Although President Weah stated in his maiden state of the nation address that Liberia is broke and the economy is broken, the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) believes that the veracity (truth) of such information can only be established when a thorough audit of activities of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led government is conducted by the current administration.
The INCHR has, therefore, called on President Weah not to let go of the constitution but to conduct an audit of the administration of former President Johnson Sirleaf.
According to the Commission, there were some interesting moments or issues highlighted during the transition. These include human rights concerns, funding (budgetary allocation), appointments, and assets retrieval.
INCHR Acting Chairperson, Bartholomew B. Colley, in a statement on Monday, said there is a compelling need for President Weah to carefully look at issues and address them adequately, so as to enhance the transition process and strengthen the country’s development agenda.
“The INCHR is, therefore, admonishing the president not to let go of the constitution, as well as the various statutes and regulations that are the current controlling instruments of the state,” Colley said.
Mr. Colley said the instruments must be respected, until their legality is challenged before a court of competent jurisdiction and same is annulled or repealed.
He said the Commission highly appreciates national and international actors for the peaceful transition from one regime to another, recognizing the important roles that all these actors have played in ensuring the country’s peaceful progress.
“The coordination, cooperation, support and organization we have seen sent a signal of a people prepared to work towards a common cause, the forward march of the country,” Colley declared.
During President Weah’s first address to the joint session of the legislature, he vowed to govern strictly in line with the constitution and the oath he took to uphold, protect and defend it.
He told the legislature that information received from the regime of former President Sirleaf shows that there has been a decline in revenue generation over the past years.
Revenue collected in 2017 was reported to be US$489.1 million, whereas in 2016, the revenue raised was US$565.1million, representing a 13 percent reduction.
“I cannot be expected to report with authority on the expenditure and income over the past years. I cannot vouch over the accuracy of this information,” said Weah, who has been in office for only one week.
Weah promised that a full and proper audit will be conducted on the ways in which the country’s resources has been used, adding, “we should all make sacrifices.”
Weah then made a declaration, portraying a concrete demonstration of the sacrifices needed in the wake of the current economic slump, which he said leaves a lot to be done and desired.
Meanwhile, INCHR encouraged the president to reconsider the removal from office of the Head of Secretariat of the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) in obedience to the rule of law.
Mr. Colley said the position should be appointed by the Multi-Stakeholder Steering Group (MSG) pursuant to The LEITI, according to the “Act of July 2009 Section 6.3d.”
Colley continued, “LEITI’s Head of Secretariat in the supreme interest of adherence to the rule of law, which is sacrosanct in every democracy, especially so in Liberia’s nascent democracy that must be nourished with every facet of the rule of law.
The president’s reconsideration should be followed by an action to complete the structuring of the MSG as provided for in Sections 6.4 and 6.5 respectively of the LEITI Act.”
Additionally, the Commission spoke on the president’s decision to elevate the position of his Economic Advisor to a Cabinet Minister, in view of the fact that the president has the power to appoint several Ministers of State without Portfolios, not to create a position which, according to him, is a total disrespect to the constitution.
The Commission said President Weah must utilize the channel, if he wants to elevate a particular position, because it is the legislature, and not the executive, that is clothed with the authority to make laws without any consideration for the legislature.
The Human Rights Commission said while it recognizes the president’s authority to make appointments as expressed in Article 54 of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, it is also encouraging the president to respect and honor all laws and statutes enacted by the legislature in accordance with Article 34L of the same constitution.
The Commission believes that when President Weah took the oath of office on January 22 of this year and declared to the Liberian people and the world at large that he “Shall uphold the Constitution of Liberia,” the Commission demand the government to ensure full respect of the constitution and laws of Liberia.
He said the Commission is also concerned over the detention and subsequent suspension of Mr. Alfred Cheeks, an employee of the Central Bank of Liberia and a Liberian citizen, who has been deprived of his liberty on national security charges of revealing the travel expense of the president.
Mr. Colley said the Commission’s attention has also been drawn to a recent public announcement attributed to the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA), which calls upon the Armed Forces of Liberia to “Shoot on Sight anyone who attempts to steal any of the navigational equipment within the premises of the RIA”.
He said while the Commission detests theft or sabotage of government’s and private citizens’ vital assets, this does not in any way justify extrajudicial killing. Therefore the Commission views the LAA statement as being reckless and extreme, showing a total disregard for the value of human life.