President says they will only be ‘acting’
The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), says it is disappointed at President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s recent decision to reappoint top government officials who resigned to participate in the October 10 polls—many of whom lost their races.
CENTAL’s Executive Director, Anderson Miamen, stated at a press conference on Tuesday, “We are deeply disappointed in the President’s decision and see her action as a continuation of the patronage system that has undermined effectiveness and efficiency in public service over the years.”
It is a bad sign that resigned officials who were unsuccessful in the just-ended legislative elections are returning to work, he said. Some of the affected officials included former Gender Minister, Julia Duncan Cassell who contested in Grand Bassa County; Mr. Varney Sirleaf, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, who contested in Bomi; Bong County Superintendent, Selena Mappy-Polson, and several others.
All of these have been reappointed to their previous positions.
With this latest action of the President, Miamen questioned the change in the governance system she promised in 2006. Her election in 2005, according to the President, was a vote for change from the past; a vote for peace, security, and stability; a vote for healing and leadership. “We have heard you loudly, and we humbly accept your vote of confidence and your mandate,” she said in 2006.
Because they resigned from their positions, reappointing them means they must be subjected to confirmation proceedings by the Senate, but Presidential Press Secretary, Jerolinmek Piah, who confirmed the reappointments on a local radio station, said the reappointed officials will only be acting in those capacities.
Mr. Miamen, however, noted, “Continuously working with a select few, especially family members and friends, paints a picture that there exists a void of competence, a proposition we refuse to accept. We strongly believe that there are many other Liberians willing and able to work in the concerned capacities.”
He said people should not see the public pie as an entitlement that can be reclaimed after resignation.
“We also wonder why the President continues to hold sacred the very people rejected by their constituencies at the polls,” he said.
Miamen questioned the President’s motive behind these reappointments. “Are these individuals being reappointed to make up for their financial losses during their failed election bids? How sure are we that those in question were not remotely running their offices and taking their salaries and benefits while away campaigning?”
Miamen said, “The President’s latest action does not augur well for the new Liberia we seek to build; a Liberia that frowns on and robustly addresses corruption, provides equal access to job opportunities and does not create the impression that certain individuals are entitled to government positions.”
“With a very high level of unemployment in the country, we cannot afford to entrench a selected few in power when there are several others, perhaps more qualified and competent, to equally serve in said positions,” he said.
He wants the President to refrain from creating the wrong impression that certain Liberians are entitled to government positions and can leave and return at will, even if there are others more qualified and competent to replace them. “Doing so undermines efforts to break away from the patronage culture and create a society of equal opportunities for all,” he said.
Another person who has accused the President of perpetuating an imperial presidency is veteran politician Blamo Nelson. On a local station this year, the former Grand Kru County Senator described President Sirleaf as the most imperial President Liberia has ever had. “Because of the imperial power that the President exercises, the Legislature has fallen short of performing its constitutional duties to the fullest,” he said.
“I am saying the Legislature has become impotent. The President has neutralized the Legislature,” declared Nelson.
His statements were prompted by the President’s decision, through Executive Order #84, to reduce Liberia’s Inshore Exclusion Zone (IEZ) from six Nautical Miles to three Nautical Miles which she claimed was for the purpose of revitalizing commercial and semi-industrial fishing in Liberia.
Said action, Nelson said, would reduce the territorial fishing right of Liberia and open avenues for foreigners to exploit the country’s fishing industry. “This kind of behavior on the part of the government is mind-boggling,” he noted.
The president, in that Executive Order, also removed the Bureau of National Fisheries from the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) to the Liberia Maritime Authority, but the veteran politician said such a decision undermines the Constitution of Liberia.
“To take the Fishery Bureau to Maritime is unlawful. You have to amend the Act creating the Ministry of Agriculture. You can’t do that with an Executive Order.”