Presidential candidate and standard bearer of the New Deal Movement on why he is running for president and his secret recipe to trounce the woman he helped win the presidency in 2005.
Much has been written and said about Dew Mayson, the former head of the National Investment Commission under the reign of Samuel Doe and one few surviving remnants of the progressives era now eyeing the presidency of the Republic of Liberia. In 2005, many credited Mayson for engineering the financial backing that took Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf over the top in the second round. Now six years later, Mayson is looking to do the same with his own candidacy. Dogged by allegations that he was behind the sale of Liberian embassies in France, Belgium and Nigeria, Mayson’s mystique as a relatively obscure politician who caught a break during the Doe years have left critics and political observers unsure about his agenda and motives for the presidency. Some have suggested that Mayson is out on a vengeance mission, angry that Sirleaf did not repay him for his assistance in 2005 with the Foreign Minister Post. So why is Dew Mayson running? The Presidential candidate recently sat down with FrontPageAfrica to lay down the gauntlet about his race for the presidency as he addresses a number of issues still boggling the minds of sceptics and political observers.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Why are you seeking the Liberian Presidency?
DEW TUAN WLEH MAYSON: I am seeking the presidency not because I am looking for a job. I am not a professional politician. Indeed, as President, I will not accept a salary. My salary will be donated to various charities: orphanages, widows, the handicapped, etc. Moreover, I believe the President is already paid too much. We pay all the president’s expenses, so what does the president want with a salary again?
I am seeking the presidency in order to give the leadership necessary to solve the burning problems with which our people are saddled—the problem regarding the huge rate of unemployment; illiteracy (85 per cent); the high infant mortality rate (one in ten die before their 5th birthday); the inadequate education and health system (our children cannot pass the watered down WAEC exams); the blatant corruption and cronyism (see the various reports of the Auditor General and Transparency International’s recent indictment of our country as “one of the most corrupt countries in the world”); the creeping assault on our liberties (remember the arbitrary arrest and jailing of the LINSU students, the unlawful attempt to arrest the member of staff of the General Auditing office); the lack of empowerment of Liberians so that they can participate in the development of their country; the failure to effect the reconciliation which our country so badly needs. And the list can go on. In brief, show me the vision that is being articulated to unite our people and to lift them from the depths of poverty in which they now find themselves?
Look what this Government has done with regard to the concessioning out of our resources. They have given out our mines, forestry and petroleum resources without involving Liberians in the exploitation of these resources. Moreover, the Government has not implemented a program to train Liberians to run these concessions. I suppose they would be satisfied with Liberians doing only the menial jobs.
When we assume leadership of our country, we shall implement programs aimed at employing our people. Job creation will be at the cornerstone of our economic policy. Because when Liberians are working, they will be able to pay their children’s school fees, put food on the table, and send their children to a clinic when they are sick. And most importantly, when Liberians are working they will regain the dignity and pride to which every Liberian is entitled—the dignity and pride of being able to take care of themselves and their families.
Finally, I am running for President not because I believe I can make Liberia perfect. No, I am running because—like the vast majority of our people-- I do not want the next six years to be like the last six years. I am running for President because I know that together we can make Liberia a better, happier place for all our people. That is why I am running.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Who is Dew Tuan-Wleh Mayson and what is his educational and political background?
MAYSON: I, Dew Tuan-Wleh Mayson, was born to struggling parents in the town of Torbornyen (Lexington as it was officially called) in the county of Sinoe. My childhood and that of so many members of my generation were made difficult and even unhappy by poverty and existence of a class system which reserved special privileges for a small and cliquish ruling class. When we had to attend secondary school, we would get up early in the morning, fetch water, travel in canoe across a river, and then walk for 45 minutes to the school.
But, spurred by the desire to improve ourselves and become “somebody”, we studied hard and went on to improve ourselves. And so, upon graduation from high school, I was ranked the highest scoring student in the Liberian National Examinations for that year. A few months later, I competed with high school graduates from all over Liberia to win one of two scholarships being offered by the African-American Institute for study in the US. Thanks to this scholarship, I enrolled at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. graduating from the School of Foreign Service with high honors in 3 years. Former President Bill Clinton was a school mate. For graduate studies, I enrolled in the MA, Ph.D. program at the University of California, Los Angeles, again graduating with high honors in economics and African studies.
