That was the answer which Hamlet, Shakespeare’s ‘Prince of Denmark,’ gave when Polonius asked the prince, “And what are you reading there, my lord?”
Words can be powerful—remember why they said Winston Churchill, Great Britain’s wartime Prime Minister, “won the war with English”? Amidst Nazi Germany’s fierce, relentless bombing of London, Churchill, in an address broadcast on BBC, told his countrymen, “we shall fight … on the seas and oceans, … in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost … we shall fight on the beaches, … in the fields and in the streets, … and in the hills; … but we will never surrender!”
He also told the House of Commons, “I have nothing to offer but blood, sweat and tears.”
These were not mere words. They inspired the British people and with the help of Americans, led by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Britain repelled the Germans and went on, with the other Allied Powers, to defeat Nazi Germany and the other Axis Powers in World War II!
We are talking about truly meaningful, serious, inspiring words that made a momentous difference in world and human history.
Alas! Can we say the same thing about the words, which House Speaker Alex Tyler uttered at last Monday opening of the 5th session of the 53rd Legislature?
What did he say? Admitting that Liberians are now catching hard time, he declared that time had come to “focus on development.” In his address which was clearly targeted also at the Executive branch and
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Speaker Tyler added, “We must be doubly accountable…”
The Speaker said something else that caught our attention: Though Liberia is now 168 years old, he said, our economy is firmly dominated by foreigners. He further lamented, “…the Liberianization policy has no structure for comprehensive implementation.”
Insisting that lawmakers intensify their legislative oversight, he demanded from the Executive “quarterly reports…” in order to have “a solid grip on an otherwise lackadaisical attitude … by people in the Executive branch.”
Let us first take the issue of Executive reporting. It was Jesus who advised, “before pulling the mote from someone else’s eye, first take the beam out of your own eye.”
What report can the Speaker and his predecessor, Edwin Snowe, give about all the concessions, oil blocks, Maritime and other agreements and bills the Legislature endorsed, many of them secretly? There are many executives, including former National Oil Company Chairman Clemenceau Urey, who publicly admitted that money had to be paid to Legislators before endorsements. Where are the Legislative reports on this?
With what degree of scrutiny and oversight did the Legislature pass the Buchanan Renewable (BR) Agreement that turned out to be a complete hoax? Where is the power plant that BR promised to build in Kakata to use wood chips to provide power? The millions of tons of woodchips rather fed power plants in Europe!
Does anyone remember the country-wide tour Speaker Alex Tyler conducted to explain NOCAL to the Liberian people? NOCAL’s US$1 million financing of that tour helped bankrupt NOCAL. Has the Speaker ever accounted on how that US$1m was spent?
We were pleased to hear Speaker Tyler admit that though 168 years old, Liberia’s economy is dominated by foreigners. He even said government’s Liberianization policy “has no structure for comprehensive implementation.”
Was Speaker Tyler being genuine, or hypocritical? Was he not among the majority of Legislators who passed the so-called “Code of Conduct,” which seeks to bar Central Bank Governor Mills Jones from running for presidency, though Jones hasn’t said he wants to?
Why the Code of Conduct? Because it has been Governor Jones that has, historically more than any Liberian official, used public financial resources to empower poor, ordinary Liberians in business. Is the Speaker truly interested in Liberianization? What has he ever done to promote it? Yet, here he is, along with his misguided, shortsighted legislative colleagues, attempting to frustrate the efforts of someone who is seriously committed to changing this dreadful status quo of economic dependency and slavery in Liberia.
We must, however, once again warn that should this terrible status quo be allowed to continue, it would perpetuate poverty in Liberia and plunge her back into war.
Now that the time for accountability has come, according to the Speaker, can he explain to the Liberian people how he got the money to build those mansions in the midst of abject poverty in Marshall, Margibi County?
He has been in the House for 10 years—2006-2016—and Speaker for not more than four years. We recall that Richard A. Henries entered the House in 1943 and was elected Speaker in 1951, serving in that position until 1980, nearly 30 years. Yet the biggest house Speaker Henries ever built was the small one-story building adjacent the German Embassy. Does it mean Speaker Henries, who also made money from law practice, was that foolish a money manager?
Even so, Speaker Tyler needs to explain to the Liberian people how he got the money to acquire his immense assets.
Or is his newfound crusade for Liberian government accountability in this New Year, mere words, words, words?