a five year project; it’s not ten year project. We are talking about really, really, really, to have strong, strong, strong fixing of the country to have twenty-five years, and then we can do the rest later. So that work is everybody work”.
Minister Konneh described the issues of school, safe drinking water, community center and market as legitimate issues for a community of such size, promising to be an ally, advocate and lobbyist of Peace Island which he emphasized must be thankful to God because it has a very good lawmaker in the person of Edwin Snow who cares for the District and its people. He stressed it was not a promise but he would take the residents’ request to other government Ministries and development partners.
During the visit, Minister Konneh described as undesirable the only makeshift mat-built public school in Peace Island, saying it does not represent a 21st century Liberia.
“This school building is unacceptable! For a Country that is 164 years old, no child in Liberia should be under this roof. Because this roof could be wiped away by storm and the kids could get hurt and these are the future of Liberia”.
The strong comment by Minister Konneh sparked sorrow on the faces of the poverty-stricken people of Peace Island but he was quick not to blame Representative Snowe for such condition because in his words the Representative is not the problem
He said “but be it as it may, the Representative through his own initiative has provided this help. The government needs to push him and that’s what we will do”.
With this promise, Minister Konneh and the government will now be monitored to see whether they can muster the will not to forget the people of Peace Island as the children of the community are now in a dangerous learning infrastructure.