We are exactly 11 months and 22 days away from 2017, the year when Liberians are scheduled to participate in presidential and general elections. That’s a good way off yet, but President Sirleaf’s government seems to be already getting jittery (nervous), cracking down on politicians, some of whom, like Simeon Freeman, have no serious electoral mettle.
And yet here they are, hitting at Freeman because he has voiced the grave concern of many Liberians, especially in the wake of the mysterious death—many are saying murder—of former Liberia Petroleum Refining Company Managing Director Harry Greaves Jr.
As indicated in the Daily Observer’s Friday lead story, Mr. Greaves’ death, which to many looks too much like an assassination of a persistent and pungent government critic, is strikingly similar to that of another whistleblower, Michael Allison. Greaves’, like Allison’s naked body, was found on the identical Monrovia south beach and to date no one knows for sure whether he drowned or was killed.
Allison knew a lot about the US$1 million which House Speaker Alex Tyler obtained from the National Oil Company (NOCAL) for his nationwide tour. And just as Allison began to talk about it, he disappeared, only to be found dead, almost on the same spot, exactly a year later, where Harry Greaves’ body was discovered.
This terrified the Liberian public. People immediately began wondering whether this was a witch hunt for critics of the regime. The President herself, immediately on arrival from Addis Ababa, let it be known that the GOL had “no enemies,” not even those who criticize the government.
That was clearly an attempt to allay fears of a witch hunt of GOL critics, of which Mr. Greaves was among the most vociferous. This onetime staunch Ellen ally had apparently now believed he had seen her true colors, and went ballistic against her government and many of its policies. His most serious critiques were reserved for her handling of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), which she handed over to her son Robert in February, 2012, relieving Clemenceau Urey as Chair. Urey, meanwhile, had left US$31 million in NOCAL’s account. But by the time, due to local and international pressure, the President finally removed her son as NOCAL Chair, most of that had vanished. In one of his weekly columns in the Daily Observer, Harry Greaves claimed that there had been US$80 million in the NOCAL account that had been spent. The Daily Observer wondered about the veracity of that allegation. However, we strongly believed that the US$31 million that Mr. Urey left in the account could not possibly have vanished in the under two years Robert Sirleaf was Chair. Alas it had, and by the time he was no longer Chair, NOCAL was bankrupt!
The disappearance of two professionals who were critical of NOCAL led the Daily Observer to speculate that this company was “the common denominator” surrounding the two mysterious deaths—Allison’s and Greaves’. But this may have simply been coincidental.
We have no idea where Simeon Freeman got his ‘information’ that the GOL has a “hit list” targeting 10 politicians. But clearly what happened to Allison and Greaves may have contributed to Freeman’s speculation.
It is our strong belief that the government should leave Simeon Freeman alone. Why? He is not a serious politician, rather an inconsequential one. He hardly has a constituency, or a serious following. So why bother him and run the risk of making him a martyr?
The government must also realize that it is for many reasons unpopular at this time. One of the reasons is the continuing corruption, which the President has allowed to afflict her own family (e.g. Robert). Secondly, the economic doldrums that have hit the country—due not necessarily to Ellen but more particularly to the drastic fall in the prices of the primary commodities (rubber and iron ore) that have plummeted on the world market. Thirdly, the continuing prevalence of abject poverty in the country under Ellen’s over 10-year watch, coupled with the grave agriculture, education, health and medical challenges that continue to bedevil her administration. These three areas are fundamental in any country; and combined with the poverty of the people, they do not auger well for any government.
We, therefore, believe that the government would do itself a great favor by ending its pursuit of Simeon Freeman, which is a mere distraction to the many fundamental problems facing the administration at this time.