-Abandons LMA, laments on national issues
For someone who has been on the cusp of having it all and who has been on the verge of letting it all go, Vice President (VP) Jewel Howard Taylor’s vicissitudes of state power are unenviable. From massive dissent against her within the coalition she helped ascend to state power to being strong-armed for the right to exercise oversight of functionaries under the statutory control of her office as VP, hers is a job that requires wisdom and thick skin.
In a tell-all interview on a local radio station recently, the VP finally broke silence over issues pertaining the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA), other national issues, including the incident in which she nearly tendered her resignation.
VP Taylor was vocal on the Truth FM Super Morning Show on Monday, August 27, 2019 when she spoke on a wide range of national issues, with the LMA being so touching as she reflected on how the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) is running the country.
“I will no longer bother myself with anything that has to do with the LMA, even though it is by law that my office excises an oversight responsibility over that entity, and other agencies of government, such as the Liberia National Lottery and the ‘Group of 77.’
“As a lawyer, I must accept the Court’s decision. I have not been talking, because the Court was in charge of the matter. I could not have been talking on the radio. Everybody now knows that if LMA has a problem, it has to take it to their board. There are so many positive things I want to do. I don’t want to get dragged down into some things that might not be important. I am washing my hands out of its business,” VP Taylor said following the court ruling which declared her decision on the LMA case as “unconstitutional.”
According to her, her attempt to help settle the crisis in the LMA by calling on the Association’s president, Madam Alice Yeabahn, and her fellow workers to step aside from their respective positions until investigations into allegations of corruption were done, so as to bring sanity to the LMA, was done in good faith.
It can recalled that the Supreme Court on Friday, August 22, 2019 upheld a decision from the Lower Court, declaring as “unconstitutional VP Taylor’s suspension of LMA officers, noting that she had breached the 2010 Act of the LMA by unilaterally suspending three of its elected officers.”
“I got a large group of women in my office one day. I did not solicit them, neither checked on them. My issue at that time was to get the ‘Group of 77’ running, and then, they began to explain how the affairs of the LMA were run without the approval of the board, and they felt that there were corruption issues at the time,” she said.
VP Taylor said that the LMA’s board members are recommended for appointment by the president of the LMA and, as such, it is all too difficult for such a board to be free from the LMA president’s influence.
“The system is such that the President of the LMA recommends, who serves on its board. If the president is deciding who serves on the board, then there is no check and balance,” she said.
The Vice President added, “If you do your own assessment of the markets, you realize that there are millions of Liberian Dollars being collected every year, but there are always uncollected garbage all over the place. With the exception of the new markets the President recently dedicated, all other markets have been and continued to be in dilapidated conditions. Are we saying there should be no accountability?”
She noted that when she was approached on the matters of allegations of corruption at the LMA, she called on the General Auditing Commission (GAC) to conduct audits and make available its findings into a comprehensive report.
“Fortunately for me, the GAC, after difficult times in getting all the documents they needed, mostly with those in charge denying them access to those documents, were able to come up with reports, proved that there were very serious systemic problems at the LMA,” VP Taylor said.
She added, “This was early this year, but the LMA took that document to their convention in Zwedru, and the total delegates to that convention came together; reviewed the documents, and unanimously agreed to discharge everybody in leadership at the entity in the mean time.”
She said that her suggestion about the conduct of the audit and temporarily relieving Madam Yeabahn, and her colleagues of their positions did not go well with Yeabahn and her friends.
“The next thing was to take me to court, first as Vice President, and the government, and the second case, I took my case to court as Vice President and the other time, I was taken as Jewel Howard Taylor as an individual. You can imagine how long our lawyers spent with the Courts from the lower level to the top,” she said.
She said from time immemorial, she has never seen the LMA improved in any strive to help clean the markets, renovate them or contribute significant amount to the national budget.
“I know that the former VP Joe Boakai also dealt with these issues, but the same story continues without any change. However, I am Jewel Howard Taylor. Maybe, people think they can ride on names. The President of the LMA many times went on the radio, and said a lot of negative things about me, but that is OK. I have no problem, and they will no longer see me interfere into their affairs,” VP Taylor said.
