Montserrado County District #4 Representative-elect, Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis, a newcomer to the Lowe HouseMuch advocacy by women’s groups and feminist leaders across the country demanding for greater participation of women in Liberia’s political affairs did not yield the expected results, considering the outcome of the October 10 presidential and legislative elections.According to the final results released by the National Elections Commission (NEC) on the representative elections, only 9 out of the whopping 146 women (barely 6.2%) who ran for legislative seats were victorious against their male counterparts across the 73 electoral districts nationwide.The result brings in a few new faces, but absolutely no increment to the 54th Legislature, as there were 9 women representatives in the 53rd.The 9 winning women representatives-elect include five incumbents: Haja Fata Siryon (Bomi County District #3); Mary Karwor (Grand Bassa County District #2); Munah Pelham-Youngblood (Montserrado District #9); Julie Fatorma Wiah (Lofa County District #2); and Mariamu Fofana Beyan (Lofa County District#4); as well as four new ones: Moima Briggs Mensah (Bong County District #6); Schaack Rosana (River Cess County District #1); Ellen Atton (Margibi District #3); and Restonlyn Suacoco Dennis (Montserrado District #4).Such a dismal performance means that women could not make the push to get the 30 percent representation that they had consistently demanded through an Affirmative Action Bill that is still languishing at the national legislature.The Affirmative Action Bill demands a certain number of seats in the Legislature for women, youth and people living with disabilities, as a way of building inclusivity into the lawmaking process, encouraging the participation of marginalized groups.In its original version, the bill proposed the creation of 21 ‘Special Legislative Constituencies’, out of which 15 seats would be reserved exclusively for women and three seats each for the youth population and people with disabilities. The bill also demands at least one seat each from the youth and people with disabilities groups to allotted to women representatives — a total of 17 women if the bill passes as is.In August 2016, the Liberian Senate passed and forwarded the Affirmative Action Bill to the House of Representatives amid strong support from various women groups and other stakeholders under the leadership of the Women Legislative Caucus and the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection. The House of Representatives welcomed the idea of the bill but slashed the number of dedicated women seats by at least 10, a move on which the Senate is expected to concur.The bill was strongly opposed by many youth and civil society groups, as well as Montserrado District #9 representative candidate Fubbi Henries, who was defeated by the incumbent, Rep. Youngblood. Henries said the Affirmative Action Bill contravenes the Constitution of Liberia and does not seek to represent the interests of the vast majority of Liberians.He argued that the Constitution provides equal opportunity for all without discriminating against any sector of the Liberian society, thereby opening the corridor for all Liberians to vie for any position in the public or private sector.According to him, the decision to allot seats to the groups concerned should be made through a national referendum because the proposed seats would cost taxpayers at least US$3 million.He noted that in order to help the people, the Affirmative Action Bill should instead invest funds in job skills and other training programs that will develop and prepare the physically challenged, youth and women for the job market in the private sector.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Bauxite workers’ protestsLoggers utilising the Berbice River as a transport medium have been left in a quandary, as the current blockage of the waterway by dismissed employees of Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated (BCGI), is having a negative impact on their operations and businesses.Filed photo: Workers and residents protesting the dismissal of the Rusal workersThe BCGI – which is owned by Russian Aluminium company (RUSAL) – dismissed 61 workers on February 19, 2019, for protesting against a one per cent wage increase and a further 30 employees after a section of the operation was closed. However since then, RUSAL’s employees have blocked a section of the Berbice River, which leads to the company’s operation located at Aroaima, Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice). Sections of the access road were also obstructed to prevent anyone from entering.For now, the loggers are not allowed to use the river and have been stranded for almost two weeks. One local sawmill owner from Canje, Berbice, Imtiaz Hoosein, explained to Guyana Times that while attention is being placed on the deadlock between RUSAL and its employees, consideration must be given to other stakeholders who are notably affected.“The concern is only reflecting on RUSAL and its workers but we are small loggers and we are affected. I purchased some logs from up there and I’m stuck for over 10 days because they are not allowing them to pass,” said Hoosein.The businessman explained that he would usually purchase timber once a month from Kwakwani in Region 10. The logs, worth millions of dollars, would be loaded at Aroaima to begin a four-day journey along the Berbice River to New Amsterdam.“The logs were purchased in Kwakwani and we would use the river to transport the logs to New Amsterdam. We transport one load every month. We already load the logs and they’re not allowing my workers to pass. We understand the workers and the company issue but I don’t know why we can’t pass. We were told everybody has to wait. It’s frustrating to have to wait,” said the logger.He added that his timber along with other loggers and four of his employees have been waiting to access the river for over 10 days; a situation which is affecting his business significantly since extra monies were paid to the workers and reimbursement for customers who cannot stand the wait.“We losing money because these logs are already paid for. I collect advance from customers and lumber yards for maintaining my business. People are frustrated that they have to wait so I have to give them a refund and now its 10 days extra I have to pay the workers. The extra time and money for the workers alone is over $200,000,” he explained.The river has been blocked with wire rope, preventing bauxite-laden barges from passing.This publication understands that as a result of the blockages, the Russian company has lost millions already. It had also advised some 30 employees that their department was closed until further notice as a result of the ongoing events.During a meeting with the Guyana Bauxite and General Workers Union (GB&GWU) and representatives of RUSAL, the company said it failed to recognise the Union. However, the stalemate ended last Tuesday when the Union and the company met with representatives of the Labour Department and recognition was given to the worker’s association.According to Chairman of the GB&GWU, Lincoln Lewis the workers claimed they will continue with this form of protest until they are satisfied with what the company offers. This also means that RUSAL needs to obey the laws of Guyana.In light of the standoff, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had said that under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, a similar matter had arisen, and the then Administration managed to save the jobs that were at risk.