Over the past weeks this newspaper has written a number of editorials highlighting the issue of impunity and how it was undermining social cohesion and the dispensation of unadulterated justice to the poor. Indeed IMPUNITY has become a cross cutting theme in our national discourse although many of our public service officials may not seem to share this outlook.
On yesterday, August 14, 2018, local radio news broadcasts disclosed that three officers of the Liberia National Police are undergoing probe having been accused of opening live fire on protesting Firestone Plantation workers although the news reports did not say whether there were any casualties.
This is not the first reported instance of Police officers opening live fire on individuals protesting against unfair labor practices as in Firestone or against land grabs by Golden Verroleum, Sime Darby, LAC etc. And what has become of those officers involved in those acts of unrestrained violence?
As far as the records show, virtually nothing! In another instance, the voice of Bomi County Senator Johnson could be clearly heard in a recording aired on public radio demanding bribes/kickbacks from a local entrepreneur involved in the rubber business in Bomi County. The entrepreneur has been trying to source a loan from lending agencies to improve and expand output of his crumb rubber factory.
Senator Johnson could be heard coercing the businessman to give him over one million US dollars out of the US$7 million this Liberian entrepreneur was seeking. He was heard saying that government money is “Bonanza”, asking where in Liberia has anyone been punished for “eating government money, meaning in effect that he could take the plunge and nothing would come out of it.
Not surprisingly, Senator Sando Johnson has since come under intense fire from the public. In yet another instance, the Bong County Community College whose construction began a few years ago has yet to be completed. From available records, money allocated to the construction of the college has been squandered by top government officials hailing from Bong County.
One such official even had the nerve to request a mining operation to pay tuition fees for students into a personal account abroad at a time when classes had not even begun. The college remains uncompleted today but nothing, virtually nothing has been done to have those officials account for the money.
This newspaper also recalls that money — millions of dollars provided to the government of Liberia by the European Union through the Ministry of Finance for the health sector went into private pockets under the watch of former Finance Minister, Amara Konneh and has since never been accounted for.
To the best of available information, no action was or has been taken to have the former Minister account. Recalling further, this newspaper has over the last month or so reported on the action taken by President Weah to probe the veracity of Global Witness bribery accusations against former government officials involved in the preparation of the ExxonMobil concession agreement.
The Special Presidential Committee completed its assignment and despite strenuous denials of culpability by past officials, the Committee’s findings recommended that former officials pay back the hefty sums they had received from ExxonMobil through the National Oil Company. To the best of public information, not a dime has since been refunded and the dust appears to have settled without any action by President Weah to enforce the recommendations of the Special Presidential Committee.
Still in other instances, this newspaper recalls the case of the Milad Hage intestate estate which has remained undisposed before the courts, not due to any fault of his surviving spouse but rather to vile intricacies and unwholesome acts by judicial officials which have essentially robbed Mrs. Oumou Hage of the opportunity to access fair and unadulterated Justice.
In fairness, this newspaper must admit that President Weah inherited this mantle. Yet, as President, the nation expects that he will act in ways that would serve to undermine the culture of IMPUNITY over time. However when his crop of officials in both party and state behave in ways akin to those of its predecessors who were incessantly accused of rampant corruption, this newspaper cannot help but call attention to such developments laden as they are with conflict inducing potentials.
This newspaper has for example received numerous reports of CDC Chairman Mulbah Morlu writing letters to various government agencies submitting lists of individuals to be hired to specifically identified positions irrespective of the fact that most of such individuals lack the requisite qualifications. Moreover, many of the government agencies lack the requisite budget to absorb said individuals.
We need not emphasize that such actions are ultra vires and they run contrary to public policy best practices. This tends to leave the public with the distinct impression that this government appears to be veering off course. Hence, in the view of this newspaper it is high time Skipper Weah takes the rudder in hand.
In this regard, this newspaper welcomes the latest proposal by President Weah to convene a forum with political parties to discuss matters of national significance especially in view of the mounting problems confronting the economy over which this government appears to be losing its footing.
The failure so far of the Eton-Ebomaf loan scheme to materialize, despite lofty pronouncements, has left the public with a sense of unease. And this may have prompted Finance Minister Tweah’s reassurance to the public that the World Bank was stepping in to take up the slack.
This newspaper must however remind President Weah that World Bank does not have any money sitting in store for Liberia. Although there may be pledges of assistance, the World Bank will have to source this money from a host of creditor institutions. And those creditor institutions will have to buy into those proposals advanced by government if they should have a fair chance to succeed.
Recalling history, former President Sirleaf did receive massive pledges of assistance following her election as President. A donor conference organized to raise money however fell short of raising the money as prospective donors failed to actualize their pledges.
What President Weah should bear on mind is that the economic situation is not going to experience an upturn if those on whom we are counting to help remain unconvinced about the seriousness of this government to tackle IMPUNITY in view of the continued hemorrhage of the nation’s financial resources without accountability.
Will he take firm action or will he falter for fear of alienating his support base, is the unanswered question. For, this is indeed President Weah’s DILEMMA!