Abuse of Power Due to ‘Toothless, Unprepared Legislature’ -Atty. Philip Wesseh

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Atty. Wesseh says there are so many 'incompetent' elected officials in the Legislature.

Law Reform Commission’s consultative dialogue recommends the Amendment of 28 Articles to bridge the gaps

Attorney Philip Wesseh, Publisher of the independent Inquirer newspaper has branded as ‘unprepared and toothless, and blamed the Legislature for the reported rampant abuse of power and the underdevelopment of the country.

Atty. Wesseh spoke yesterday, October 23 in Monrovia at programs marking the end of a two-day dialogue on plans to reengage the Constitution Review process.

The dialogue sponsored by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) was hosted by the Law Reform Commission (LRC) in an effort to solicit the views of representatives from a cross section of the country on the need to amend the 1986 Revised Constitution.

Atty. Wesseh who served as one of the principal discussants at the event, said Liberia is still millions of miles away from contemporary politics, which is said to be changing and improving the developmental strides of other countries around the world.

Wesseh said that many of those elected to both Houses of the first branch of government lacked the requisite education least to mention professional skills or careers upon which they are to rely instead of on  public finances for their personal improvements.

“Granted that the Constitution may have its own flaws, but what we are not capturing is the fact that there are too many inexperienced, unprepared and unproductive individuals elected to our seats of law-making, oversight and representation, because the Constitution leaving out certain basic requirements for candidates of political offices is a serious challenge to our collective march ahead of our struggles as a people,” he said.

According to him, nowadays in many countries around the world, the Legislature and other government offices are not sources of wealth generation for individual members, but areas where accomplished personalities go and render service each to their country without wishing for benefits.

He said Liberia’s problems are deeply rooted in the population’s lack of understanding of how change comes and an inability to think critically.

“Under the doctrine of checks and balances in government, each of the branches is to keenly monitor what the other two do, but on the overall the Legislature, upon whose shoulder lie the issues of law-making, oversight and representation, has to consist of serious and prepared minds,” Wesseh said.

He added that until the Legislature can be strong and determined to escape the temptations of bribe collection for the passage of bogus concession agreements, no law, no matter how great or how it may be crafted, can change the ongoing quagmire.

About the impact of Constitutional review on the rule of law, former Justice Minister, Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, said there is a need for radical approaches to solve several of the country’s problems.

“I know that it is not possible for all the lawmakers to be lawyers as suggested by one of the discussants, but I agree with Atty. Wesseh that we need great and prepared minds at the Legislature,” he said.

“Everybody needs to be a loyal citizen, and therefore, we should (all) love our country with all our hearts, and commit to doing good so as not to paint and present our image out there as detestable (hateful),” Sannoh said.

Cllr. Moses Paegar said the Judicial Branch of Government has a special authority given it by the Constitution, but little is done about it due to the excess power granted the office of the President.

“The Judiciary knows that in the doctrine of checks and balance of power, the issue of judicial review is very important, but it is sad to note that there is too much influence from the Executive over the other two branches of government that should have equal and distinct power as compared to the other two,” Paegar said.

He added, “no nation flourishes when there is selective justice, and no nation’s development agenda is fast tracked when there is no constitutional governance.”

“Because there is too much power for the President in the 1986 Constitution, he/she is not compelled by the people to fulfill campaign promises. In fact, all government officials do not care about their responsibilities to the people, who employ them. Liberia has to be managed by a constitutional government under the rule of law,” Paegar said.

He said the allotment of the national budget to priority areas has to be enshrined in the law so as to not allow a particular administration to come with its own plan geared towards the neglect of certain sectors.

LRC chairperson, Cllr. Boakai N. Kanneh, said the dialogue has discovered that 28 of the 97 Articles of the Constitution need amendment, noting, “our discussions have generated the understanding that 28 of the 97 Articles need complete reform to include term limits, land ownership rights, mineral resource rights, children and parents rights as well as several other people’s rights,” Kanneh said

He said since the Constitution Review Committee (CRC) set up by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2012, did not take the signatures of 10,000 persons as enshrined in the constitution to make a petition legitimate for Legislative consideration, the LRC with support from the public will seek the two-thirds majority each of the both Houses to place the debate on the agenda for Constitution review or referendum.

Author

  • David S. Menjor is a Liberian journalist whose work, mainly in the print media has given so much meaning to the world of balanced and credible mass communication. David is married and interestingly he is also knowledgeable in the area of education since he has received some primary teacher training from the Kakata Rural Teacher Training Institute (KRTTI). David, after leaving Radio Five, a broadcast media outlet, in 2016, he took on the challenge to venture into the print media affairs with the Dailly Observer Newspaper. Since then he has created his own enviable space. He is a student at the University of Liberia.

