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Liberia:  On Jalawah Tonpo attack on Cllr Tiawan Gongloe

                                                   By. S.Karweaye

Recently, Jalawah Tonpo, Deputy Minister of Information for Press and Public Affairs, a man Liberians know quite well as one of the most destructive and vindictive liars in existence, came out publicly to attack Presidential Aspirant Cllr. Tiawan Saye Gongloe and another opposition leader, Mr. Alex Cummings during the Ministry of Information daily briefing. According to Tonpo, Gongloe is constantly passing around using sarcasm and making unsubstantiated statements against the presidency. He alleged Gongloe has also been using invectives against the country’s presidency and Liberian people are not prepared to entrust the country to unserious-minded – politicians like Gongloe.

We are not surprised at Jalawah Tonpo’s recent attacks on Cllr. Tiawan Saye Gongloe and others in the opposition.  Jalawah Tonpo has an incurable knack for lying. His penchant for incompetence and reputation-savaging is almost pathological. Why does he do it? We don’t know. What we do know is the same Tonpon who tried to ruthlessly savage the reputation of Former Public Work Minister and renowned human rights activist, Cllr Kofi Wood, and others who dare to speak against the ills of our society.  

It is so easy to expose Jalawah Tonpo as a sycophant who is a member of the ruling Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC), a major supporter of President George Weah, and chief deputy spokesperson for the government of Liberia. His attack on Gongloe and others is voiced in ignorance or deliberate mischief. Liberians are living witnesses to the public humiliation of the presidency when the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated the president’s trusted aides: Nathaniel McGill, Sayma Syrenius Cephus, and Bill Twehway for their involvement in ongoing public corruption in Liberia. I wonder whether Tonpo is aware that these top government officials’ actions brought “substantiated statements and invectives” against the presidency as well as the Liberian people and not Gongloe or Cummings?

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It is laughable and extremely ridiculous when today like Tonpo called Gongloe an “unserious-minded” politician. It is unfortunate that the greatest “sins” committed by Cllr Tiawan Saye Gongloe, for which his traducers want to crucify him for his criticism of bad governance under Weah’s administration and his stance to adhere strictly to the rule of law in tackling corruption and moving the country. The most painful “crime” for Gongloe’s traducers is his prominent role in calling for U.S sanctions against Weah’s Chief of Staff and Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill. Worse for them, was Cllr Gongloe’s effrontery to tongue-lash George Weah over his very poor handling of the state of affairs in Liberia. He has equally been canvassing for the establishment of the war and economic crimes court in Liberia. Only a biased mind or sycophant will say Cllr Tiawan Saye Gongloe is an unserious politician. 

Cllr. Tiawan Saye Gongloe is a renowned human right lawyer that is taken seriously by the Liberian people and our international partners. For the record, Gongloe is an Associate Professor of law at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia, Former President of the Liberian National Bar Association, Former Minister of Labor, Former Solicitor General, and Former Research fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Former research fellow, Harvard University, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute of African and African American Research; Human Rights Watch Highest honor for human rights work in Liberia. He is a recipient of the Philip Randolph Bayard Rustin Freedom Award and has been in the business of fighting for social justice and democracy in Liberia for over forty-four years of which he has been arrested and tortured in the 70s 80s and 2000s. Now, that is a Serious Politician.

It is really sad when Jalawah Tonpo chooses to ignore the key human development issues in the country to appease his puppet master by attacking opposition figures. Tonpon’s sinister narrative was intentionally silent on the 2022 Fragile State Index (FSI) where Liberia was ranked the 33rd most fragile state in the world. He also chooses to ignore the followings: poverty has reportedly increased by 1.1% (50.9 to 52) according to the World Bank’s 2021 Poverty and Equity Brief; at the end of 2021, Liberia was ranked among the top tenth poorest countries in the world as well as ranked as the 136th most corrupt country in the world according to the 2021 Corruption Perception Index. Tonpo chooses to ignore the high unemployment in the country, especially among the youth, or the food insecurity in the country. On the 2021 Global Hunger Index (GHI), Liberia’s score was 33.3 indicating Liberia has a ‘serious’ hunger problem. He also chooses to ignore the 2019–20 Liberia Demographic and Health Survey (LDHS) revelation of the infant mortality rate in Liberia of 64 deaths per 1,000 live births. About half of these occur in the first month of life. The maternal mortality ratio was 742 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. According to UNICEF, Liberia loses 11,000 children under five each year, and close to one in three children and adults live five kilometers or more from a health facility.

CRITICISM, according to the late British Prime Minister and author, Sir Winston Churchill, is necessary because “like a pain in the human body, it calls our attention to an unhealthy state”. It is shameful that the likes of Jalwah Tonpo and other lickspittles in the CDC-led government don’t know the sole purpose of criticism is to enable the person (President Weah) that is being criticized to make amends where necessary. We make bold to say Tonpo labeling Liberia’s renowned human right advocate because of his intentions of combating corruption, is doing so in bad faith. Any discerning mind will agree with this writer that the likes of Tongo don’t mean well for our beloved country, Liberia.  

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The collective duty and the desire of all patriotic Liberians, irrespective of political affiliation is to support President Weah’s exit power through the ballot box in a manner that will foreclose any thought of going back to the dark days of military coups or civil wars in Liberia. Theodore Roosevelt says “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official.” We judge the performance of any government, either positively or negatively, by what that government has been able to achieve and so far, the Weah administration has performed poorly.

It is the view of this writer that unless Jalawah Tonpo and his kind in the government of Liberia depart from sycophancy and do the job of the Liberia people, they forfeit the moral high ground to attack the serious-minded individuals in our society. Too often, many in Weah’s administration behave like automatic defenders who go after anything coming out of the opposition whether good or bad. Opposition or criticism is badly needed, especially in a system such as ours with a pronounced moral deficit.

The fact remains President Weah is a weak President, and his political trajectory explains why he cannot help himself. First, fate cast him into oblivion in 2005, and then made him spend 12 years of his life chasing the presidency while he danced to the tunes of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. By the time fate decided to humor him and make him President, he wasn’t prepared. The Liberian people now realized the Weah image he sold us was irreconcilable with his capabilities. He had won the election before reality dawned on him that the gap that exists between what people expect and what he can achieve could never be bridged. He turned reclusive, avoiding Liberians as much as he could. Despite hiding away in Jamaica resort, he remains haunted by the fear of being ousted in 2023. That fear rules him, and he is so paranoid that he and his army of sycophants confront any constructive criticisms with the full force of presidential rage. 

Whether Gongloe’s traducers like it or not, no politician has given us the prescription for fighting public corruption like Gongloe. Gongloe’s stance on fighting corruption, despite strong opposition to it, opened a can of worms that made it known to the whole world that for decades, millions of dollars would have been spent on live-enhancing projects in all sectors, which would have had a direct bearing on the lives of the masses in Liberia, was going into private pockets of fat cats. Many will also agree with this writer that Gongloe deserves commendation for mustering the political will to expose the ills in our society

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The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by Searchlight Communications Inc. Established on November 16, 2009, with its first hard copy publication on January 22, 2010. The office is located on UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is bilingual (both English & French).
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