Fighting Corruption: Will the President’s Challenge to the Senate Hold?

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“The Liberian leader expressed pleasure at comments from some lawmakers in the Senate about the issue of corruption and challenged them to work with her to set the example and to make sure that they jointly can address this problem . . .”  

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf uttered this challenge during a  Roundtable which the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC)  hosted last week.

“Words, words, words . . .” That was Hamlet’s reply to Polonius when, in act 2, scene 2 of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet, the actor asked the prince of Denmark, “And what are you reading there, my lord?”

The President was expressing, for the umpteenth time, her frustration with corruption in Liberia that continues to undermine ALL the nation’s development efforts. This includes some of the malpractices of many of her own officials in the Executive branch, which have bedeviled her administration since she took office nearly 10 years ago. 

She knows about many of the financial demands, upfront, that the very lawmakers, whose support against corruption she is now seeking, have made on the Executive to get some GOL transactions approved by the  Legislature.   How many nominated officials, since 2006, have not had to “show down” before getting confirmed by the Senate?

So after the President’s ‘words, words, words,’ the question can seriously be asked, will her challenge to the Legislature hold? Are they prepared to join the fight against corruption in Liberia?

At this very moment there are two former board members of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), Clemenceau Urey, former Chair, and Counselor Stephen Dunbar, whom the Anti-Corruption Commission is prosecuting for their alleged involvement some years ago in “bribery” of Legislators for the approval of certain oil contracts.

Messrs. Urey and Dunbar are on record as protesting the accusations and asking the LACC why it is only they who are being prosecuted and not other board members who participated in the decision to pay the lawmakers—and also the lawmakers themselves who received the payments now being perceived as “bribes.”  In law, the receiver is as guilty as the rogue.      

The LACC has yet to answer this contention.

The President herself has confessed that this corruption thing is “endemic” and she recently called it a “vampire,” which means a parasite or bloodsucker.

Yes, indeed, this corruption disease has been for a very long time sucking and draining the blood out of the very life of this Republic, rendering it totally impotent, incapable of moving forward in ANY way.

In our Wednesday editorial we explained how the tiny, natural resource deprived city-state of Singapore, who was far behind Liberia in 1959, was able to surpass us and is today one of world’s richest nations—with US$36,000 in per capita income, while the average Liberian is surviving on barely a dollar a day.  The reason: Liberia’s President W.V.S. Tubman, encouraged corruption through his libertine (self-indulgent, unrestrained by morality) policy of “Live and let live;” while Lee Kuan Yew led a strictly honest government and jailed anyone who cheated government.

 As elementary a thing as our education we have sacrificed on the altar of corruption. Even our highest institution of learning, the University of Liberia, is now caught in the quagmire.  Its faculty, staff and, most pathetically, its students, too, seem not to be able to find any alternative path through academia than by corrupt means.  Is this not why UL applicants, denied since Emmet Dennis got there, the easy path of buying their way through admissions, have been failing the entrance examinations en masse?

Now the entire educational system is in shambles, and for the first time in the history of the Republic, the older generation is far more educated and learned than the younger generation.

The President challenged the Legislators to work with her to set the example and to make sure that they jointly can address this horrendous problem of corruption.

But can they? Will they, when so many of them have themselves been deeply involved in corruption that got them into the Legislature in the first place?

The President urged the Legislators to join her in setting examples. But if only were she like Lee Kuan Yew, who tolerated NO corruption—not even from his own siblings, or son or any other relative.  See how, Madam President, the people so trusted Lee Kuan Yew and his family, that his own son was able to become Prime Minister, too, before Lee   died. 

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