Lawmaker must face the law

Last week Thursday’s (July 13) arrest of Grand Gedeh County Representative Morais Waylee by offices of the Liberia National Police for alleged criminal conspiracy in connection with the reported raping of a 13-year-old minor is not only disgraceful, but unbecoming of a lawmaker.

Following a local daily’s report in early May linking Rep. Waylee to sexually abusing the 13-year-old victim, whom the report says is his niece, he has repeatedly denied the allegation and challenged the paper to produce evidence.

Not only that, he has scared and intimidated everyone calling for justice in this matter, including youth advocate Mohammed Kromah, who was issued a writ to appear in court for parading a group of youths before the Capitol Building, demanding the lawmaker to appear in court and exonerate himself from the allegation.

Announcing the arrest at the National Police Headquarters, Police Inspector General Col. Gregory Coleman told reporters that Rep. Waylee and his wife have been on police wanted list over concerns that the alleged rape victim whom the police have been going after for questioning could not be found. IG Coleman also pleads with the public to give the police tipoff whenever Rep. Waylee’s wife, who is said to be on the run, is spotted anywhere in the country, for immediate arrest.

There are multiple reports that the alleged victim, who reportedly gave birth to a baby girl sometime last year as a result of the alleged act, is being shielded from the public in cohort with family members as a cover-up.Now that the police have gone after the incumbent lawmaker and his wife on charges of criminal conspiracy for failure to produce the alleged victim, strongly indicates that the girl in question really exists, and this is not a make-up as Rep. Waylee would want the public to believe.

It is highly despicable that a lawmaker would allow himself and his family to get entangled in such embarrassment that has serious long-term negative repercussion. We encourage Ms Waylee to join her husband in cooperating with the police to exonerate themselves from the charge of criminal conspiracy.
If the rape victim in question is being shielded by the couple as the police are suspecting, then the lawmaker is not only invoking even greater disgrace on himself, but his entire family, including his wife and children.

He should be reminded in no uncertain terms that the law cannot be reserved for certain group of citizens. Rather, it must be applicable to all Liberians irrespective of status, tribal, religious and political affiliations.We strongly believe the 13-year-old minor wherever she might be right now, deserves justice because her rights first, as a human being and secondly female, have been violated; therefore, the law must take its course no matter where the chip may fall.

Faithful taxpayers are partners to development

It took no less a personality than the President of the Republic of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to remind Liberians that they do not pay taxes. The President puts it bluntly when she acknowledges that the country’s poor tax compliance culture is a major impediment to achieving the national development agenda.

Madam Sirleaf discloses that about 142 percent support to the national budget comes from external sources as compared to the domestic flow of the revenue needed to support Liberia’s infrastructural development agenda.

Moderating a day-long panel discussion during a National Revenue Symposium held Tuesday, 18 July at the Monrovia City Hall on the theme, “Domestic Revenue Mobilization” President Sirleaf specifically challenges the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) to go all out in making sure government officials, including assistant ministers, deputy ministers, as well as heads of autonomous agencies and public corporations, the Legislature and the Judiciary pay all taxes owed the government.

It is regrettable that all those the President mentioned are officials with earning powers, who are refusing to give back to the country that feeds them bread. We dare say this is a very wrong example to set in leadership.

We agree with the President that salaries of officials with tax arrears should be frozen until they can meet up with their tax obligations. We believe that such stringent mandate would ensure compliance.

Though the President did not give any specific figure as regards how much this country is losing out to non-taxpayers, we may surmise that it could be in millions of dollars! Yet still, those robbing the country of its taxes, receive monthly salaries from what little amount the LRA collects from the faithful few taxpayers, including both business institutions and individuals who were honored recently in Monrovia for their commitment to payment. We say hats off to LoneStar Cell MTN and Mr. David Kortee, among others, who were honored at the Taxpayers Day for demonstrating good business practice and responsible citizenship.

All Liberians should be reminded that no amount of external support can develop this country without us paying our legitimate taxes to the state. And, as the President told the symposium, the environment for continuous external support is changing and such support may not continue. “So, that is why we should start paying our taxes,” she emphasizes.

However, while we stress the need to pay taxes, we call on the government to review its current policy of awarding tax holidays to some business institutions up to 15 years or more, under the pretext of promoting friendly business environment. Least we rethink properly on this policy; we could be shooting ourselves in the leg as a nation recuperating from years of violent devastation.

A 15-year tax holidays under any regime that serves two terms in office are enough periods for any crook investor to enjoy after which he or she may consider whether to pull out of Liberia with all profits or stay to continue investing. A hint to the wise is sufficient...

