Hardly had the Presidential Investigation Team (PIT) unveiled its report to the public, when news emerged of the arrest of the Deputy Governor of the CBL Charles Sirleaf on criminal charges related to the discharge of his duties at the CBL. He has since been detained overnight for questioning.
In similar fashion, CBL Executive Governor Milton Weeks turned himself over to police to undergo questioning. This newspaper has reliably learnt that the police did not honor requests by their lawyers to release them from detention and have them report to the police whenever so required. It was, however, not established whether formal charges have been proffered against the accused other than those listed in the PIT report.
However, according to sources, the police may hold a suspect for not more than 48 hours, after which a Writ of Habeas Corpus could be filed to have the accused released from further detention. One can imagine just what painful pangs the mother of Charles Sirleaf, Madame Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf, must have felt on seeing her son in handcuffs and accused of committing criminal offenses.
This newspaper must however declare that it is troubled by what appeared to be a publicly staged arrest of Charles Sirleaf. His arrest, in the opinion of a seasoned lawyer, smacks of a pursuit of selective justice, which is similar in nature to the public arrest and disgrace of former Liberia Telecommunications Authority boss Albert Bropleh or that of Senator Varney Sherman in the Sable Mining bribery case.
The Daily Observer is thus constrained to ask whether the arrest of Charles Sirleaf and Milton Weeks is a genuine attempt to ensure justice and accountability or whether it is an exercise contrived to create a false impression that this government is waging an all out war for accountability.
This is especially so in view of concerns expressed by PIT in Section 22.20 of its report, in which it is claimed that the team was prevented from visiting the vault of the CBL for the second time to conduct a physical count of US dollars and monies kept in the Bank for commercial banks.
The team also observed in Section 22.20 of its report that investigators did not receive the requested information regarding foreign banknotes and foreign currency auction/exchange. Thus the team was unable to report on foreign currency banknotes.
The question is: who prevented the team from accessing information it sought from the CBL and what was the reason or motive for doing so, if indeed there was a firm commitment by government to leave no stone unturned, as they put it, until the full truth is uncovered in order to facilitate the ends of justice; in view of lingering but strong suspicions that the action taken, presumably by the CBL to prevent members of the team from accessing relevant information they sought?
Given the above, questions are being asked in the public about whether the Finance Minister, who chaired the Technical Economic Management Team(TEMT), is going to face a treatment similar to that being meted out to Charles Sirleaf and Milton Weeks. The PIT in Section 22.21 of its report observed that the CBL sold a total of US$14 million in return for L$2,151,363,898 between the period July 17, 2018, to September 18, 2018.
The PIT further noted that as regards the infusion of the US$25 million into the economy, the TEMT did not have a clear strategy for the mop-up exercise and, moreover, the CBL deviated from standard and best practices which calls for the use of legitimate banking institutions. Rather, instead, the TEMT carried out the sale of US dollars directly to money changers and marketplaces, according to the PIT report.
This newspaper however observes that, from its analysis, officials in both the Sirleaf-led government and the Weah-led Administration could be held culpable. To the surprise of many, however, only officials of the former Sirleaf government are being held to account, while officials of this government accused of acting in violation of the law appear not to have been touched.
This newspaper recalls that President Weah made a campaign pledge, which he often reiterated, to protect the interests of President Sirleaf. President Sirleaf, it is said, in return often reiterated it was time for generational change, referring of course to then candidate Weah and his coterie of young followers.
Now only a year later, the marriage has apparently fallen apart and there is no telling how or when the rupture will be repaired. In all this, President Weah has a charge to ensure that his is indeed a genuine attempt to ensure accountability. That being the case, this newspaper must remind President Weah that the buck begins with him. But the fact that he has virtually placed himself above the law by publicly declaring that concerns for the safety of his family rids him of the obligation to publicly disclose his assets is a position which runs contrary to the Asset Declaration law.
In view of this, there is rising public concern that top officials who played a pivotal role in handling monetary policy by directly taking charge of the US$25 million infusion, may go untouched for fear of actualizing a possible “You haul rope, rope haul bush” scenario from unfolding and which may more likely than not drag others down. Accordingly, this newspaper must remind President Weah that if Weeks and Sirleaf can be called to book, so too must the rest of all those who have been linked. After all said and done, what is good for the gander must be good for the goose as well!