Gongloe Sees Stealing as Challenge to Liberia’s Development

Counselor Tiawan Saye Gongloe says the obedience of the 8th commandant of the Holy Bible by the government is necessary as a precondition for a sustained peace, happiness and the development of the country.

He noted that the monumental challenge Liberia has had since 1847 up to this day, has been to obey Commandment number 8 of the Ten Commandments which states, “Thou shall not steal.”

Gongloe therefore is urging graduates of the Haywood Industrial Mission School to practicalize Commandant #8 of the Ten Commandments in the Holy Bible wherever they work.

He as speaker during the Haywood Industrial Mission School 2020/2021 academic graduation exercise made the statement yesterday in Monrovia there and then, he reminded the graduates how some of them have had similar experiences in their days.

Gongloe said “Thou Shall Steal” will help the graduates serve as good ambassadors not only for their Alma mater but for their families and country (Liberia) everywhere they may go in their endeavor.

“Liberia could have been a much better country than it is today, if the government, from one generation to another had been committed to strictly upholding the 8th Commandment,” he noted.

Gongloe strongly believes that the 8th Commandment was not placed in the Holy Book only for the protection of the property rights of individual members of society.

“I believe that in God’s infinite wisdom, He made this rule for the protection of the resources that He has made available to His people not to be stolen by those whom He has placed in charge to govern His people on earth,” he opined.

Therefore, Gongloe further states that the eighth Commandment is also for the protection of the collective property rights of the people.

“In countries where the collective property rights of the people are respected and protected by government, sustained peace, security, progressive development and appreciable level of happiness of the people becomes the result,” he lamented.

Gongloe said there are countries in Africa where obedience of the 8th Commandment by governments has been noted by their people and the world.

He named Botswana, for example, has been identified in every report of credible international institutions as the least corrupt country in Africa.

“It means that the Government of Botswana is not stealing the income from the resources that God has made available to the people of Botswana for all of the people of that country,” Gongloe pointed out.

He advanced further that Botswana has not experienced any military coup or civil conflict as there are other countries in Africa that are similar to Botswana, such as Tanzania and Rwanda.

In West Africa, Gongloe stressed the Ghana has been identified as making great effort to obey the 8th Commandment.

“Since governments do not run by themselves, but by the men and women, elected by the people and those appointed by the elected people to run government, the credit of obeying the 8th Commandment goes to the men and women who are running the governments of Botswana, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ghana, especially their presidents. In Botswana, the credit goes to its first president, Sir Seretse Khama,” he noted.

Botswana under Khama’s leadership has been described as less corrupt compared to other African countries. Successive presidents of Botswana have followed the legacy established by their first president.

Therefore, there is now a culture of obedience of the 8th Commandment by the Government of Botswana as it does not have a situation whereby majority of the people are experiencing poverty and the few citizens who should be protecting the income from the resources, building multiple expensive houses and living a life of luxury, while a majority of the people live in poverty.

As a result, Gongloe stated that Botswana has been very peaceful and has many excellent roads, schools, hospitals, housing and enough food for all its citizens.

“That is why we do not hear of frequent civil disturbances such as street protests, violent demonstrations, etc. and there has not been any military coup or civil conflict in Botswana,” Gongloe believes.

Botswana, by every yardstick of measurement is better than Liberia. Yet, Liberia gained independence in 1847, and Botswana became independent on 30 September 1966, one hundred and 119 years later.

At independence in 1966, it was listed among the poorest countries in the world; but today, due to good governance, Botswana is no longer listed amongst the poor countries of the world. It is one of the fastest growing economies of the world.

At the time of the independence of Botswana, it was reported that Liberia was at the same level with Japan in terms of gross domestic product.  Also, Botswana is a landlocked country and is almost covered by desert, the Kalahari Desert.

Liberia on the other hand has a long coastline with several seaports and contains almost half of the forested land in West Africa and plenty of water. God has blessed this country with abundant resources on our land, under our land, and in the waters, including the Atlantic Ocean.

But because our government has failed, he opined neglected and refused to obey the 8th commandment Liberia is listed amongst the very poor countries of earth today and Botswana is now amongst the rich countries of the world because successive governments of Botswana continue to obey the 8th commandment.

“Look within your communities and see how poor the majority of the people are and how fast some people holding government positions, who could not pay rent for a single room, just a few years ago, are now building expensive mansions as if they have money machines in their homes,” Gongloe said.

