‘Cruel and Unusual’

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Longtime Liberian political activist and current businessman, Professor Dew T. Mason, has described as "cruel and unusual" the recent decision by the national legislature to amend the CBL Act banning the governor, his deputies, and the board of governors from contesting political seat for three consecutive years after the expiration of their tenure.

In a statement issued in Monrovia Tuesday, Mason observed that in amending Part IV, Section 13 of the Act establishing the Central Bank, the Legislature sets itself up as both judge and jury by outlining a series of offenses under which the Governor and the Board Members could be impeached and then arrogating to itself the right to determine whether "an impeachable offense" has in fact been committed.

Professor Mason also observed that in amending Part IX, Section 44 of the Act, the Legislature, in clear contravention of Article 11, Section C of the Constitution— which forbids any act of discrimination against anyone— went on to bar the Governor and members of the Board from contesting in any elections while "serving in their respective offices" and for three consecutive years "after the expiration of their tenure."

“What a piece of discriminatory and retroactive legislation! What an "unconstitutional act," he declared. Professor Mason called on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to veto the bill in order to protect her integrity and save the state. “The practice of this policy of good economics and good politics, in the present situation by the CBL, must begin with the veto by the President of ‘the atrocious’ amendments to the CBL Act.”

“In fact,” he stated “for a President who has prided herself on her commitment to justice and good governance, there is no choice:  She must veto the bill and thereby save the credibility which she personally has garnered before and since her election to the presidency.”

Ambassador Mason indicated that through her veto, “the President would also be saving Liberia from a Legislature bent on further shaming the Liberian people by enacting Apartheid-type laws in a country which was so vocal in its condemnation of Apartheid!”

Mason expressed dismay over the bill, which he observed was railroaded through the legislative process with uncommon speed and in neglect of the usual procedures.

He described CBL executive governor, Dr. J. Mills Jones as a man of unquestionable integrity, great intelligence and experience, and singular devotion to duty.

According to the Liberian businessman, since its inception two years ago, the CBL through its Loan Extension and Availability Facility (LEAF) has provided loans to Liberians in all the 15 counties amounting to nearly L$400 million.

“Simply put, Liberians must be empowered to fully participate in the development of their country. This is the worthy objective which the CBL loan initiatives, however limited, are aimed at achieving.  This is the model of development that has been followed by the US,” he stressed.

Ambassador Mason said he was not surprised that US Ambassador, Deborah Malac, has given a ringing endorsement of the CBL loan initiatives, stressing that Governor Jones' effort at stimulating the Liberian economy and assisting Liberian businesses was "a step in the right direction."

“Indeed, the United States assists American businesses through various means:  affirmative action, strategic sectors and contracts reserved only for nationals, etc.  China practices it with its policy of "guoijin mintui"–meaning, the state advances while the private sector retreats.  Nigeria is implementing it with its policy of "local content" which obliges foreign companies to partner with Nigerian companies in the execution of most contracts in Nigeria.

“Again, I ask you–you People of Liberia:  What is wrong with a policy which takes Liberian money and lends it to Liberians?  Doesn't our Government take Liberian money and gives it to foreign companies in the form of duty free privileges and tax holidays?” wondered Ambassador Mason. The Liberian businessman contended that the initiative of the CBL aimed at empowering Liberia is good economics.

“This is good economics and indeed good politics. For as more and more Liberians become prosperous—good economics— more and more Liberians will come to support the government—good Politics.”

He called on Dr. Jones not to be discouraged by the misdeeds of his critics, who constitute a minuscule and often inconsequential part of the country’s political calculus.  “He and his program for the empowerment of Liberians have already received the gratitude of the vast majority of our people. His character and his capabilities have brought into the limelight the qualities so lacking in his opponents.  That is why the moral Lilliputians in our society are trying to bring him (Dr. Jones) down to their own debased level.”

Meanwhile, thousands of Liberians Thursday staged a peaceful protest against the amended CBL Act.

Having obtained a permit from the government, thousands representing youths and students groups, business organizations, marketers, yanna boys and many others participated in the protest.  

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