Politically, since returning home from my studies abroad, I have been in the vanguard of our people’s struggle for rice and rights. With Dr. Tipoteh and Dr. Sawyer, we founded MOJA and SUSUKUU which, along with PAL, founded by that giant of a patriot, the late Bacchus Mathews, were to play the leading role in the nascent struggle of the Liberian people in the 70s. For standing up in defense of the poor, the oppressed and downtrodden in our country, I paid a not too small price. I was fired from my positions, harassed by the security forces, and later jailed. While I and my colleagues were being persecuted by government, many of my current political opponents were instead in leading positions in that same government, slavishly serving it and helping it to oppress our people. That is why it is not a matter of boast when we say that if my political opponents can match my educational CV, very, very few, Dr. Tipoteh excepted, can match my record of struggle in defense of our people.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: You were an integral part of an earlier effort to bring various opposition forces together including Weah, Brumskine, Tubman and others. But that failed to hold water. Why do you think that was the case?
MAYSON: You are right that for over a year now, I and many colleagues have been engaged in a running battle to unite the opposition parties to contest the forthcoming elections. The reason is simple: it is only in unity that we shall defeat the Unity Party which seems bent on succeeding itself by “hook or crook”. Our people are also demanding that we unite. That is why we organized the National Democratic Coalition.
It is true that since the dissolution of the Weah-Brumskine merger, we have not seen Brumskine or Weah at our meetings. But that respected gentleman, Counsellor Winston Tubman, remains with us. And so also the New Deal Movement, the National Patriotic Party, the Liberian People’s Party, and the National Democratic Movement for Industrial Change. Four other important parties are in the last stages of joining the Coalition. Senator Prince Johnson keeps up a healthy dialogue with us. At the same time we keep the doors, windows and even the cracks in the wall open to welcome Brothers Weah and Brumskine. That is why we continue to call on these brothers to join the Coalition, for if they say that they truly want a change of government they would unite to bring about this change.
As for me, I have said that I remain committed to the Coalition. Even though I have been elected Standard Bearer of the New Deal Party, I shall be willing to relinquish this post if I lose in the elections to choose a Standard Bearer for the Coalition. And I will give full support to any candidate that the Coalition chooses as Standard Bearer. Indeed, I will support that candidate as if it were myself.
You see, we need to remind ourselves that if we want to participate in a democracy, we must first of all be democrats, that is, we must be willing to submit ourselves to a democratic process of choosing our leadership. For if you cannot win among your colleagues in a Coalition, why do you think you can win in the country at large?
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: There have been a lot of reports and allegations regarding the sale of Liberian embassies in France, Belgium, Nigeria and elsewhere and more recently the ministry of justice suggested prosecution and investigation into those reports. The perception is that you and Ambassador Winston Tubman played key roles in the sales of some of those embassies. Do you think this is politically motivated or is there some truth to those reports?
MAYSON: There is not an iota of truth to these stories. And the Government knows this. If I had in any way been involved in the sale of government properties, would not the Government have prosecuted me by now? The truth is that I resigned as Ambassador to France in l985 with the distinction of being one of the few Liberian government officials who have had the courage to resign on principles. I understand that the embassies were not sold until about 1996, almost eleven years after I had left the post of Ambassador. How could a mere citizen sell Government property? Which fool in any part of the world would just buy a government property from a mere citizen? All this rumour-mongering is simply poppycock—nonsense. The Government knows or should know how its properties were sold. Under my administration, I shall ensure that all government properties illegally sold will be returned to Government.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: You recently penned a book entitled ‘In the Cause of the People’, a homage of sorts to the progressives era. Are you the new face of the modern progressives?
MAYSON: I wholeheartedly embrace the nomenclature ‘new face of the modern progressives’ If it means that in 2011, as in the past, I refuse to remain silent while the masses of our people suffer from high unemployment, inadequate schools and hospitals, high infant mortality rate, mounting insecurity, etc; if I reject the policy of non-empowerment of Liberians, of not giving Liberians the opportunity to participate in the commanding heights of the national economy—the mines, the forestry, the oil; of not extending concrete help to the farmers and the many small Liberian businesses. I accept the nomenclature if it means that I will not allow my commitment to our people to be compromised by the various petty inducements which this ruling party dangles before many progressives, lulling them to sleep and making them to take their eyes off the prize: That prize—let us be clear about it--is to replace the ruling party so that we can implement a program whereby all our thoughts, actions and policies will be in the supreme interest of our people.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Many of your critics are baffled over why you endorsed President Sirleaf in 2005 and is running against her this time around. What is the reason for the sudden turnaround?
MAYSON: You are right that under the banner of the “Liberia First” Initiative, I and a number of colleagues gave wholehearted support to Mrs. Sirleaf in 2005. She had proclaimed to our people and the international community that she was going to serve “only one term”. We thought we had found another Mandela. But we were wrong. Fast forward to 2011, Mrs. Sirleaf now wants another term “to continue the work”.
But we should all remember one important fact: Development is not a l00-metre-dash; it is not a sprint where the fastest runner rushes off and reaches the target. No, development is rather a relay match where one runner passes the baton to another in order to achieve victory. Our people put it simply: “JJ Roberts started it and didn’t finish it. Who told you can finish it?”