Message from Clara Town

The embarrassing situation that occurred in Clara Town on Bushrod Island on Wednesday, 12 July involving protesting youth with placards denouncing Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, who had go to the densely populated slum community along with his running mate, Speaker James Emmanuel Nuquay to get an endorsement for their bid for the Presidency clearly sends a message to all politicians, particularly those aspiring for the Presidency that the people or voters should not only become important during time of elections.

Vice President Boakai and Speaker Nuquay had gone to the community for an endorsement from a local group, “Friends for the Future” when they encountered protesting youth, who resisted their presence there on grounds that neither of the two officials, in their formal capacity, had ever visited there to identify with residents except now when they want their votes.

Chanting “Boakai you will pay for what you eat” and “Boakai’s U.S. rate 150” the protestors approached the Vice President’s convoy as it enters the slum community, but they were restrained by security forces as FOF members, dressed in T-shirts bearing the portrait of VP Boakai danced and welcomed their guests.

While we condemn any act that has the propensity to trigger violence in the impending elections, we hastily draw politicians’ attention to the message the young people with placards tried to advance: That those seeking elective posts or state power should live with the people as if each day were elections’ day. In other words, they should not wait until election year or two to three months to polling day to go down to the electorate.

We believe such move would be belated and therefore, receive mixed reactions as in the case of the Vice President and his running mate. Though it is not independently confirmed, but we learned that this was VP Boakai’s first visit to Clara Town – a community that is less than five miles from his office at the Capitol Building. Likewise Speaker Nuquay!

This attitude is not unique to those currently holding public offices like the Vice President and the Speaker. Presidential hopeful Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine from the Liberty Party recently visited West Point Township, another densely populated slum community in Montserrado County where he danced and ate corn with locals. Such deceitful interactions are often counterproductive to the underlining political objectives they try to seek from voters.

We are fully aware that there are social stratifications or echelons in every society and therefore, do not expect someone who has ascended to the upper class to pack and come down to live with slum dwellers. However, it is very important for those in leadership and others wishing to get there to find time to identify with the commoners by sitting with them and getting to know some of their problems rather than waiting for electoral period.

We believe this was the message the protesting youths of Clara Town were expressing to VP Boakai and Speaker Nuquay, which equally goes to all those aspiring to become leaders of the people. Try to know their plight and share their concerns!

As official campaign for the October elections starts on July 31, politicians and leaders of various political parties have already secured fleet of cars, motorbikes, T-shirts and other materials to troop to towns, clans, chiefdoms, districts, counties and cities to seek votes from citizens that they never met before with promises to improve their lives, build roads, schools, hospitals and even mansions in the sky! Some even become generous overnight, distributing food, clothes and cash, but once they succeed in getting elected, they shut the doors and erect walls between themselves and the electorate.

Yes! That’s how deceitful politicians are. Today, VP Boakai and Speaker Nuquay are prepared and willing to go just anywhere in a bid to achieve their political dreams, but like the late Jamaican Reggae King, Bob Marley sang in one of his many master pieces, “You can fool some people some time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

Poverty cry intensifies

Many ordinary Liberians are enduring serious economic pinch that has engulfed the entire country as a result of the triple digit exchange rate between the Liberian Dollar and the United States Dollar, which has led to rising prices of basic commodities, including food.

The Liberian Dollar has depreciated very rapidly in the past three months so much so that 120LRD is valued US$1.00 on the forex market, the first ever in so many decades.
Many ordinary families are finding it difficult, if not impossible to put food on the table as the bread basket continues to shrink due to decline in the purchasing power of the Liberian Dollar.

The dwindling economy is being further exacerbated by uncertainties over the October 10 Presidential and Representative elections and corresponding political transition. Many businesses here started scaling down about a year ago because of global economic challenges besides the drawdown of the United Nations Mission in Liberia or UNMIL, coupled with fall in the global market prices of rubber, iron ore and timber, Liberia’s traditional exports.

The drop of the strength of the local currency and its attending unpleasant consequences is being discussed in street corners, public transport and gathering with some laying blame squarely at the feet of the government for the printing of new bank notes, which total amount remains debatable. Some account put the amount at LRD500 billion, while others say it is less than that.

Yet still, others blame former executive governor of the Central Bank of Liberia Dr. Joseph Mills Jones, now a Presidential aspirant for initiating a controversial loan scheme during his tenure at the Bank, which saw the disbursement of contestable amount of Liberian Dollars to ordinary citizens across the country under an economic stimulus package that critics say, was politically motivated.

