It was for all intent and purpose an extravagant display of opulence never seen in this country at least since the burial ceremonies of President William V. S. Tubman in 1971. His reign as President lasted for 27 unbroken years and he became known as the Father of the nation.
His funeral and burial ceremonies were attended by dignitaries from around the world including former Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah and former Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. The occasion was attended by much pomp and pageantry befitting a long serving head of state.
He was laid to rest on the grounds of the Centennial Memorial Pavilion. In the style and fashion of slain US President John F. Kennedy, an “eternal flame” was lit at the foot of President Tubman’s grave. The flame has however long since been extinguished owing perhaps to financial reasons.
Recalling history further, Stephen Allen Tolbert, brother of President William R. Tolbert, founder of the Mesurado Group of Companies, former Finance Minister and a multi-millionaire before his appointment to the Finance Ministry, died in a plane crash off the shores of Greenville. He was buried in Bensonville, then Bentol, in a simple concrete vault overlaid with marble tiles.
More to that, another Monrovia socialite, a successful and well known businessman and former Liberia National Police(LNP) Director, W. Thomas Bernard, popularly called Tommy Bernard, was laid to rest at the Palm Grove Cemetery in a simple concrete vault overlaid with marble tiles. His funeral, which was attended by thousands of ordinary Liberians rivaled but to a lesser extent that of Liberian football wizard and legend, Wanibo Toe.
Placed into proper context, those funerals were held at a time in history when existing economic conditions were far better than what currently obtains. The economy was certainly not in a tailspin as it is now with negative growth rates.
With the exception of football legend Wanibo Toe, President Tubman, Stephen Tolbert and Tommy Bernard were men whose no small means could afford even golden caskets and elaborate mausoleums. Perhaps their respective families had and felt no need to assert themselves through such feckless, extravagant and lavish displays of opulence.
The extravagant and lavish display of opulence by Minister of State Nathaniel McGill has since raised much public furore and has been widely condemned by the public. The public is incensed that in the midst of extreme economic difficulties, when most people can hardly afford a daily meal, a public figure would brazenly display such wealth and extravagance to honor a dead person.
But Minister McGill is not alone in this regard. His comes in the wake of Maritime Boss Eugene Nagbe and his purchase of a luxury SUV said to be valued at 75,000 US dollars while another official posted on Facebook pictures of himself washing a newly purchased brand new vehicle with champagne as a gift to his wife.
Looking back, a few years ago most of the current crop of government officials had virtually nothing, neither were they known to have inherited wealth in cash, real estate or landed property. It is very clear in the minds of the public that such wealth now being displayed was acquired not by dint of hard work but by the illegal siphoning of public funds to their personal bank accounts.
From what this newspaper has gathered, the public is incensed and there appears to be a deep undercurrent and growing wave of public disgust and rising discontent which does not bode well for the success of a second term run by President Weah.
Reports of plans underway to narrow the playing field for elections by contriving new rules intended to disenfranchise opposition parties or figures including denying them access to their bank accounts all in order to prevent them from contesting the presidential slot is a risky and very dangerous path to tread.
Perhaps those fomenting such plans are not aware that things could backfire and could do so to their own detriment. They should and ought to draw lessons from recent history where the son of President Sirleaf lost massively to George Weah in the Montserrado County senatorial elections in 2014 and that of CDC Thomas Fallah who lost massively to Darius Dillon in the 2020 Montserrado County senatorial elections.
According to political analysts, this is a common thread (protest votes) running between both elections. Both candidates were popularly rejected by the people. Further, according to analysts, public sentiment against this government for the spate of unbridled corruption by public officials is high and continues to rise by the day especially in the face of worsening economic conditions.
There is little wonder, therefore, that there is an increasing national chorus calling for the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia. And there is little doubt that this is sending jitters down the spines of many past and current government officials.
The current thrust of the Liberian Senate calling for the establishment of what it calls a Transitional Justice Commission to examine the TRC Report is, in the eyes of the public, another futile attempt to railroad the hopes and aspirations of the Liberian people for a new and just social order and an end to the culture of impunity.
According to local and international legal experts, members of the Liberian Senate appear to be a warped understanding of the principles of Universal Jurisdiction and the non-remissibility of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Moreover, according to the experts, there appears to be a concerted attempt to twist the interpretation of international laws and statutes ensconced in Conventions and Protocols to which the Liberian government is signatory in order to accommodate select interests.
In this regard, they opine, this government runs the risk of the imposition of sanctions should it continue to foot drag on the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia. In the final analysis, the choice is President Weah’s because it is more likely than not that he will take ultimate responsibility.