Governance System At Crisis Proportion -Opposition Reacts to State of Nation Address

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In reaction to the State of the Nations Address delivered by President George Manneh Weah to the National Legislature on Monday, January 28, 2019, four leading opposition political parties have chided the president for not addressing key issues confronting the nation and its people, indicating that Liberians need rude awakening to realize that the country’s governance system has now reached crisis proportion.

“For those Liberians who might have anticipated genuine transformation during this era, events of the past one year are sufficient to make you rethink. You need a rude awakening. You need to realize that our governance system has now reached crisis level,” the four main opposition parties including the All Liberian Party (ALP), the Alternative National Congress (ANC), Liberty Party (LP) and the Unity Party (UP) said in a joint statement issued yesterday in reaction to President Weah’s Annual Message.

Read by Unity Party Chairman Wilmot Paye during a joint press conference at the Liberty Party headquarters in Congo Town, the opposition political parties’ spoke against what they said is increasing levels of corruption; criticized what the considered  violations of the constitution & laws; and spoke against apparent excesses in national security; governance and reconciliation sectors amongst others, calling on the leadership of the Liberia National Police (LNP) to choose between loyalty to the Liberian State and partisan allegiance to any group or political class.

“They must demonstrate that they have not been given any strict order to stand by as critics of the administration are physically attacked. The LNP leadership must be reminded again that the day of reckoning will surely come. When that day comes, they will account for their actions or inactions. In due course, you could be prosecuted,” the opposition told the police.

The statement points to last year’s violence against the residents of Montserrado County’s District #13 during a by-election which was not mentioned in the president’s’ annual message. In that by-election, marauding bands of thugs brandishing deadly weapons disrupted a peaceful rally organized in support of Candidate Cornelia Kruah-Togba. That incident left many innocent citizens wounded, they said.

The opposition bloc on the other hand underscored the tuition-free policy announced for all public universities and colleges, but added that there are no basic instructional materials in the public institutions and community colleges across the country.

“Because the administration has no moral compunction,” the statement indicated, “it does not care about your plight. He failed disastrously to soothe a hungry population, needless to say assure or reassure you. He presented no panacea for salvaging this economy, and gave no clear direction on where the nation is headed,” the statement continued.

According to the statement of the opposition bloc, “Simply put, what the president just delivered is an Annual Mess-Age; it lacks substance and this is not what the constitution prescribes.”

Besides, the four collaborating political parties accentuated, “Public corruption has galloped out of control. Governance is characterized by skullduggery, bigotry, hypocrisy, falsehood, abuse and misuse of public office and power. Violation of the Constitution and laws of Liberia has become commonplace and is pervasive throughout the administration. The president and his officials are above reproach, violating laws and tearing down systems and procedures with impunity.”

Increasing Corruption

Talking about increasing corruption, the four opposition political parties said as expected, the President failed yet again to assure us that he is committed to serving as president for all. “On January 22, 2018, President Weah pledged “to end corruption, be president for all Liberians”, and change the unacceptable trend of Liberians being “spectators in their own economy”. What you have endured in the last year is contrary to the pledge made on January 22, 2018,” the statement pointed out.

Notwithstanding this promise, that opposition observed that not only are Liberians spectators in their own economy but they are now also effectively bystanders in the affairs of their own country. “The president, his cronies and a handful of foreigners are the main actors and participants in the Liberian economy. And even more appalling is that some of his foreign “business” partners have horrible criminal past in their countries,” they asserted.

“Despite his declaration in early 2018 that he inherited an “empty” treasury, a claim later refuted by his predecessor, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President Weah and his officials have only worsened Liberia’s woes. Daylight robbery motivated by insatiable greed is on the rampage. This has caused a total loss of confidence and trust in the governance system,” the opposition’s statement intoned.

They said Liberia is now a society Balkanized into those “for” and “against” George Weah. Those perceived to be against Weah are viewed by senior members of the administration as enemies of the state.

“But in his message on January 28, 2019, the president ignored the deepening division that he has caused in the country. His message showed no indication that his administration was committed to reconciling Liberia.

The president, the four opposition parties further observed, has tried to deceive the world that Liberia is still the country it was when he assumed office, indicating that Liberians have waited in vain for detailed explanation from the president on how the administration “infused” US$25m into the economy in response to last year’s monetary crisis.

“There is no trace of how US$17m of this amount was used. For the first time since Liberia returned to democratic governance, we have a president whose finance minister does not prepare quarterly or mid-term reports as required by Law, the 2018/19 budget being a classic example. Instead, the finance minister is like a parrot perched on the branch of an oak tree programmed to make noise. That is not the function of a finance minister,” the opposition critiqued the first year of the CDC government.

They demanded that the president provides satisfactory answers for questions surrounding the L$16bn (some say L$15bn, L$10.5bn) reported by his own Ministers of Justice and Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism to have gone “missing” last year, saying the annual message of the President provided no such answers other than what the nation has already heard.

