The news hits Senator Prince Y. Johnson, a former rebel general, like a bombshell: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had written lawmakers here, seeking their acquiescence to cut salaries and benefits of senior government officials in all three branches of government namely; the Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary, respectively.
But the Nimba County Senator, also a presidential hopeful, on Tuesday, February 21, walked out of the chambers of the Liberian Senate’s plenary in total disagreement with the President’s communication, lamenting that the current dismal state of the economy, which has led to a decision to cut salaries and benefits, is principally due to alleged mismanagement of state resources by the government.
With emotional outburst, SenatorPYJ walked out of session without permission from the presiding officer, Senate President Pro-Tempore ArmahJallah.
When reporters tried to interview him on the stairs of the Senate’s wing, right before the office of Vice President Joseph Boakai, Senator Johnson, dressed in red and black coat suit with a cowboy hat and Italian brand shoes,insisted to reportersthat the decision from the executive was gross disrespect to senior officials and is sorely intended to make them (officials) appear ugly in the eyes of the public.
As reporters kept pressing on with more questions, the Nimba County lawmaker, who also owns a church and preaches there every Sunday, abruptly raised a famous gospel song titled, “I know the Lord will make a way” before briskly jumping into his office.
His staffs immediately shut the office door with verbal attacks on reporters for putting the senator under tension with what they term ‘unnecessary’ questions.
According to PYJ, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led administration received millions of dollars from the international community, and millions are on a daily and monthly basis collected thru taxes, but the government failed to account for these huge sums of funds.
He noted that cutting officials’ salaries and benefits would be like a drop in the bucket, which could amount to making mockery of stimulating the economy.
The President’s communication urged officials of government to make the utmost sacrifice for cuts in their take home pay so that the economy of the country can be once more stimulated for the common good of the state.
The economy is currently faced with serious drought, with the foreign exchange rate between the Liberian Dollars and the United States Dollars being LRD104to 1USD.On the black market the exchange rate is 1USD to 108LRD.
Maryland County Senator H. Dan Morais, also walked out of plenary, but reneged on making any comment about the situation.
Meanwhile, the plenary of the Liberian Senate voted overwhelmingly that the matter be sent to the Committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Budget,Banking and Currency to properly advise plenary on the way forward within one week.