Dr. Jones’ successor at the Central Bank, Executive Governor Milton Weeks told lawmakers on Capitol Hill about two months ago that the CBL cannot account for 10.9 billion Liberian Dollars in the economy because they were put in circulation outside of the banking system so, the suffering Liberians live in a quagmire, not knowing where to get relief.
The CBL says it is keenly aware of the current exchange rate volatility being experienced between the Liberian Dollar and the US Dollar, and is exerting all efforts at its disposal to ensure a stable exchange rate in the market. In a statement released last week, the Bank with immediate effect announced several steps to address the current volatility in the exchange rate here, including mopping up excess liquidity by issuing Treasury Instruments with attractive high yielding interest rates.

While these efforts are being exerted to restore stability in the economy, we can but only hope that would eventually ease the suffering of ordinary citizens, including civil servants whose salaries are static.

Even as the country braces for democratic elections in October, we draw the attention of politicians seeking power to these bread and butter issues, for they matter seriously in the governing process now and tomorrow.

CDC’s war drum undermines peace

The Coalition for Democratic Change is crying wolf, far ahead of the October Presidential and Representatives elections, threatening to resist ‘in the highest term any cheating’ from the National Elections Commission or NEC.

Coalition national chairman, Nathaniel McGill, who issued the threat on Saturday, 1st July during the official presentation of 35 Nassan Patrol Jeeps and 300 motorbikes as part of campaign logistics for the Coalition at its headquarters in Congo Town, gave no specific premise for beating the war drum.

However, the issuance of violent threats or war drum is synonymous to the Congress for Democratic Change, now part of a three-party Coalition headed by Montserrado County Senator George MannehWeah, as Standard Bearer.

The CDC embarked on similar path in the past two elections that it lost, which led to violent clashes with police in 2011 with at least one death reported.

The biggest political party ought to know by now that violent threats do not win elections; they are counter-productive to any democratic process, because violence takes away the political franchise of citizens.

Rather than sounding war drum, we challenge Chairman McGill and the Coalition to get on the drawing board to devise campaign strategies to attract voters’ support that would enable them to achieve their quest for the Presidency.

McGill brags that the Coalition will defeat the ruling Unity Party on a clean sheet, because it is putting in all of its might, resources, and energy into the impending elections to ensuring a one round victory. We believe this is the path he should encourage all members of the Coalition to pursue in the impeding elections.

This does not presuppose that if McGill and the Coalition observed or detected any activity at the NEC that could disrupt free, fair and transparent elections, they should not bring it to public attention for prompt corrections.

Every Liberian must put hands on deck in ensuring that this country transitions peacefully so that the next government would take up leadership without any contention.

That government could be a Coalition-led administration or any other party, but the path Chairman McGill is taking by issuing unnecessary threats may deny such opportunity, because violence could disrupt the governing process, which we as a nation, don’t want, having gone thru nearly 15 years of bloody civil war.

Rev. Samuel Reeves should take the Bible along

The Reverend Dr. Samuel Reeves, Resident Pastor of the Providence Baptist Church in Monrovia walked away from his congregation on Tuesday, 27 June to become vice standard bearer of a political party here ahead of the October 10th Presidential and Representative elections.

He is optimistic that his new environment will afford him an even bigger opportunity away from the church services to practicalize morality, godly leadership and salvation that he has been preaching over the years at Providence. The Board of Trustees of the church expresses respect for Rev. Reeves’ decision, which it terms as personal and in line with his constitutional rights as a Liberian citizen.

The Standard Bearer of the opposition political party Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) Dr. Joseph Mills Jones, named Rev. Reeves as his running mate on Tuesday in his bid for the Presidency.

The decision by the Baptist prelate is not strange, as two former Liberian Presidents – the late William V.S. Tubman and Dr. William Richard Tolbert, Sr. himself a Baptist preacher, had top religious leaders as their respective vice presidents. But we urge Rev. Dr. Samuel Reeves to use the Holy Bible as a lamp to his feet as he journeys into politics.

He should be reminded that in politics, personal interest, deception and expediency supersede truth-telling in most instances, where the Bible could be compromised.

We challenge Rev. Reeves, a firebrand Baptist preacher, to remain firm in upholding those virtues and principles of Christian leadership that he has taught his congregation at Providence, not only to defend the faith, but to truly represent God wherever he finds himself as well as the Motherland.

Liberia is in search of a leadership that can heal the wounds from years of violence precipitated by neglect, greed, lack of love for country and bad governance, among others. And so when a servant of God musters enough courage to step into a messy political terrain such as ours, to help correct some of the wrongs, he should be highly embraced.

