Counselor Gongloe Bells the Cat: Legislators Acted “Unconstitutionally”

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There have been many cries against the Legislature since they secretly ganged up in executive session last week against Central Bank Governor J. Mills Jones, CBL's Board of Governors and staff. The Senate unanimously passed a law barring the Governor and any  Board or staff member from participating in the  forthcoming election  unless they resign three years prior to.

The House of Representatives the following day overwhelmingly concurred. Both Houses said the CBL had exceeded its authority by giving CBL money to commercial banks for lending to micro-finance organizations. The CBL's aim has been to extend credit to ordinary Liberians throughout the country to open their own business and lift themselves out of poverty.

The CBL was established by an Act of Legislature in 1979 to manage the state's currency, money supply and interest rates, and also to oversee the commercial banking system.

When President Sirleaf   appointed Dr. J. Mills Jones as CBL Governor in 2006, there was barely US$5 million in the Bank's reserves. Today CBL's reserves exceed US$200 million.

In addition, the Governor and the Board have taken a visionary initiative, as managers of the nation's money, to extend credit to Commercial Banks, which in turn, would lend to microfinance organizations throughout the country.  These microfinance organizations then  extended credit to ordinary Liberians, enabling them to open businesses.

This is in line with the Ellen administration's "Vision for Transformation," aimed at lifting Liberians out of poverty and empowering them to participate more meaningfully in Liberia's economy.

Here is the background: the Liberian economy for the past 70 years, since the advent of the W.V.S. Tubman administration, has been foreign dominated.  This has effectively excluded Liberians from commerce and industry, relegating them to the dumpsite of poverty and powerlessness, even though their country is rich in mineral and agricultural resources, especially rubber.

Counselor G. Varney Sherman, last year's National Independence Orator, declared that the ONE thing responsible for Liberia's 14-year civil war was not tribal or ethnic animosities, but "abject poverty."

The implication is that unless this situation is effectively and substantially redressed, giving ordinary Liberians some hope, we run the risk of repeating the past.  Remember the ancient dictum: "Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it."  It seems only few Liberians realize that such condemnation would spell death to  this oldest but still backward and  impoverished African republic.

So one would have thought that the people's  representatives—the Legislature–would be among the first to support the CBL  leaders in their effort to lift Liberians out of poverty.  But instead, our Legislators have selfishly and shortsightedly taken the completely opposite stance and viciously punished the CBL for reaching out to help poor Liberians.

The Legislators have also threatened to curtail CBL's powers.  One Legislator, Senator Armah Jallah, further threatened to withdraw the CBL's power to mint money and give that power to the Legislature!  It is simply amazing how ignorant some people can be.  Where has this Senator ever heard of such a thing?  It is central banks that mint money–no one else. Happily, immediately following the Legislature's nefarious action against the CBL, Liberians have begun   speaking out vehemently against this "unconstitutional" act.    Civil Society Organizations, Labor Unions, Liberian intellectuals at home and abroad have raised their voices in protest.  Now one of the nation's most respected lawyers, Counselor Tiawan Gonglore, a man versed in constitutional law, has declared the Legislature's act "unconstitutional."

The lawmakers, he declared at a news conference, are in "clear violation of Article 11 of the 1986 Constitution."  Article 11, the counselor explained, "states that persons are born equally free and independent and have certain natural, inherent and inalienable rights; All persons, irrespective of ethnic background, race, sex, creed, place of origin or political opinion, are entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms . . . All persons are equal before the law and are therefore entitled to the equal protection of the law." Our Legislative  Correspondent, Keith Morris, reported that  "based on these constitutional provisions, Cllr. Gongloe advised the Liberian President to veto the bill."

In addition, thousands of members of the Liberia Motorcycle Transport Union, through their representative, Robert M. Sammie, said the Legislature, "in simple terms, detests the Central Bank Loan Scheme"–an act the motorcyclists   described as "thoughtless and inconsiderate."

On the other hand, a good businessman but failed politician, Simeon Freeman, has applauded the Legislature for its action.

One wonders what Mr. Freeman hopes to gain from the Legislature's vicious and unconstitutional bill.  Does Freeman think that this bill will help him succeed in presidential elections, in two of which—in 2005 and 2011—he has performed dismally?

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