Almost resigned as VP
“It was too much for me. I had lots of tension, mainly when there were accusations coming from supporters and some top officials in the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), with whom we are into this Coalition, that I was supporting the Council of Patriots (CoP) as they planned their protest on June 7 to call on us as a government to lead well,” she said.
Thereafter, she said many people, including some senators and other friends, “including my supporters within the National Patriotic Party (NPP),” appealed to her not to resign, and she listened to them.
“I was asked to receive the petition from the CoP on June 7, but with the speculations of instability associated with the protest, I was afraid. In fact, due to the worry, my pressure went up,” Taylor said. “At no point did I support any protest, neither any action against the government, which I am serving as its Vice President.”
“Darius Dillon is like my son, who I grew into politics, because he was my office chief of staff. And it also goes with Representative Melvin Cole, and Senator Henry Yallah of Bong County. I trained them, and so in no way I can go against them. I could not wish Dillon a failure, but at the same time, I have not given my support to him over Paulita Wie,” she said.
However, she said her own party, the National Patriotic Party (NPP), which is a member of the coalition, did not have any voice in the selection of the candidacies, Paulita C.C. Wie and and Abu Kamara, for the Montserrado County by-elections.
“I was not contacted about what we could do to nominate the coalition’s candidates, because my party had no voice, and so this has led to Senator Sando Johnson, and others within the NPP to call for our withdrawal. But I stand for peace, and so I am not deterred by all the challenges currently facing my office as the Vice President, and as the standard bearer of a political party (NPP) that played its part in campaigning across the length and breadth of the country to see us succeed as a coalition,” she said.
Limited funds to VP’s office
VP Taylor said that she has lots of things she is interested in getting done before she leaves the office, but she lacks the financial means.
“I understand the tough economic challenges, and so we cannot push too far for more budgetary appropriation, but in fact, many of the things we used to get are no longer coming forth, to the extent that we no longer receive gas slips. We don’t have the needed money to take care of our projects, but we are hopeful that things will get better. It is our prayer that our economy improves so we can make our impact before leaving office,” she said.
About the ‘Group of 77,’ VP Taylor said she has written some donor partners for support to engage in agricultural programs in Todee, where she said the disabled community has a huge portion of land.
“We have to find ways to become self-sufficient. We planted corn, which we have harvested. We are in the process of having them sold. We are trying to get involved with the cultivation of rice, she said.
She said there is no reason to blame anyone, because the support former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf received when the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was here is no longer forth coming.
“Work for peace”
VP Taylor condemned all electoral, and other kinds of violence across the country by calling on every citizen to be law-abiding.
“One thing we all need to be mindful of is that we have had several years of civil crises. Some people had to seek refuge in other countries to live in peace. Those experiences were terrible, and as good citizens and other residents should all work for peace,” she admonished.
“We understand that people get frustrated by some rulings from court rooms, but we have to be civil by accepting those rulings. It is our daily prayer that Judges of subordinate courts and Justices of the Supreme Court need to be fair in their judgments, but whatever it be, we have to do away with personal emotions, and follow the rule of law,” VP Taylor cautioned.
“Freedom is not free”
VP Taylor also spoke of the need for the fundamental rights of every citizen to prevail.
“We need to be mindful of how we use the media. The genocide in Rwanda was triggered by just a few individuals using the radio stations to call people by very unpleasant names. They did not refer to their fellow country men and women as human beings, but animals or even less than animals. That grave mistake caused them almost a million lives,” she said.
She said while government may not take interest in hunting people for what they say on the radio, newspapers or on social media, it behooves everyone to protect the peace by being very careful of what they say or do.
“We have to stop abusing freedoms in the name of satisfying our human rights. Freedom itself is not free. People paid for the chance you have to post anything on social media today or go a radio or write in a newspaper whatever you want. People were jailed and some even lost their lives but I don’t think all was intended for all of us to abuse their sacrifices in the past, today,” she said.
To be continued…