But it should be hinted that politics in Liberia has never been an easy journey as there are huge influences both in and outside the country that always dictate the affairs of state sometimes at the detriment of the people.

This is where Rev. Reeves would need the Bible to guide his decisions in matters of state or else, he could become disillusioned and subsequently misguided if the Holy Book is put aside for so-called political expediency as we as a nation, have experienced from past leaderships over the years.

We demand a conclusive end of this matter

Finance and Development Planning Minister Biomah Kamara announced on Monday, 26 June that report of the Internal Audit Agency at the Ministry on disbursement of funds allotted by the government under the Private Sector Development Initiatives has been finalized and subsequently submitted to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Minister Biomah also disclosed that the report is being forwarded to the Ministry of Justice to probe individuals associated with the management and disbursement of the funds that were intended to empower local businesses thru a loan scheme under the supervision of his predecessors, specifically ex-Deputy Finance Minister for Expenditure and Debt Management, Dr. James Kollie.

The report implicates Dr. Kollie, but he has denied any wrongdoing and challenged the professionalism of the audit, arguing that the fund was managed by the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment, LBDI.

Dr. Kollie may be innocent as he claims, but we understand that the loan scheme was placed directly under his supervision, which presupposes that he could bear greater responsibility as overseer, when, and if investigation commences.

However, we are not interested in who received what, how, when or where, but accountability, as the fund in question was intended to stimulate the local economy thru Liberian-owned businesses.It has been reported that some beneficiaries have defaulted in repayment, meaning the principle cash the received plus interest cannot be accounted for.

Someone has to account, and must be responsible enough to do so, because this issue should not be swept under the rug under the so-called pretext of lack of evidence, as it has been in other misappropriation cases, where suspected culprits were allowed to go scout-freed.

We demand serious accountability and call on the Ministry of Justice to leave no stone unturned as it commences probe into this matter. It is disheartening to note that money intended to stimulate our ailing economy are siphoned by few individuals with no remorse for their action.

Such individuals should be brought to book, without tempering justice with mercy, if the government corruption fight is to be taken seriously. Few greedy or dishonest persons shouldn’t be allowed to go with impunity, while the common good is jeopardized.

It is about time that all those institutions whether genuine or fake that received loans come forward and be made to liquidate their debts so that other deserving citizens would equally benefit from the program. Equally so, those who were entrusted with the management of the fund must come forward to help with the impending investigation by the Ministry of Justice to establish accountability and put this matter to rest as this country transitions.


We must end impunity

Ongoing efforts by the international community to bring to book perpetrators of war crimes and other hideous abuses in Liberia during the country’s 14-year civil war seem to be making significant progress with reports of the arrest of several high profile actors from the April 12, 1980 military coup to the December 24, 1989 rebel invasion that took several hundred thousand lives.

News last week of the arrest and subsequent appearance in court in London, United Kingdom of Agnes Reeves Taylor, the 51-year-old ex-wife of jailed former Liberian President Charles Ghankay for alleged torture amid current rumor of the probable apprehension of ex-rebel leader Senator Prince Yormie Johnson, clearly indicates that the world is gradually folding the curtains against impunity, particularly war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Several actors from the Doe regime, including ex-army officer Jeffrey Gbatu, who carried out summary executions during that era, have already been arrested and detained in the United States.

Another Liberian warlord, Dr. George SingbeBolay, was deported from the United States few years ago for commanding child soldiers in Liberia. Dr. Bolay, who worked in the government of slain President Samuel Kanyon Doe, is currently in the country, preferring to remain very inconspicuous.

The list of ex-warlords and former generals in Liberia is not exhausted in this editorial, but the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia compiles an exhaustive roster of ex-generals and rebel leaders who committed hideous atrocities with recommendation for prosecution.

From all indications, the international community is sending a very strong signal to the rest of us, specifically Liberians that the days of men and women, who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity here, are numbered, as they would have to account for their deeds in court irrespective of status.

We must depart from the culture of impunity, and now is the time. No one should use the barrel of the gun to slaughter innocent people, including women and children under the guise of so-called liberation.

Some of them are even shameless, trying to justify their wicked acts by constructing senseless analogies on faulty premises just to portray themselves as “good guys” when the souls of their victims cry for justice.

The current campaign by the international community should ring bell in the minds of ex-warlords parading the corridor of power in our country that they are not off the hook. It is only a matter of time and they will be brought to book.

