CHOKING NAT’L ISSUES -LCC Prexy Speaks; Requests State to Involve Church -Wants Partnership from Manageable Level
A number of trending issues including the PIT/Kroll Reports and the pending audit investigation into the US$25 Million that was intended to be infused into the market for mop-up; the ongoing Kabineh Jan’eh impeachment trial, the state of the national economy and the need to focus more on agriculture as well as youth empowerment and the alleged report of the training of a militias group in the country are of grave concerns to Liberians. Also of concern to the people is the need for the government to establish concrete partnership with the church and other entities in addressing this state of national digression from the present to a national reality. The Analyst’s editorial team over the weekend had the privilege of conducting an exclusive interview with the Liberia Council of Churches’ President, Rev. Dr. Kortu Brown; The Analyst reports.
The President of the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC) and Bishop of the New Water in the Desert Apostolic Church (NWIDAC), the Rev. Dr. Kortu Brown who has been speaking on an array of national issues says the country needs innovative minds to brush aside some of the old methods and to create new approaches to resolving national problems.
The apostolic bishop spoke with The Analyst on Thursday at his New Water in the Desert Apostolic Church Ministries Compound in Brewerville, outside Monrovia. Bishop Brown gave his impression on the Kroll Report on the alleged 16 billion Liberian dollars and the usage of the US$25 million intended to mop-up excess Liberian dollars from the market.
Bishop Brown also shared thoughts on Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) Reports and the Jan’eh impeachment trial. His thoughts on the state of the nation touched on the national economy, the appointment of Islamic Advisor to the President and the alleged report of the training of a militia group.
Responding to a question, the apostolic preacher narrated that the country is in transition, and called on the government to direct its efforts towards building on gains made to maintain stability and uninterrupted democracy.
Concerning Kroll/PIT Reports, Rev. Dr. Brown described as “welcoming”, the position of the LCC on the two reports. He called on the government to ensure that recommendations in the reports are implemented fully so that justice is served to all concerned. He however disclosed the Council constituted a nine-man committee to study the report and come up with any further reaction that could be adopted by the council.
“Liberians do not want the government to reverse the gear that the reports have set for the country. These reports give us great opportunity to be able to show to the world that we are accountable, that we can fight impunity, that we care for our country and that we want to see our country move forward. And for our country to move forward we have to fight fraud, waste and abuse,” he said.
The LCC President furthered, “Unless the government does the right thing, there is cloud handing over the reports; concerned Liberians will ensure that those involved will not go with impunity.”
Consequently, Rev. Dr. Brown welcomes the General Auditing Commission’s secondary intervention and he also termed as “primary interventions” the investigations by Kroll & Associates and Presidential Investigative Team.
He cautioned the GAC: The General Auditing Commission must know that if the next report is not satisfactory, there will be a third-party intervention.
He then stated his disagreement with recent position by the collaborating opposition parties who said President George M. Weah’s order to the General Auditing Commission to probe issues arising from the conduct of the US$25 million mop-up exercise is intended to shield Finance Minister Samuel Tweah and Central Bank of Liberia Governor Nathaniel Patray.
“Not necessarily that the GAC’s audit as ordered by the President is a ploy to shield the two officials; I think we should not cast aspersion at every action regarding the implementation of the findings of the reports,” Rev. Brown said.
Rev. Dr. Brown who is also the president of the inter-religious council of Liberia expressed optimism that the GAC will do a good job just as the Presidential Investigative Team. He accentuated that no Liberian thought the Presidential Investigative Team would have done the level of very good job they did on the alleged missing L$16 billion and the US$25 million for mop up which he noted, surprised many Liberians.
“You know they were detailed in their reporting and that they reported on issues that even the Kroll Report did not emphasize,” the bishop averred.
Rev. Brown opined that Liberians should give the GAC the same benefit of doubt they accorded the PIT Technical Committee so that the commission will do its work and make a professional report to expectation as well.
“All Liberians who will read and understand will be able to read between what was done, what GAC would be proposing; and what the reality is. And I know and think that GAC understands this.”
On the Jan’eh impeachment trial, Bishop Brown said the LCC’s position is that the trial is “untimely.” He explained that the trial is a diversion. “Our country has very serious challenges. The IMF reported that the economic outlook of our country is bleak. Inflation is around 28 percent. We have very serious challenges here. And to me, the Senate should be engaged in finding solutions to some of these very serious challenges.”
The Liberian prelate pointed out that any elected government has the responsibility to ensure that his/her country remains peaceful and stable. For this reason, he thinks “…the Jan’eh trial… is untimely and is an unnecessary diversion of resources; and I think the Supreme Court is supposed to be focused on adjudicating cases before the bench instead of involving itself with such diversion.”
On whether he thinks Jan’eh violated the Constitution that warranted the impeachment, Bishop Brown responded: Article 43 of our constitution says “You can’t hold a man for making any opinion in the Chambers of the Supreme Court. So whoever is doing that is also violating the constitution. The way to go about it is to stop violating the Constitution. When you put on an impeachment trial because someone rendered an opinion in the court, it is a violation of the Constitution.”
Rev. Dr. Brown also discussed the economy in relation to the country’s agriculture program. The LCC president referred to President Weah’s annual message to the nation in which the Liberian chief executive said the country has made some progress, that there are many challenges, and that there are overwhelming public expectations.