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David S. Menjor is a Liberian journalist whose work, mainly in the print media has given so much meaning to the world of balanced and credible mass communication. David is married and interestingly he is also knowledgeable in the area of education since he has received some primary teacher training from the Kakata Rural Teacher Training Institute (KRTTI). David, after leaving Radio Five, a broadcast media outlet, in 2016, he took on the challenge to venture into the print media affairs with the Dailly Observer Newspaper. Since then he has created his own enviable space. He is a student at the University of Liberia.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I commend Cllr. Wesseh for his observation and comments on the main causes of lack of accountability in government and the citizenry’s naivety about their rights and how to hold public officials accountable.

    My suggestion for the umbrella legal or Bar Association in the country is and together with the local papers is to hold free legal clinics across the country. The goal should be to educate the general population of their rights under the Constitution and their individual rights to choose freely who to vote for rather than the most imposing character in the village, town, clan or city and how that would impact each voter’s likelihood. Having a minimum basic understanding may enable voters to vote for qualified candidates by demanding candidates respond to key development initiatives so as to ascertain a candidate’s understanding of government operations and his credibility.

  2. Many thanks to the Law Review Committee for revisiting our Constitution. I hope that the Committee did review two important studies (I. e. Reports of the African Union Committee on Illicit Financial Flow from Africa and Transparency International) in order to study the possibility of how best Liberians can effectively fight corruption. This is because the AU Committee reported that multinational corporations are responsible for 95% of the $60 billion that is siphoned out of Africa every year. The Report also stated that government bureaucrats are responsible for 3% to 5% of the $60 billion taken away from Africa. Also, Transparency International reported that private-investors usually initiate bribes offering. In short, these two reports indicate that private investors are responsible for corruption in Africa, and not the government bureaucrats as claimed by the de facto subsidiaries (World Bank and its Affiliates) of big business.

    The conclusions of these important studies should remind us that powerful money-making institutions are directing the wagon of corruption, hence, it might be difficult to reduce the influence of the Executive Branch if multinational corporations continue to offer bribes in exchange of fraudulent concessionary agreements, for example.

    Even in advance countries such as the US and Britain, chief executives of corporations usually do control the heads of the countries and the Lawmakers. Laws, regulations, law enforcing agencies, watchdog organizations, etc. have not and might not prevent the high level of corruption in these countries where private investors own and, manage lucrative assets.

    In fact, these countries (I.e., the US and Great Britain) owe US $28 trillion out of the approximately $60 trillion of the total debts of the world because private investors usually dictate policies of these countries.

    I know private investors are prudent in managing lucrative assets and generating profit, however, the experience shows that they don’t willingly give a reasonable share of the productivity of the lucrative assets to the masses by way of paying good salaries, providing employees’ benefits, remitting fair taxes to the government, etc.

    Botswana, Japan, Germany, etc. usually generates reasonable revenue from their lucrative assets, while the US and Britain don’t.

    Botswana, for example, if didn’t only invest in educating its lawmakers and elected representatives, but it continues to part take in the management and ownership of its lucrative assets.

    Guess what, If private investors were trickling down a reasonable share of the dividends of lucrative assets as propagated by profiteers Japan, Germany or Botswana would not have changed its law on the management and ownership of its lucrative assets.

    Alternatively, America and Great Britain would have reasonable amount of debts, not the $20 trillion and $8 trillion respectively.

    Thanks for the efforts on your part to revisit our Constitution.

  3. “Granted that the Constitution may have its own flaws, but what we are not capturing is the fact that there are too many inexperienced, unprepared and unproductive individuals elected to our seats of law-making, oversight and representation, because the Constitution leaving out certain basic requirements for candidates of political offices is a serious challenge to our collective march ahead of our struggles as a people,” he said.

    AGREE!

  4. Liberians also need to re-evaluate the Unitary System – it is not working. There is a need for decentralization in the country where the counties take charge of their own developments based on national developments plan to be carved by the central government. Superintendents and other appointed local leaders operate at the whims and caprices of the president. We need to elect them as in the past. City mayors, commissioners, chiefs and all local leaders must be elected. Liberia is not too small to give limited autonomy to its counties to spur development. Nothing will change as long we keep this failed system. I wonder why the decentralization initiative was parked.

  5. Daily Observer, please make it possible to people to edit their postings in case there are mistakes. There should options for us to edit, and edit our comments. I meant to say “National development plans.” I can’t get in there to correct it. Just an FYI.

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