He indicated that the situation in the country is so bad and cannot be compared to Botswana because the President now owns more houses and expensive ones too, than he had before becoming President of our country.

“Sometimes, one wonders whether our president is running a real estate company or governing Liberia. A president is required by law to be president twenty four hours of the day, seven days a week,” Gongloe said.

He said this is because the president’s power and responsibilities are not shared with anyone in the government as is done in the legislature and the judiciary. That is the reason why he is immune from any lawsuit, under Article 61 of the Constitution of Liberia.

About public officials, Gongloe stated how some ministers and other officials of government, too are building expensive structures in the shortest period of time as our lawmakers whom the people elected to seek their interest were   appropriating yearly income for the police, other law enforcement officers, the judiciary, our roads, schools, shelters and health services, amongst other needs, in the last budget gave themselves US$30,000 each and they are 103 lawmakers.

“This means, they took US$ 3,090,000.00 from our money and divided it among themselves. From what I know, as a lay person about rural development projects, US$15,000 can be used to build a clinic in a village, by mobilizing the people to make literate bricks and the government supplying the roofing, floor and other materials,” he said.

Therefore, with US$3,090,000, the members of the legislature should have appropriated money for 206 clinics to be built all over the country, thereby reducing the burden of carrying sick Liberian citizens to clinics many miles from their homes, with many dying before reaching the nearest clinic.

Also, Gongloe believes these clinics would have provided jobs for our nurses, many of whom are unemployed because of the lack of clinics to place them, adding, “Yet, although most citizens of Liberia have criticized the lawmakers for taking US$30,000 each from the last year budget, they are so insensitive that they have decided to divide more than US$30,000 each this year.”

Are the Liberian lawmakers representing themselves or the people of Liberia? They call this money legislative engagement money. In other words, they are giving themselves more money in addition to their regular pay, just to meet their people. This is the first time this is happening in Liberia and the only country in the world in which this kind of thing is happening. The worst thing is that this money cannot be accounted for.

Therefore, the General Auditing Commission cannot audit any lawmaker to find out how this huge amount of money was used and if in fact it was used at all. I consider this a misapplication of entrusted property, which under our law is stealing. Did we elect the lawmakers to steal from us? The answer is no.

“I am asking all citizens of Liberia to join me in demanding that our lawmakers remove the budget item called legislative engagement from the budget and instead equally share the money stated in the budget line between the Ministry of Health and Education. If they refuse to do so, then the Liberian people should not vote for them during the next legislative election,” he noted.

The argument of some lawmakers that members of their constituency can make demands on them for school fees, hospital bills and other personal needs is an unjustifiable excuse for stealing our money.

“If their employers, members of their constituencies are making demands that they do not like, then let them resign from their positions as Senators and Representatives or let them not seek re-election. Some former lawmakers left the legislature, by not seeking re-election because they were not satisfied with their employers, members of their constituencies,” Gongloe said.

He then recounted when served as Minister of Labor under President Sirleaf and he did not like some of the things that were happening, he resigned instead of remaining in government and complaining.

“This is how honorable people behave. No lawmaker, political appointee or employee of government is forced to remain in his or her position,” Gongloe said.

He stated that the right to work is a constitutional right that can be exercised by seeking an employment, resigning from an employment or not looking for work.

Therefore, Gongloe went forward with the excuse that the lawmakers is, legally and morally unacceptable. If they truly love the people, then let them use their monthly income to legislatively engage them.

“This is the kind of sacrifice that the ministers and civil servants are making every day in their communities. Otherwise, pretty soon, ministers and other officials of government and civil servants will ask for additional money for community engagement, given that every government employee in this country receives multiple demands, daily in their communities for personal needs because of the high level of poverty in Liberia,” he noted.

Gongloe is of the opinion that ministers and civil servants are asked to pay school fees of their neighbors’ children, to pay the delivery fees for their neighbors’ wives to assist their neighbors with house rent payments, amongst other demands.

The government does not only steal from the impoverished people of Liberia, it also steals from our development partners. Over a year ago, nine diplomatic missions in Liberia wrote an open letter to the government accusing it of taking and using their money without their consent.

“This is stealing. shamefully, our current government has been described by United States Congressman Chris Smith as a Kleptocracy, a government run by people who steal,” he reflected.

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