Oh, yes, the President has registered a number of achievements. But let us admit it: the facts of our poverty-stricken collective existence remain basically unchanged. No attempt is being made to transform our economy from its reliance on the export of raw materials and the import of finished goods. The outmoded plantation system continues unabated in the rubber industry: You start as a rubber tapper and end up as a rubber tapper. There is no cohesive national strategy for developing the iron ore resources. The oil blocks and major forests are given out without ensuring any Liberian participation. There is no initiative for the training of Liberians to occupy any positions other than the most menial posts. Finally, there is no articulated vision to inspire our people to pull themselves out of the hole of poverty and underdevelopment in which they find themselves. Under the defunct Tolbert administration, at least you had such slogans as “Total Involvement”, Mats to Mattresses, etc. Now under this Government, the only thing one hears about is ‘poverty reduction’ which Presidential aspirant Prince Yormie Johnson has analysed as meaning that “we will always be poor—only a small reduction will be made in this poverty”.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: What is the relationship between you and the woman you are trying to defeat at the polls, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
MAYSON: As President of our country and an elder citizen, Mrs. Sirleaf deserves and I do not hesitate to render to her all the respect and courtesies to which she is entitled. That is why you will never hear me calling the President “names” or in any way attempting to insult her or her office. I intend to continue to run a campaign based on the issues. I practice a type of politics that is without any kind of bitterness. On my part, therefore, I hold the President—as I do all my fellow human beings—in high esteem. This is a basic obligation of my Catholic faith which, by God’s grace, I am trying to fulfil. And I trust that the President holds me—and all her fellow Liberians—in equally high esteem.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: What is your assessment of the ongoing clashes and violence in Libya? Do you think Madam Sirleaf has done enough to condemn Ghaddafi for the alleged atrocities being committed against Libyans?
MAYSON: My heart bleeds for the Libyans and the violence with which they are confronted. No leader has the right to turn the guns on his own people. This Government tied as it is to Colonel Ghaddafi by so many strings, visible and invisible, seems paralysed and incapable of calling a spade a spade, of criticizing the Colonel for the atrocities being committed against the Libyans. What a shame! What is the Government doing about repatriating the many Liberians who are stuck in Libya? Again, it is only silence we get from this Government.
Meanwhile, the Government has embarked upon its own campaign of violence against our people. Look at how the security forces brutalized the students on Bloody Tuesday. And look at how people’s homes and businesses are being torn down at ELWA junction here in Monrovia at a time when our people are already suffering from the lack of adequate housing and huge unemployment. Shame, shame!
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Where would you say is your strongest base in terms of a part of the country that puts you in the best position to upset the presidential race?
MAYSON: The southeast from which I hail is, obviously, one of my strongest bases. Happily, however, our support is being drawn from all over the country as is evidenced by the many support groups found throughout our country. Huge support is to be found among students and young people, among the workers and religious groups, among the unemployed—in short, among the masses of our people.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: What would a Dew Mayson presidency do better than what the Ellen Sirleaf presidency is doing?
MAYSON: In the first place, our government would promulgate a vision and make the provision that will inspire Liberians to engage themselves in the development of their country.
“Liberia First” and “All for one, one for all” will be slogans which will mirror our policies for Liberian empowerment and the reconciliation and unity of our people. With regard to the economy, you will note that at the moment, the economic resources of the country are being exploited in a manner devoid of any national coordination to ensure the building of the necessary infrastructure (railroads, ports, roads, power and water supplies and downstream industries). In the iron ore industry, for example, we shall implement a strategy of coordinating the investment plans of the iron ore companies to achieve the building of a deep water port to accommodate maxi-sized vessels and an integrated rail network to evacuate the ore. Thus we shall reduce the capital investment requirements of investors in the iron ore mining sector.
Agriculture in which most of our people are engaged will be given the priority it deserves by supporting it with improved seeds, technical assistance and intermediate technology (power saws, rice mills, etc.).
We aim at improving the lives of our farmers by raising their productivity and implementing an integrated rural development program.
Today, Liberians are virtually excluded from participation in the exploitation of their resources. Look at the situation with our mines and petroleum resources: these have been contracted out without any thought being given to reserving any of these resources for Liberians or even getting Liberians to partner with the foreign companies.
That is why it is imperative that we set an agenda for the exploitation of our resources which will recognize the rapid development of the Liberian nation as the main objective of this enterprise. The participation of our foreign friends must be vigorously sought. But while welcoming this foreign participation in our development and progress, we must remind ourselves that the hard work and sacrifices which every Liberian must make in order for us to overcome our problems cannot be transferred onto the backs of foreigners. That is why the Liberian man and woman must be empowered through training and state support to fully participate in the economic development of our country. We must be prepared to be the main instrument in the struggle for mass progress in Liberia.
