After a long wait, a weary but expectant nation has finally heard from its President who yesterday broke his prolonged silence in an address to the nation. And his address comes less than 10 days left in the countdown to the planned June 7 protests.
Whether the President’s address was intended to assuage rising public anger over the sharp deterioration in living conditions as had been widely speculated, appeared not to have been the case because the address fell short of public expectations calling for prompt action to address the rapidly deteriorating conditions of the economy and the reprimand/dismissal of Finance Minister Tweah and CBL Governor Patray for their fraudulent handling of the US$25 million infusion and mop-up exercise.
The address, which appears to have been a prerecorded statement evinced a sense of detachment from the realities of run-away public sector corruption, rising prices and a high exchange rate, falling standards of living and the generally difficult situation confronting Liberians daily.
While most Liberians are complaining about the sharp rise in the price of rice on the local market, which is attributed to the high exchange rate, the President appeared rather clueless preferring instead to talk about his attempt to establish criminal culpability of those responsible for the fraudulent handling of the mop-up exercise.
This very mop-up exercise was supposed to have addressed the problem of excess liquidity and hold down the rate. But as the public widely suspects, the money was virtually stolen as suggested by the KROLL, PIT and GAC reports and the culprits, at least some of them, are well known to the Liberian people.
And President Weah ought to be told that he is being widely perceived to be shielding Finance Minister Tweah from criminal liability based on his handling of the US$25 million infusion and mop-up exercise.
Additionally, he needs to be told also that his principal legal advisor, Justice Minister Musa Dean, as a member of the Technical Economic Management Team(TEMT), under whose watch the fraudulent mop-up exercise was conducted, is criminally complicit and therefore has no moral or legal standing to be holding other members of the very TEMT to account.
Under the legal doctrine of “respondeat superior” an employer is liable for the negligent acts or omissions of his/her employee which are committed within the scope of his/her employment. In this regard the Finance Minister as head of the TEMT must take responsibility for the actions of members of his team (Patray included) who handled the exercise.
Moreover, Finance Minister Tweah made it clear that he made the decision to deal with money changers rather than with the commercial banks as required by law. The Justice Minister must have been aware that Minister Tweah was acting in contravention of the law because there is no evidence that he advised against the decision.
Further, to impose liability, there should be some evidence that a master-servant relationship existed between the parties. The test to determine if respondeat superior applies is whether the person sought to be charged as a master had the right or power to control and direct the physical conduct of the other in the performance of the act. If there is no right to control, there is no liability. [Wilson v. United States, 989 F.2d 953, 958 (8th Cir. Mo. 1993)].
In this case Minister Tweah had the right to control; he presided over the exercise as he publicly declared to the disbelief of the public. By Tweah’s own admission, Patray did not have control over the exercise and therefore cannot be held liable. In view of this, Tweah should be rightfully criminally charged but, President Weah has so far not done so. And his non-action against Tweah is conveying the impression rightly or wrongly that it is because of reasons that are less than professional, that Tweah would be saved, while Patray would have to take the fall.
Further to this, President Weah’s declaration that he will initiate prosecutorial action against all officials indicted in GAC audit reports over the last 10 years is regrettably very belated and it appears more of a vindictive quest for selective justice than a genuine pursuit for cold, transparent and unadulterated justice.
The Daily Observer needs not recount the fact that President Weah had previously served as a Senator before becoming President. He must have had knowledge about GAC reports indicting past and current officials and other details appertaining to the operations of Government.
From the inception he had been urged to audit his predecessor, but he declined having previously made a solemn pledge to protect the interests of his predecessor. Hopes that he would have done so after he appointed a Special Presidential Committee to probe bribery claims against former officials involved in the ExxonMobil concession agreement, fizzled out as he declined to act on the Committee’s report recommending restitution of funds received.
His pledge to prosecute former officials is nevertheless a good idea but is one which is fraught with potential pitfalls, such as the statute of limitation which may serve to undercut any successful prosecutorial effort. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, the public appears highly skeptical and unconvinced, given what they see as his attempts to shield Tweah and others from criminal accountability.
President Weah should however be careful to avoid getting himself boxed into a tight corner from which he may be forced to make the very concessions he is being implored to make.
Truth be told, the President’s address fell far short of expectations given the high hopes that he would have taken the wind out of the sails of the June 7 protest movement by meeting some demands in the least.
The idiomatic expression, “behold a mountain labored and brought forth a mole hill” is a metaphor for the common behavior of responding disproportionately to something – usually an adverse circumstance.
The President’s address on Wednesday, May 29 can be likened to the idiomatic expression “Behold a Mountain Labored and Brought Forth a Mole Hill”.