Dillon reacts to Charles Bright’s new role
Political Analyst and Liberty Party Acting Chairman, Abraham Darius Dillon, has over the weekend told the Daily Observer that the Liberian presidency has been practically outsourced by the popularly elected President George M. Weah. Dillon’s views appears to have mirrored that of one Jesse Fahngon whose recent posting on social media questioned whether the powers of the presidency have indeed been outsourced by President Weah.
Mr. Dillon was reacting to recent moves by President George Weah ceding a substantial portion of his Constitutional responsibilities to his economic advisor, Charles Bright. President Weah has elevated Mr. Bright’s portfolio to cabinet level and given him the exclusive power to monitor and evaluate all agencies and ministries of government.
This decision by the President has been greeted with widespread condemnation, with many from the opposition describing the move as unfortunate and scary. Political Analyst and Liberty Party Acting Chairman, Abraham Darius Dillon said in an interview with the Daily Observer on Sunday that the Liberian presidency has been practically outsourced by the popularly elected President.
In a letter to Mr. Bright last week, the President wrote, “I, George Manneh Weah, Sr. President of the Republic of Liberia by virtue of the power in me vested, do hereby acknowledge that Hon. Charles R. G. Bright, my advisor for Economic Affairs, has the status of a Cabinet Minister, with full courtesies and benefits appertaining thereto and commission him…”
That mandate provides Mr. Bright the passage to visit all ministries and autonomous agencies, government commissions, public corporations and state-owned enterprises(wholly and/or partially-owned), to obtain information and advise President Weah on current policies, practices as it relates to the operations of the entity in general, and its personnel in particular.
He is also an ex-officio in all meetings at all entities, board or otherwise, regarding matters with an economic impact on revenue, expenditure, personnel and other assets.
“To ensure, as practically as possible, that personnel actions, employee salaries, other benefits, dismissals, retirement and work schedule are in keeping with approved government guidelines,” the president said.
He added that Mr. Bright will “monitor, generally, all activities of appointed officials and with the written approval of the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, utilize the expertise of other Liberians as resource personnel.”
In accomplishing the above responsibilities, President Weah said: “all head of autonomous agencies of government, public corporations, and state-owned enterprises are mandated to fully cooperate with my above-named advisor and provide him with any and all information, documents and support requested.”
But Liberty Party’s Abraham Darius Dillon argues that the president has outsourced the power given him through the mandate of the Liberian people. “I think it makes sense to me because the only thing left is that Mr. Bright cannot appoint and he cannot sign and approve bills into law and does not have the power to dismiss. But all other functions assigned and delegated to the president have been vested in his Economic Advisor,” he said.
In as much as there are some constitutional functions that the president cannot delegate to anyone, Executive Law provides the president the responsibility to delegate some functions as in this case, opines a local legal practitioner.
But the scary part about this scenario, according to Dillon, is that the president seems to be delegating too much of the functions of the presidency to one person.
“It is not also healthy legally for the president to appoint someone who will technically, in effect, have oversight responsibility for officials appointed by statute,” he said.
By this elevation, the president is empowering Bright and suggesting that he can even have some supervisory roles over the Minister of Justice, Dillon observed. “This is becoming scary for some of us that cabinet members have to subject themselves to the Economic Advisor of the president,” he said.
Many political observers feel that the president’s latest move has made Mr. Bright the de facto President of Liberia. As per the structure of our government and constitution, the president is both the head of state and head of the government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia.
In their opinion, it is clear that too much power in the hands of one person breeds corruption, a lack of performance and, according to the Liberty Party strongman, this could just be another case.
Certain parts of the mandate, Dillon said, severely contravenes many of the statutes that brought those ministries and agencies into being, although he did not name which statues he had reference to. According to him, those statutes that created these entities gave them specific roles, especially as concerns to whom they can report. “So if the president decides to use another channel through which they can report, fine; but for that channel to have a supervisory role does not correspond with the intent of the law as it relates to the delegation of functions”, he said.
“For example, all Boards have a fixed number of persons who should be on them and who attend Board Meetings. So is the president now empowering his Economic Advisor to attend these board meetings? Does he have a voting right? If yes, who authorized him, is it the law or the president? These are some of the critical issues we need to look at.
“In short, if the president does not want the Minister of State, let him remove the man and put Bright there because, in effect, the minister has become a non-entity,” he said.