We believe strongly that this is the surest way to stop impunity in our land and any part of the world. Men and women, who take unto themselves the exclusive power to judge and condemn to death fellow human beings thru the muzzle of the gun should be punished with penalties that are commensurate with their crimes to serve as deterrence to those contemplating on treading similar route.

Partnering with Israel to leap forward

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel wants to partner with Africa, particularly the Economic Community of West African States or ECOWAS, to leap over several generations to technological advancement, security and vibrant agriculture sector for food security.

Mr. Netanyahu, who addressed the 51st Summit of Heads of State of the regional bloc on Sunday, 4 June in Liberia, notes that his coming here as the first sitting Israeli leader in many decades is an expression of a simple truth that Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is returning to Israel.

“It’s the use of technology that allows you to leap over generations; this is leap that Israel can and wants to do with you”, he told the Heads of State, stressing that Africans truly have no better partner in seizing their future than Israel, which is the world’s leader in technology in all fields, including energy, agriculture, public health, water creation, and security.

West Africa, particularly Liberia needs to re-engage Israel in strengthening both diplomatic and bilateral cooperation that would yield mutual benefits. During past administrations, specifically the Doe regime, Israel and Liberia shared several vital interests in the areas of security and construction, among others.

As Prime Minister Natenyahu noted, in this era of global terrorism that continues to take innocent lives, including a Liberian troop on peacekeeping mission in Mali, leaving others wounded, while threatening our borders, the need to tap on Israeli security expertise cannot be overemphasized.

We vividly recall several visits by former Defense Minister Pearson during the Doe regime to Israel to establish and solidify security cooperation, which led to the formation of the elite Special Anti-Terrorist Unit or SATU, though its loyalty to the state was seriously compromised.

We also need the Israeli in the areas of irrigation for agricultural purpose, and health to strengthen our health sector, which faces serious brain drain and lacks appropriate equipment.

We challenge the Sirleaf administration to waste no time in seizing the opportunity proffered by Prime Minister Natenyahu and make follow-up for the benefits of the country and its citizens. Liberia stands to benefit enormously beyond this administration if ties with Israel are strengthened and taken to another level.

As a nation, we would only leap to higher development and improved standard of living if we remain engaged with friendly governments and countries that would buttress our efforts to increase the pace of our national developmental drive, and Israel is providing this opportunity.

A sad day at JFK Hospital

CIRCUMSTANCES THAT LED to Tuesday’s (May 30) fire at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center, razing down the entire National Drugs Service, the nation’s only drugs deposit, and a laboratory, remain a complete mystery here, particularly amidst reported probe of a recent disappearance of huge consignment of drugs from the NDS warehouse.

THE JFK MANAGEMENT issued a press statement in Monrovia Wednesday, regretting the fire incident involving both the laboratory and medical supplies warehouse of the National Drugs Service (NDS) and clarified that though the JFK Medical Center houses the National Drugs Service, no components of the Memorial and the Maternity Hospitals were affected by the fire.

THE RELEASE SAYS the cause of the fire incident remains unknown, but the hospital is equally working with the relevant authorities to control the situation, and calls on the public not to panic and to further desist from spreading rumors.

HOWEVER, OUR INTEREST is drawn to report that huge consignment of drugs allegedly disappeared from the medical supplies warehouse recently for which management has initiated a probe.
In the midst of the ongoing investigation, the entire warehouse, including offices are razed by a mysterious fire, effectively destroying paper trails and other pieces of material evidence that could have assisted the process.

SOMETHING SEEMS TO smell here, involving the alleged disappearance of drugs, the reported probe, and now the mysterious fire. Clearly, these sequential happenings are likely to undermine outcome of any probe, particularly the drugs disappearance, which some insider sources have hinted this paper, is an old-age problem.

BUT THE SAD news for the entire health system is that this is going to seriously affect hospitals, health centers and clinics across the country, specifically institutions operated by the government, as the issue of regular supplies would now become an even bigger challenge.

THE NDS HAS until Tuesday’s mysterious fire incident, remained the only depository for all drugs brought into the country by the government and its partners. For it to have been gutted by fire is not only regrettable, but highly frustrating for our people. In the short run, impact of this episode would have serious adverse consequences for citizens across the country.

WE CALL ON both the Ministry of Health and the entire JFK Management to put in place an emergency plan that would ensure that essential drugs are available to meet the health needs of our citizens and the public at large or else, the unforeseen repercussion may be very catastrophic!

WHILE INVESTIGATIONS ARE ongoing for both the alleged disappearance of drugs and the mysterious fire, we believe these are immediate steps that should be taken to stabilize the situation. Lest we should forget as a nation, a stitch in time saves nine.

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