Gongloe Hails Sanction against PYJ -Urges US to “Go after Votes Buyers Too”

Outgoing President of the Liberia National Bar Association(LNBA), Cllr. Tiawan Saye Gongloe has hailed the recent sanction placed on Senator Prince Yormie Johnson of Nimba County, by the United States Government, through the Department of Treasury for corruption, which include selling of votes and bribery stating that it was a response to the yearnings from the civil society community that stringent actions be taken against those who commit crimes in the country and also called on the United States Government to also go after those who are in the habit of buying votes in the country.

Cllr. Gongloe made the assertion over the weekend when he spoke to newsmen on his reaction after the news of the sanction was made public and views were being expressed from various quarters of the society. He said it has always been the position of LNBA to fight corruption because it is a threat to peace. He said during the May 7, 2021 celebration of the Bar day, it called on the United States and the European Union to institute stringent measures against corrupt member of the government, including the three branches of government and believes that the step taken against Senator Johnson was consistent with their calls and that was why the Bar was commending the decision.

“But we are calling upon the US government to go beyond that. We stated in the sanction statement that one of the reasons for the sanction against the Honorable Senator is that he has been selling votes but in order for the market to be successful, there has to be a demand side, so the government has done with the supply side, the sellers of votes. The Bar asks the United States Government to also go against the side of those who are buying votes”, Cllr. Gongloe said.

He said for a transaction to be successful, it takes two sides to make it happen and therefore while the sellers are being punished, the buyers on the other side should also be sanctioned. He made specific reference to the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill whom he accused of engaging in votes buying with the donations he has made in Margibi, Bong, Nimba and Grand Bassa Counties under the President George Manneh Weah Scholarship Scheme. He said in the course of just a month, Minister McGill had made up to LD$170m in donations to those counties.

Cllr Gongloe who recently accepted a petition from the Team Gongloe Movement to contest the 2023 presidential race said such type of spending shows the reckless disregard for the Liberian people who are suffering so much, adding that in the midst of the hardship in the country, that kind of spending obviously borders on the money that was obtained through corrupt manner.

“He is under obligation as a public servant to show the sources of his money, so we are calling upon the American government to go on the demand side, those who are paying for votes to also be sanctioned, that is visiting the reactions of the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA). We applaud the government, but we want the American government to go further so as to curtail this kind of habit that undermines our democracy. Today ends the Summit on democracy, organized by the American government and they want to say that on this day, actions that undermine genuine democracy, such as votes buying should be curtailed by special action”, the renowned legal practitioner said.

When asked what he makes of the country where 60-75% of the government officials are living in luxury and bulk of the citizens are suffering, Cllr.  Gongloe provided background of what he believes were the sources of the various conflicts that have occurred in the country, stating that those conflicts came out of disenchantment because of bad governments.

“You know the conflict that came to Liberia that began with the coup de etat and the 1989 civil conflict, was not because of religious differences, or tribal differences, it was based on bad government that brought the mass disenchantment. And this kind of behavior actually, is the early warning sign of the conflict. No one has displayed this behavior in public service. So the issue of vote buying, vote selling is a new aspect of corruption in Liberia. The other one is legislative bribery but on top of legislative bribery now, we have vote buying, vote selling, which the American government and other governments I believe are taking note of. So the reckless spending of money for example by the Minister of State is annoying  and in a society where there is mass poverty, if there is anything like street protest, it will be something difficult to control. I call on the Liberian people to show their disgust and a legal way not to create conflict but come 2023, the Liberian people should show their disgust against this kind of reckless conduct by putting in the interest of peace, stability, growth and prosperity of the country”, He said.

He condemned the Pay for play practices by lawmakers, one of the allegations the Americans levied against Senator Johnson. He said this is also a form of bribery by lawmakers  whose benefits according to him should only be their salaries. He further said that their benefits should not be the $30,000.00 they appropriate for themselves and saw that as a misapplication of the trust of the people

The human rights activist lamented that the Liberian system lacks the political will and capacity to fight corruption so the country has had reasons to rely on other people like the United States and the European Union. He said now that these countries are coming to assist Liberia, it is a good deal that will help the country and its people because what is keeping the country down has been theft. He also frowned on the government’s decision to be spending money meant for providing social amenities to the people by spending the same on someone to pacify them

“No matter what government promises to build roads, hospitals, clinics, schools, etc, if the money is not there, there is nothing they can do. Instead of government spending money on social amenities, building roads, schools, clinics, they are using the money to pacify someone in the name of domestic stability.  If you provide for the mass of the people, you are providing security for domestic stability, because no matter how large or big the army, once there is disenchantment, you cannot stop it,” He said.

He also spoke about the what could be the implication of the sanction on Senator Johnson’s political future in the Nimba County and said it is not a good thing for Nimbaians to have one of their lawmakers or any of their lawmakers to be under sanction that will stop them from travelling out of the country to explore opportunities for the county and its people but it is also a good thing for them because the issue of voting selling has been something majority of the citizens have been fighting against and the sanction came in at the time when the people of Nimba have raised their voices against the exercise loudly than ever before.

He said there is a new thinking about vote selling in Nimba and it was clearly demonstrated in the recent bye-elections where the government brought money in the county to support the candidate of interest to the Senator but the people voted against him.

He said the relationship between the United States and Liberia has been historically strong, such that if the US government sanctions any citizen of Liberia, the person is in a big trouble politically and no matter how it is interpreted otherwise, that could be the interpretation of the person who is being affected and not based on credible analysis, apparently referring to Senator Johnson who said that the people of Nimba still look up to him and come in any election in Nimba he will win.

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