“We’ve made small progress, though we have so many challenges with us. We have this which you may consider as the real threat – huge expectation of the public for the performance of the government,” the Liberian prelate diagnosed.
Hear Rev. Brown: You don’t even hear the government talk economics. The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning should be focus on trying to study, assess and review the economy and our economic actions to ensure that we celebrate a program that will help reverse the odds in the national agenda in three phases – short term, medium term and long term.
He then wondered, “So what is our short term remedial measure for reversing the downward trend of the economy? What are our intermediate measures?”
He maintained that the number-one focused priority of our economy is bread and butter issues, saying for instance that if people have food on their tables daily and their children going to school, they will still be at ease even if they do not get roads.
He recalled that the government reported that discussions during the President’s visit to Israel were focused on agriculture, but questions whether there was any agricultural plan. “So what is your own Agricultural Plan that the Israeli would tap into if they should come to our help? Where is our National Development Plan? If the Pro-Poor Agenda is the one, what is the component on Agriculture? How do we intend to achieve food security?
Rev. Dr. Brown acknowledged food insecurity at individual person level, and asked: So what is at the family level, at the Community level and at the National level?
He then suggested that Liberia needs their planners to go around the table and propose what is needed to boost food security in the country.
He added that tackling road networks without agriculture implements, tools, seeds, and the techniques will not improve agriculture, adding that when the roads are built and the man in the village does not have agriculture implements, the tools, the seeds, the techniques, he would find it difficult to produce food in abundance as expected, adding “We need massive food production here. This country has rice as its staple.”
The LCC President also spoke on youth empowerment and advised President Weah to focus not on party politics. On the issue of youth empowerment, Rev. Dr. Brown said empower of the young people in Liberia is paramount.
He reasoned that the Liberian population is more than 60 percent young people. “That means that if the resources of this country are supposed to affect the people of this country, then you will know by the impact on young people. So if the young people continue to complain that they have not been impacted, that means we have very serious challenges.”
He further reasoned that the young people voted for George Weah to be their president because they saw in him their own kind of life.
“You can come from nowhere and become somebody. You understand that inspiration. George Weah who is from Gilbrata to football and is then celebrated to stardom; he then entered politics and now to the presidency.”
President Weah has to keep this at the back of his minds that he is a role model who should make more George Weahs for Liberia, Bishop Brown accentuated. The way to go about this, the LCC President said, is to create the opportunities for the young people. “The focus must not be at acquiring personal wealth, because we’ve seen that over the years and all through the history of this country.”
“Acquisition of personal wealth hasn’t helped this country. What it does is it brings about animosity, more division; so we have to find a creative way in reinvigorating our people – in their love, their concern for our country and their coming together – that is what Liberia needs right now.”
Commenting on the Church’s relationship with the government, Rev. Dr. Brown calls on the government to allow the church-government relationship to move on a partnership level.
The LCC President said the level at which the church-government relationship is now, is “just one manageable. We engage daily with the government, we work on church issues and reconciliation issues. We find ways that peace and stability is maintained in this country. We hope it can get better.”
Rev. Brown needs both parties to sit around the table to work together in addressing serious national issues, especially involving the young people referred to as social misfits or ‘Zogoes’.“The government must be able to be opened to that kind of partnership on how both can work together in resolving these challenges.”
He reminded the government that the Church has been the driving force of gains made in the country; He indicated that the churches own almost about 40 to 45 percent of the schools in the country, wondering, “how do the church and the government work together to improve the school system?”
Besides, he said the churches own a sizeable portion of the health sector of Liberia. Bishop Brown highlighted that the first hospitals in Liberia were Christian/church hospitals. He gave examples on the Curran Hospital of the Lutheran Church in Zorzor and the Phebe Hospital of the Episcopal Church located on Suacoco, Bong County.
“The first radio station was Christian radio station –ELWA. The Church will be 200 years old in two years and we will celebrate that. That is what we have been saying in the last one year, we will celebrate the gains of the church. The gains made in Liberia have not been made without the involvement of the church,” he stressed.
Noting that the church remains the conscience of the society, Rev. Brown abhorred the “hit and run” approach adopted by the government in dealing with the church, saying that when something happens here, there are three groups that are held responsible namely the government, church, the civil society including the press.
“We may not be speaking publicly on all the issues, but we are engaged in all the issues. We have been engaged on the Kabineh Jan’eh issue; on security issues, we have been engaged; etc. What we are asking for is a functioning partnership. Things are not where we want them to be. But when the car starts and the engine is not beating properly, then you wonder whether you will get there.”
Similarly Bishop Brown took a noise drive into unity in the government, saying “We want to call for unity within the government. It doesn’t make sense for the President and the vice President to be at loggerhead.”
The bishop said the Confusion between the two leaders only slows down the progress and performance of governance. “It is in the interest of the government to be wholesome, to be functional, and to be acting together.”
He despised what he called series of mature attacks on the press. He indicated that the church is concern about these attacks on Roots FM, Joy FM, and then The INQUIRER Newspaper that has split. Such attacks, he noted, are old tactics and suggest that modern ways should be adopted to confront those whose ideas are different from ours.