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Editorial: The Oil Debate: Periscoping the House’s Conspicuous Silence and Attitude

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Liberia is one of the few countries the world-over whose laws and policies are crafted in consonance with democratic values. Perhaps this is one reason why this nation is sometimes referred to as “a country of laws and not of men”. In contrast and practical terms, Liberia is mostly a country of men than laws.

It is an established fact that we do have excellent laws (and policies), but implementing these laws to the latter continue to be the most difficult problem our country faces. This is one administrative and national weakness that has hunted the country’s moral uprightness since its establishment as a nation-state in 1847 by ex-slave descendents from the plantations in the United States.

At the onset of the Liberian nation, the laws (and policies) only favored Liberian Government officials, their relatives, friends and other associates of the First Liberian Republic over the aborigines whose belief was that despite their fair color, they were all Liberians, even though their compatriots may have had another thought.

The 1986 Constitution of the second Liberian Republic and other laws may have been rewritten to suit the general interest of all Liberians, but the interpretation/implementation of these laws may one way or the other just favor a group of public officials and their likes. In essence and reality, the implementation of Liberian laws or policies continues to be greatly dependent on “INTEREST”, i.e. if the laws/policies favor the ruling establishment in any manner and form; they are always implemented to the latter. On the contrary, there are either delays or ‘quasi alternatives’.

When the House of Representatives, weeks ago, alarmed to the nation that oil contracts signed by the Liberian Government were not compatible with the 2002 Petroleum Law of Liberia and that the contracts needed to undergo re-negotiations, many well-meaning Liberian welcomed such argument as one in the general interest of the country. One primary reason was that, their interest was adequately represented in terms of the immense benefits in the 2002 Petroleum Law.

It may have been noticed by members of the House of Representatives that the Petroleum law was pushed aside because it was against the business interest of companies, including the American-owned Chevron and did not favor the economic interest of the ruling establishment, especially those at the fore-front of the negotiations.

In view of the foregoing, the Executive Branch of Government launched a campaign for a review of the 2002 Petroleum Law of Liberia, a call the House of Representatives resisted as the direct representatives of the people of Liberia.

But again, the issue of “personal interest” may just be inter-playing in the debate considering the conspicuous silence currently characterizing the issue.  Except for the ongoing advertisement by the National Oil Company of Liberia in the media on ‘Petroleum Policy and Law Development, not a single word has come out of the House of Representatives regarding the status of the issue raised against oil contracts.

Again, these are the people’s representatives who make and review the laws of the land, and if and only if they have chosen another route to suit their personal interest, “the Lord is watching us”.

In as much as Liberians were informed by these “Honorable men and women” of the House of Representatives that the oil contracts signed by the Executive Branch on behalf of the Government did not conform to the 2002 Petroleum Law of Liberia and that such contracts must also be re-negotiated, they were still under obligation to tell people of Liberia how far they were.

The conspicuous silence and attitude of the members of the House of Representatives toward the issue may be leaving their critics and other observers with no alternative, but to harbor the belief and suspicion that they too, have joined the band wagon to compromise the laws of Liberia.

Until the honorable brothers and sisters on Capitol Hill can prove this wrong by publicly announcing the status of their argument on behalf of the people, there must just be something wrong ongoing against the interest of the people of Liberia, and whatever shall be the result of such compromise in the future, will be blamed on members of the House of Representatives of the 53rd Liberian Legislature.

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