With regard to human rights and freedom of speech and the press, our administration will ensure that these rights are fully respected. I myself have been a victim of the abuse of these rights, and under my watch no individual or institution will be subjected to abuse. Under my watch, Presidential aspirant, Simeon Freeman, students and others will have the right to demonstrate against corruption and other ills of our society without being brutalized by the police whose salaries are paid by our taxes.
Regarding defense, we shall begin by redressing the shoddy and virtual inhumane treatment given to the ex-combatants, retired-AFL soldiers and their widows, not only because much of our internal insecurity is stemming from this ugly situation but because it is just. All compensation due these people will be fully and immediately paid.
We want an army and police that are not only well trained, equipped and justly paid, but an army and police that are people-friendly and who realize that they are paid to protect the people—not to intimidate or brutalize them.
We will address the mounting insecurity in our country, particularly armed robberies. Neighbourhood watch teams will be organized to assist the police in securing our neighbourhoods. At the same time, we shall institute programs aimed at rehabilitating our ex-combatants and our prisoners.
In the area of health and social welfare, the facts speak for themselves: The death rate in our country is still among the highest in the world, caused, among other factors, by the particularly high infant mortality rate. 1 in 10 children die before their 5th birthday. In addition, medical services in most areas of our country are severely limited, costly and of very low quality.
These are bad conditions. We should correct these conditions by instituting a meaningful preventive health program to be run by the state in partnership with the private sector.
We want all our people to benefit from medical care and hospitalization. That is why we shall provide mobile clinics and establish teaching hospitals. We want to provide for the aged, the orphans, and the disabled. We want to ensure for all our people adequate leisure, rest and recreation. Those disgraceful slums in our cities must be eliminated and new housing built to accommodate the people.
The situation regarding education and culture in Liberia also requires serious attention. Only a small number of our people can read and write English. We aim at achieving a hundred per cent literacy in not more than six years. If other sister African countries can do it, we can certainly do so. Even the education taught in our schools is largely irrelevant to our country’s needs. The culture of our people has been left unprotected and is now dominated by foreign cultures. We want this situation corrected by ensuring that all Liberians have access to quality education -- from kindergarten through the University. The aim of this education must be to teach our people about the realities of our country and equip them with the proper attitude and skills necessary to tackle the urgent and important problems facing the people. Our languages, music, art and dance must be rehabilitated and taught in our schools. They must be given adequate support by the state.
In this connection, we want to give pride of place to our traditional societies which will be charged with the responsibility of assisting to instil discipline in our youth who will be encouraged to pass through these societies.
With regard to tackling the scourge of corruption, our administration will, in the first instance, re-appoint John Morlu as Auditor General to send a signal to our people that we are serious in dealing with this malaise. All of us in Government will be obliged to declare our assets. Those charged with corruption will be immediately sent to court and prosecuted.
One more thing: We shall establish a National Youth Service Corps which will be responsible for engaging our young people in the implementation of national development programs. After a period of orientation and training, the youth will be deployed in the literacy campaign and in activities that benefit communities while at the same time developing their abilities and inculcating in them a sense of patriotism and national service.
The program will help to build character and promote the values of good citizenship and leadership. It will engage the youth in two stages: Upon the completion of high school and at the completion of university.
The youth will be deployed throughout the country, preferably in areas from which they did not originate, thus fostering an understanding and appreciation of other Liberians and other areas of the country.
Finally, to resolve the burning issues which hang over our country like the proverbial sword of Damocles, we need a properly constituted sovereign national conference in which all our people (ethnic groups, civil society, civil rights and women’s organizations, labour unions, student organizations, traders, professionals and business persons, etc.) will participate and discuss the political, economic, social, cultural and religious realities of our country. It is at this conference that historic national errors can be corrected-- errors such as: the assertion in our Declaration of Independence that we “were originally inhabitants of the United States”; the divisive statement in the national motto that “the love of liberty brought us here”, etc. etc. The document agreed upon at the conference should be voted on by the people in a national referendum.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: What would you say is your recipe for defeating the incumbent Ellen Sirleaf?
MAYSON: The short of the long answer is: I intend to get more votes on a nation-wide basis than the President. The strategic plan to win the election labelled PATH TO VICTORY, remains, of course, still confidential.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: You have been endorsed by the National Patriotic Party, the New Deal and we understand the Workers Union. Does this mean that you are setting yourself up to cause an upset?
MAYSON: I have also been endorsed by many groups and other political parties. Call it what you may, we intend to be declared the winner when the votes are eventually counted following the elections. And I believe that with God’s grace and the support of our people, so shall it be.