Ellen’s Last Challenges to Her Officials: A Harbinger of Good Things to Come?

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She was blunt and forthright in her message to her team during last weekend’s Cabinet Retreat: Do not be a thief; do not show off your power, she told her Cabinet and other governmental colleagues. Why do we ask whether the President’s remarks are a harbinger of good things to come?

First, we hope we can expect from now on a more honest government. Over the weekend we overheard a Liberian businessman bitterly complain that he had returned home from successful professional practice abroad to invest in farming, but had experienced untold difficulties with Customs who would not let him clear his farm equipment because they wanted under the table payments. This was just one complaint. How many ordinary Liberians continue to have serious difficulties with their own fellow Liberians—Customs officials—resulting in total frustration and setbacks in business?

This pains us particularly at the Daily Observer because only recently we highly commended the Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) and her staff for the professional manner in which they are handling their work. Perhaps the Commissioner General needs to monitor more closely, even surreptitiously, her Customs staff, to avoid unnecessary stain on the excellent reputation which she has striven so hard to build for her institution.

We remember that the President herself admitted few years ago that corruption in Liberia is endemic (rampant, widespread). Her challenge to her Cabinet colleagues last weekend, almost in the evening of her tenure cannot, should not, must not remain empty talk. This means that she must do everything possible to convince the Liberian people that she really means business. And since charity begins at home, the people need to know the details of why and how the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) became bankrupt under her son Robert’s watch. The people also need to know whether the US$250,000 confiscated from two Korean businessmen on July 8, 2014 by agents of the National Security Agency (NSA), has been returned to the Koreans by NSA.

The President has also cautioned her Cabinet and other officials to refrain from “the show of power.”
We pause here to commend her highly for running a government in which, thus far, we have seen very little of that. We recall so many instances in past governments when abuse of power was the order of the day. Only yesterday in our Editorial on Blamo Nelson, we recalled how in 1980, just after the coup d’état, his colleague in the Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL), Chea Cheapoo, sent hundreds to prison, many never to return alive—why? He was exercising his power as Attorney General in the government of the coup makers, the People’s Redemption Council.

But Ellen’s fiercest critics cannot honestly accuse her government of abuse of power. And her signing of the Table Mountain Declaration, by which she pledged to eschew (avoid, have nothing to do with) those draconian (severe, wicked) laws on the Liberian government’s books, is testimony to her commitment NOT to revisit the sordid (despicable, wretched) Liberian past.

Let us then come quickly to the point: Vandalark Patricks and other fearless and vocal critics like him. We pray that Ellen will not lead her own Attorney General, Benedict Sannoh, to follow in the decadent, nasty footsteps of predecessors like Attorney Generals Chea Cheapoo and Jenkins Scott.

All she has to do is to call Sannoh and tell him to let the young man go for good. It is a good thing that he has finally been released on bail. The next best thing to do is to drop completely the case against him, if for no other reason than that AG Sannoh has to go find those same old bad laws that Tubman, Tolbert, Doe and Taylor used to prosecute people whose only crime was to express their frank views on what was rotten in the government.

That act alone—ordering Sannoh to call off his attack dogs—would be to Ellen’s lieutenants a tangible indication of her seriousness in admonishing them to do everything possible to avoid flaunting (being pompous with) power.

As she and her officials spend their last days in office, let those be a time of peace, reconciliation, respectability. Let the people be able to say that yes, we didn’t get all we bargained for, but at least she left us at peace, which passeth all understanding.

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