“He could not speak to these issues because of a previous position he had taken on this grave matter. Where is the report from the investigation commissioned by the president? We are shocked that the biggest scandal that has plagued this government will be addressed by two lines in the president’s message. What and irony!!! It looks like the nation should brace itself for many more millions, if not billions, to go “missing” without trace before the president leaves office,” the opposition bloc expressed dismay in their statement.

On the use of what is usually referred to as the President’s aircraft, the four opposition collaborating parties said it is false that President Weah’s friend has always allowed him to use the aircraft privately.

“This is false! There is no wealthy person anywhere in the world to be so “generous” as to allow the leader of any nation use their aircraft for every travel. Who bears the cost of maintaining such an aircraft? The president may be thinking that you have no way of determining if the aircraft he flies in regularly was purchased last year. That was part of the criminal loan deals that the president struck last year against growing public outcries,” they said.

Besides, the opposition parties noted that it makes no financial sense for George Weah to pretend to have “reduced” the salaries of public officials under the guise of instituting austerity measures while at the same time he has increased non-program expenditure by more than tenfold, adding “This is criminal.”

 

Diverting Attention

The statement also said the president tried to divert your attention from the alarming pace at which he and his officials have been accumulating real properties. “This is in flagrant violation of the Liberian constitution and laws. This is the same president who declared before a US court prior to the 2017 elections that he was insolvent [and] pleaded to pay US$160 a month for child support. In a single year, however, he has undertaken enormous private building projects for himself.”

In a clear tone, they noted that the Liberian economy is declining exponentially and added that it is time to act if Liberia should not be doomed forever. “Today’s message has heightened fears and dampened whatever tinge of hope was left as you waited to hear any practical policy prescriptions on how to revamp the economic, return to good governance and avert further financial disasters that still lie ahead,” they said.

Hear the opposition: We must act with some urgency to prevent the situation from degenerating into a humanitarian catastrophe. This has validated previous doubts about his capacity to govern. We do not think you should continue to take him seriously at all. The president failed to mitigate the Liberian problem. The president and his cronies are celebrating while businesses are closing down, food prices are soaring and the prospects of jobs for young people graduating from colleges and universities grow dimmer, gloomier and grimmer.

The opposition parties said it was obvious that the president would harp about minimal efforts commenced to continue road and other works started years ago, which they said is appreciated, adding however that what one administration initiates, its successor should continue, especially with the blueprint available.

“Many of the ongoing projects were in their different implementation phases long before this administration came into being on January 22, 2018. What is at issue here is the violation of the PFM and Public Procurement Laws in disbursing funds for these projects,” they said.

“Besides, where could the administration have begun from, with its lack of direction and glaring incompetence if these projects had not been initiated before he assumed office,” the four main opposition parties wondered, saying that the argument cannot therefore be about who should claim credit but instead how the economy is performing is a major concern to Liberians.

They said Liberians are anxious to see a model that identifies practical ways to solve our social, economic, political and cultural problems, enumerating the expectation of the people to include maintenance of peace and security; promotion of democratic good governance and the rule of law; making agriculture real and productive once again (i.e. food and cash crop production for domestic consumption and export); and improving health-care services through hospitals, health centers and clinics that are operating at their full capacity.

Besides, they noted that improving Liberia’s global image and geopolitical standing; making Liberia business-friendly and competitive once more; taking steps to end corruption as he swore to do; making real the so-called tuition-free policy for public universities and colleges as pronounced last year and removing suspicion that the utterance was a mere publicity stunt and continuing efforts geared toward improving the quality of education are also expectations of the people.

Additionally, reconciling a deeply divided country; protecting foreign direct investments while attracting new investors; governing Liberia for all Liberians and not for his cheering squads or one small segment of society; recognizing that despite the fraudulent nature of the 2017 elections, at least 62% of Liberians rejected his leadership and therefore cannot be overlooked; making real the promise that Liberians will not be “spectators in their own economy”; and stopping the witch hunt and clampdown against dissent and punish those employing violence in his name are amongst  the Liberian people’s expectation of the Weah-led government, according to the opposition statement.

Moreover, the four collaborating opposition parties hope that the same interest, enthusiasm, energy, devotion, alacrity and speed with which the Legislature has proceeded to entertain impeachment proceedings against a member of the Supreme Court Bench will be shown in pushing for impeachment proceedings against the president for violation of the Constitution and laws of Liberia.

“We call on the Legislature to initiate this action now because his administration has already violated Articles 14, 39, 62, 90 of the Liberian constitution, the Public Financial Management (PFM), Anti-Corruption, and Public Procurement and Concessions Laws. These laws were enacted to promote good governance,” they said pointing out that they are prepared to work with those representatives and senators who will take up these violations, which they indicated are too grave to be ignored.

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