By Bill W. Cooper
Hundreds of aggrieved employees of the ‘Reclaiming Liberia’s beaches and waterways’ program have taken to the streets in demands of their long-overdue salaries owed them by the government.
The aggrieved protesters, predominantly older men, women, and youths, during their protestation in Monrovia, also threatened not to vote for President George M. Weah if their over 21 months’ salary arrears are not timely addressed.
The plight of the Beaches and Waterways employees highlights a simmering issue that has not received sufficient attention in recent times, as for months now, these dedicated workers have been left without any means of sustenance, as their wages continue to be withheld by government through the Ministries of Youth and Sports, and Finance.
As a result, the protesting employees, many of whom are mothers and fathers, find themselves trapped in a cycle of economic despair, unable to fulfill their basic needs or support their families.
With a little over a week to the October 10 Presidential and Legislative Elections, the striking employees also vowed to canvas against the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) government, due to Finance Minister Samuel Tweah’s refusal to settle their pay.
The program, spearheaded by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, was established during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to clean waterways and beaches in Liberia, and to help provide employment opportunities for scores of slum dwellers.
The program was however halted by the Minister of Youth and Sports, D. Zeogar Wilson, over lack of funds to pay workers.
But the aggrieved protesters before the entrance of the Ministry of Finance yesterday in Monrovia, said the project had been going on smoothly during the Sirleaf administration until the appointment of the current Youth and Sports Minister, Zeogar Wilson, by President George Weah, when everything came to a standstill.
This, the protesters explained, “Since Minister D. Zeogar Wilson assumed office at the Youth and Sports Ministry in February 2018, the Beaches and Waterways program has suffered immense salary delay and denial of our arrears owed by the government.”
“The Minister has also demonstrated his inability administratively, which led the project into this huge amount in arrears,” the aggrieved workers stated in a conversation to a team of journalists during their protestation.
The workers, among other things, further called for the project to be transferred from the Ministry of Youth and Sports to another government institution related to project activities, demanding all payment of their arrears to be made through commercial banks or by the Finance Ministry, and not by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
The angry workers, predominantly residents of major slum communities in Monrovia and its environs, including New Kru Town, West Point, Banjor, PHP and ELWA, at the same time blamed Minister Wilson for unilaterally shutting down the program and failing to pay their just benefits.
His action, according to them, further undermines the Government’s Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), adding, “But the October 10 elections will determine this government’s fate if our money is not given.”