The Chief Justice’s address to the opening of the Supreme Court’s October Term on Monday dwelt not on an erudite legal argument, but on a subject that he and his colleagues considered the matter of the moment: fighting and finishing the Ebola crisis in Liberia.
His Honor Francis Korkpor led his colleagues in reaching out in an extraordinary way to their suffering and dying compatriots and the whole nation, who have become afflicted with the deadly Ebola virus.
The center piece of his address was his announcement that he and his colleagues had decided to surrender one month of their salaries to the Ebola fight. They went so far as even to reveal to the nation their monthly wages—his US$12,000 and his colleagues’ each US$9,000. We do not think that the CJ went that far in order to inform the nation about how low the top people in the third branch of government are paid. He rather wanted to let each of us calculate how much they were giving to the fight against the disease.
Chief Justice Korkpor described the gesture as “a concrete demonstration of our commitment to fight the Ebola virus. My colleagues and I,” he said, “have resolved . . . to give one month of our salaries and allowances over a period of four months deducted from our income at a rate of 25% per month.”
Judges and senior support staff of the lower courts have also agreed to contribute one fourth percent of their monthly salaries and allowances, he added.
He intends to urge the other Judicial employees to make similar commitments the national cause.
Chief Justice Korkpor suggested that the Liberian Legislature and all Liberian citizens, those in the public and private sectors, be encouraged “to consider making similar contributions to save our people and nation.”
We commend the Chief Justice and his colleagues for their magnanimous and sacrificial gesture. His suggestion that other branches of government and the public in general should follow is welcome.
Many local individuals and organizations have joined the anti-Ebola fight. But more needs to be done in our common resolve to eradicate the virus.
The CJ stressed that these contributions should be fully accounted for; and we hope that will be the case.
We are also concerned about funds coming from abroad and the increasing cry of our health workers for back pay and personal protective equipment (PPE). Both are crucial to encouraging our health workers to return to work.
We are told that GOL owes them a huge amount in back pay. It is hard to understand why GOL has failed to pay on time people in this most vital sector. That was part of the problem that caused the National Health Workers Association of Liberia (NHAL) to go on strike in the first place. They have now returned to work, thanks to the intervention of GOL and international partners. But the workers say they won’t accept any new patients; only those who are already in hospitals. This is partly because they are unhappy with the hard line which Health Minister Walter Gwenigale has taken on their leaders. He told a press briefing Monday that the two leaders, NHWL president Joseph Tamba and secretary general George Poe Williams, “will never come back.”
They say “never” belongs to God.
A reconsideration of that statement may require the intervention of President Sirleaf and the international community. But amidst this deadly crisis, in which our people are dropping dead everywhere—a crisis that has affected EVERY aspect of our lives—our economy, our politics and our very existence as a nation—there is no room for a hard line from any quarter. Everything and everybody must give to save Liberia.
We must remember that the Liberian Council of Churches, all churches and all people throughout Liberia, Christians and Muslins alike, are praying for God’s deliverance. How can God hear our prayers when we assume an unforgiving and vengeful attitude?
Last week the World Bank announced a grant of U$52 million to fight Ebola. This is part of many financial and other resources coming from various quarters. Our question is, Can some of these funds be used to address all the issues of the health workers, including their salary arrears and PPE? We believe these are critical to our success in the fight against this deadly enemy.