‘Paradise of Thieves’ -Lawyers’ President Says of Liberia As They Celebrate Law Day

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The description of Liberia as ‘Paradise of Thieves’ or a country stagnated because of corruption and graft has come a long way, with much of the allegations targeting the political administration. Others agree that widespread corruption spills over the entire nation, with every segment of the population and sector of professional life falling prey. What is more baffling is that despite the lamentations from the days of old, little or nothing is done at practically to fight graft and corruption. Because at the end of the day, the accusers turn out to be the accused whenever they take the gavel of power while the accused turn out be the accusers when they lost power. Meanwhile, the social pandemic blooms every time to time and development stalls. As the country’s lawyers celebrate Law Day this year, the issue of corruption has become a dominant part of the day’s discourse and the man who serves as the president, former Solicitor General and former Minister of Labor, longtime human rights advocate Tiawan Gongloe, is repeating the lamentations. The Analyst reports.

The President of the Liberia National Bar Association, Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, has described Liberia a paradise of thieves, where political leaders reap natural resources at the detriment of the majority of citizens.

Cllr. Gongloe made the statement Friday, May 7, 2021, when he delivered his official remarks at programs marking the celebration of Law Day in Monrovia.

He said this year’s celebration of Law Day was meant to raise public awareness about the threat posed by corruption and terrorism and what needs to be done to discourage corruption and to curtail the availability of access to money for financing terrorism through money laundering.

On the issue of corruption, the former Solicitor General said, it is no secret that “the Government of Liberia, for decades, has been unable to fight corruption, although there have been frequent pronouncements against corruption.”

“The evidence is that every succeeding Liberian administration has proven not to have the political will to fight corruption,” he asserted, and added: “Our last president and the current president have used the closeness of Liberians as an excuse for their very little or no action against corrupt government officials and employees, as well as management executives and employees of public corporations.”

He declared: “Therefore, Liberia has become a paradise for thieves in the public sector to the extent that those thieves openly enjoy and exercise what I describe as freedom of theft.”

The Liberian Lawyers’ president said most of the thieves in government like to travel to the United States and Europe to enjoy their stolen money, in addition to the lightning speed with which they acquire real properties and very expensive vehicles in Liberia.

“In order to curtail the freedom of theft in Liberia,” he averred, “I reiterate on this day my call to the American Government on behalf of the Liberian National Bar Association to deny visas to officials and employees of government in the three branches of the Liberian Government who are deemed to be corrupt based on lifestyle audits. I make the same appeal to the European Union on this Law Day.”

He said America and Europe must not make themselves co-conspirators in the theft that is going in Liberia by granting access to corrupt officials and employees of government to spend money stolen from the Liberian people in their countries.

“Let me make it clear that the LNBA is not against the accumulation of wealth by hard work and the use of the intellect. But the LNBA wants Liberia to have its own wealthy people in the same way that America has its Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, or Nigeria, its Aliko Dangote. In this way generations of Liberians will learn to work hard and to use their minds to acquire wealth and contribute to the progress and prosperity of Liberia.”

The LNBA’s position on combatting corruption, money laundering and terrorist financing is an integral part of its fight for accountability and justice, the longtime human rights advocate noted.

He noted further: “In this regard, I want to announce that the LNBA’s Ad Hoc Committee on drafting the bill for establishing an extraordinary tribunal for war and economic crime headed by Cllr. Jallah Barbo has now submitted to me the revised copy of the bill after receiving suggestions from legal scholars around the world.”

He divulged that the LNBA is working with the National Civil Society Coalition to mobilize the Liberian people for submission of this draft bill to the National Legislature in a few weeks.

“I invite all well-meaning Liberians and residents to join the LNBA in marching to the National Legislature to submit this bill,” Cllr. Gongloe said. “Also, I want to inform the Liberian people that the Executive Committee is considering the issue of working with the members of the Legislature for the impeachment of those judges that have been found guilty of misconduct by the Supreme Court of Liberia.”

The LNBA notes that although the Supreme Court has done well in punishing judges by suspensions and denials of salaries, some judges have refused to disengage from unwholesome practices and change for the better.

Such judges, he said, are clearly unfit to continue to serve in the judiciary and that the LNBA considers it a moral duty to clean the judiciary in the interest of the Liberian people. This we will begin to do.

Last year the LNBA could not celebrate Law Day due to the preventive measures promulgated by our government to curtail the spread of the COVID 19 Pandemic in Liberia.

But the lawyers’ president said even as they were able to march on the Tubman Boulevard in Congo Town to the Conference Hall of the Ministerial Complex, thousands of people around the world are still falling sick and dying in the United States, Brazil, India and many other countries around the world as result of the coronavirus.

“For all those who have lost their lives around the world, I pray your indulgence to stand with me for one moment of silence. May their souls and souls of all the faithfuls departed rest in perfect peace. Thank you and you and you may be seated.”

Giving some highlights of the history of the Law Day, Cllr Gongloe said the Celebration of Law Day originated in the United States of America.

It is reported that on February 5, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a proclamation declaring May 1 of each year to be celebrated as Law Day in the United States of America.

In that proclamation President Eisenhower said: “In a very real sense, the world no longer has a choice between force and law. If civilization is to survive it must choose the rule of law.” It is recorded that President Eisenhower’s decision was influenced by Charles S. Rhyne, then serving as his legal counsel and at the same time serving as President of the American Bar Association for the period 1957 to 1958.

Since then the American Bar Association has been celebrating May 1 each year as Law Day under various themes. This year for example, the American Bar Association celebrated Law Day under the theme: “Advancing the Rule of Law Now: Access and Accountability, A Call to Action”

He said the Liberian National Bar Association borrowed the tradition of celebrating Law Day as a professional body from the American Bar Association, as there has been no Presidential proclamation or an act of the Legislature on the celebration of Law Day in Liberia.

However, the LNBA does not celebrate Law Day on May one, because May 1 is celebrated in Liberia as International Labor Day. The celebration of Law Day in Liberia is mandated by Article VIII of the Constitution and By-laws of the LNBA. It states, “The Association shall observe May 2 each year as Law Day and it shall execute appropriate programs throughout the nation in commemoration of the Day.”

The Executive Committee has adjusted the celebration of Law Day to the first Friday in May for the convenience of the courts and to encourage greater participation of all members of the bar.  Since the administration of Cllr. Oswald Tweh, as President, the LNBA has been celebrating Law Day. The Day is used by the bar to raise public awareness in Liberia on the importance of adherence to the rule of law in the promotion of peace, progress and prosperity in any civilized society. The LNBA’s Theme for the Celebration of Law Day in Liberia this year is “Adherence to the Rule of Law as an Effective Tool for Combatting Corruption, Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Terrorist Financing.” This is the LNBA’s way of contributing to the global fight against corruption, Anti-money laundering and terrorist financing.

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