Every national leader, when inducted into office, takes an oath or affirmation to defend the laws of that institution or country, and to protect the people and their culture. Article 53(a) of the Liberian Constitution says “The President and the Vice President shall, before entering on the execution of the duties of their respective offices, take a solemn oath or affirmation to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the Republic and faithfully execute the duties of the office.
The oath or affirmation shall be administered in joint session of both Houses of the Legislature by the Chief Justice or, in his absence, the most senior Associate Justice. By this tradition and custom, our leaders, President George Manneh Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, on January 22, 2018 took an oath of affirmation to protect the Liberian Constitution, defend it and observe all other laws and customs and execute duties of their respective offices.
Contrary to the oath both President Weah and Vice President Taylor took, we are witnessing with apprehension that Vice President Taylor appears to be side-stepping the Constitution and has this early, in the life of this government, begun displaying tendencies reminiscent of the dictatorial behavior of her husband and ex-President Charles Taylor, mainly through her utterances and official comportment.
Prior to departing for Israel, VP Jewel Howard Taylor met the people of Bong County and told them that “This is our time to eat. We will eat but we are going to do it in a way that everybody will be able to eat.” In an audio played on several radio stations and transferred to social media, Vice President Taylor demanded the local authorities of Bong County to join the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) or risk losing their job. And those seeking jobs will not be employed if they do not meet this condition.
This is a statement least expected of such a high profile official of government. How does Vice President Taylor, a former Senator who, in keeping with Article 8 of the Constitution, serves as President of the Liberian Senate, make such a divisive statement? Article 8 says in part, “The Republic (meaning, Liberia) shall direct its policy towards ensuring for all citizens, without discrimination, opportunities for employment and livelihood under just and humane conditions.”
Further, how does the Vice President reconcile her statement, “This is our time to eat,” to Article 7 of the Constitution which states, “The Republic shall, consistent with the principles of individual freedom and social justice enshrined in the Constitution, manage the national economy and the natural resources of Liberia in such manner as shall ensure the maximum feasible participation of Liberian citizens under conditions of equality as to advance the general welfare of the Liberian people and the economic development of Liberia”?
Moreover, as highly educated as Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor is, she appears to be poorly knowledgeable about the role of a Vice President such that she, in seeming disrespect and disregard for her boss will make forays abroad without official permission and without notice to her principal, President George M. Weah. A few weeks back she admitted on public radio that there was disenchantment between her and the President, and she blamed herself because she left the country on a number of occasions without informing him.
As a lawyer and former Senator, VP Taylor is expected to be fully conversant with Article 51 of the Liberian Constitution which states in part that the Vice President shall attend cabinet meetings, other governmental meetings and perform other functions as the President shall delegate or deem appropriate. Common sense and courtesy should have prevailed on the VP to inform the President about her trips outside the country even if such trips were private.
In this regard, her “mea culpa” (an acknowledgment of one’s fault or error) clearly shows that she had been much too arrogant and self-conceited in the conduct of her duties and responsibilities. But the display of self-conceit and blatant disregard of Article 7 of the Constitution cannot be attributed to Vice President Taylor alone.
A CDC lawmaker, Acarus Gray of Montserrado District 8, reacting to the Vice President’s remarks declared that she was right to declare “This is our time to eat.” Gray said, “Others were there and ate theirs, and therefore it was time for the CDC to eat too.” Also, in similar fashion, the City Mayor designate of Brewerville, Bedell Fahn, disobeyed the Civil Law Court when he and others were invited to appear for hearings in a land case.
Such pronouncements and demonstrated behavior of Vice President Taylor and some CDC stalwarts provides more than sufficient reasons basis for the ordinary people to believe that the oath taken to defend the Liberian Constitution and to execute duties of offices assigned them was a cosmetic and ceremonial activity to deceive the public. But the Vice President and her cohorts have to be mindful and conscious of the power of the people who elected them.
The statement made does not only portray divisiveness along party lines, but it also tends to reinforce the culture of impunity which played no small part in taking the country down a slippery slope and leading it into a prolonged civil war.
We urge Vice President Taylor to retract this statement publicly and refrain from exhibiting or encouraging dictatorial tendencies now appearing to be characteristic of the style of governance under President Weah, which appears completely at odds with a Pro Poor policy and paradigm shift.