Bright is known to be one of the prominent figures of the civil war, with strong ties to jailed former President Charles G. Taylor. Bright reportedly served as a rebel general with the National Patriotic Front (NPFL) during the war years. He had a previous stint with Prince Johnson’s Independent National Patriotic Front(INPFL), before defecting to the Charles Taylor-led NPFL in 1991. He is reported to have earned public notoriety for his military style takeover of the Housing Bank, following Charles Taylor’s triumphant entry into Monrovia in 1995.
An aspiring progressive, Moses Uneh Yahmia, said President Weah’s action is a clear manifestation that the presidency is too huge an office for him to occupy. “We told Liberians that running a modern state in this epoch is a very complex phenomenon; that giving the Liberian state to George Weah would have been playing with the destiny of the country and its people,” he said.
He continued, “If the message in this letter does not indicate that Charles Bright is now the de-facto president or country giant, then I don’t know who he is,” he said, adding, “It is unfortunate that the people want to make a pass in school but they refuse to study.”
During his trial in The Hague, Charles Taylor highlighted the important role Mr. Bright played that led to the success of the NPFL. Mr. Bright was initially a part of the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) that was headed by Prince Johnson.
The Resurgence of the Masonic Craft in Liberian Politics
However, this latest action of President Weah, many believe, appears to be a clear manifestation of not only the return of the Charles Taylor Agenda as promised by his ex-wife, currently serving as Vice President of Liberia, but it also signals the return of the Masonic Craft to its former domineering role in Liberian politics.
President George Weah, a few years ago became a member of the Masonic Craft. His newly appointed advisor, Charles Bright, is reported to be highly ranked within that organization which counts in its membership, individuals such as Commerce Minister Wilson Tarpeh and others including lawyers and judges.
The Masonic Craft is known to have enjoyed a special pride of place during the rule of the former ruling True Whig Party. At the time most prominent officials of government could be counted in its ranks. Its power and influence on Liberian politics is said to have been pervasive at the time.
But it can be recalled that the late Bishop of the Episcopal Church, George D. Brown, had proscribed the Masonic Craft from holding ceremonies especially burial rituals in Church edifices because, according to him, its practices were unchristian.
However the Craft was banned following the 1980 military coup and its influence on Liberian politics waned very significantly. It was later unbanned by President Samuel Doe but even then its influence did not rebound to what it was previously during the rule of the True Whig Party.
Under President Taylor, the Craft made a resurgence but it is unclear to what extent its influence was brought to bear on national politics given then President Charles Taylor’s penchant for total domination of political power including the traditional and cultural landscape of Liberia.
Since Taylor’s departure, however, the Masonic Craft has seen a steady rise in its growth and influence in Liberian politics. According to a source(unnamed) during the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, hundreds of U.S. troops serving with the emergency force were reportedly initiated into the Masonic Craft in Liberia as, according to the source, a way of keeping the lid on what was being speculated in some quarters as field testing of weaponized Ebola, a closely guarded secret.
According to political observers, however, since this latest appointment of a very highly ranked member of the Masonic Craft, Charles Bright,to a hitherto non-existent post of influence in Government, there is growing concern that Liberia under a George Weah Presidency is taking a giant step backwards into the past which does not augur well for peace, reconciliation and stability in Liberia.
A well known Liberian social activist, says the mere presence of the Masonic Craft building on a piece of land which was hotly contested by foreign powers but strongly resisted by the lords of the land is symptomatic of the Settler -Indigenous divide which has plagued the unity of the country since time immemorial.
” We should not forget that the acquisition of Cape Mesurado was made possible by an American naval captain Robert Stockton who drew his pistol and pointed it to the head of King “Long Peter” and forced him to cede the land to the settlers”.
Further, according to the activist, King Long Peter had insisted that the area was of sacred importance to his people and could not as such be given out for occupation by foreigners but yielded after having a pistol pointed at his head by Captain Stockton. According to him, the mere symbolism of a Masonic Craft temple standing on grounds which was once a sacred place to the natives is repugnant to any considerations of genuine national reconciliation.
Cape Mesurado, he says should be a national shrine, embodying all Liberians and not a few and their institutions of domination. President Weah, he said, should be mindful noting that former President Tolbert, a past grand master of Masons was betrayed by members of his inner circle who were all Free Masons and who for self-seeking reasons plotted his overthrow.