MONROVIA: Former President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Mr. Abraham G. Massaley is urging Liberians to tune down their high expectations that the incoming government will aggressively tackle corruption which has permeated deeply into the fabrics of the Liberian society. He said it will require more than pronouncements and goodwill by incoming President Joseph N. Boakai to fight corruption and wasteful spending. These vices, he said are retarding development and inflicting sufferings on the people.
Mr. Massaley said since April 12, 1980, Liberia has been entangled in a “political loop of change, euphoria and disappointment”. To break this circle, he said the country needs a leader who is stern, tough and resolute, with a strong sense of nationalism and patriotism, and genuinely dedicated to serving the best interest of the people and nation. He hoped Ambassador Boakai will measure to the task.
Mr. Massaley said character, change of mind and attitude towards public service, and integrity by our elected and appointed officials are vital to make any meaningful impact on anti-corruption reforms. Unfortunately, he said election victory in Liberia is seen as an opportunity to joggle for jobs for personal aggrandizement.
The former PUL president who is residing in the United States said if incoming President Boakia truly commits to tackling corruption, he will likely face fierce resistance from his own Unity Party and the coalition partners because he said many Liberians see public service as a means of enriching themselves and their families.
He said corruption has weakened every public institution in the country including the legislature, the courts, the police and anti-corruption agencies. He said it’s going to require significant arm-twisting by the new President to successfully implement any concrete, concerted and sustained campaign by his administration to hammer corruption and wasteful spending, and not just the president’s benevolence and pronouncements.
He called for the setting up of a Corruption Hotline for the public and whistleblowers to make confidential or anonymous reports on corruption, bribery, fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement in government, and suggested that such call center be managed by a Special Integrity or Oversight Unit on Corruption. Mr. Massaley said this can begin with a pilot project and be expanded in phases, based on its successful rollout and implementation. He stressed that civil servants need to be paid on time in efforts to curb corruption. Mr. Massaley congratulated the incoming President and said wished him well.
In a press statement dated January 10, 2024, the former PUL President said the national budget needs to be recast to reflect a significant reduction in salaries and benefits for elected and appointed public officials but said the new President will have to fight tooth and nail to curb this wasteful spending. He argued that the budget is predominantly recurrent expenditure with the legislature alone receiving over $US 64 million in the 2022 budget ($US37.4 million as salary cost for the House and $US 21.1 million as salary cost for the Senate). He questioned why the Speaker’s office and the Office of the Senate Pro Tempore receive over $US two million each in an impoverished nation.
Mr. Massaley said the election of Ambassador Boakai was the direct result of the Weah administration’s failure to tackle corruption and wasteful spending as well as condoning corrupt behavior by public officials and his government’s laissez-faire attitude towards the culture of impunity while the people suffer.
He said President Weah is admired by him (Massaley) and other Liberians for displaying love for country during the civil war periods. But he said when Mr. Weah became president, he did not lead a government that sought to harness the talents, skills and competence of qualified and patriotic Liberians who could have helped him in moving the country in a better direction. He made it clear that no leader can be beholden to cronies, praise singers and blind loyal followers and succeed.
Mr. Massaley said rampant corruption, misuse of power, impunity and gross injustices were the main grievances for the April 12, 1980 military coup but lamented that these grievances have remained unresolved by all successive administrations since 1980. He said notwithstanding the murders of two sitting Presidents, 66-year-old William R. Tolbert and 39-year-old Samuel K. Doe and the execution by firing squad of almost an entire cabinet as well as the senseless killings of over 250, 000 Liberians from 1980 to 2003 and the massive destruction of the country by civil wars and armed conflicts, corruption and impunity remain the country’s two major obstacles to development and progress.
The former PUL President said Liberians jubilated in 1980, signing, “native woman born soldier”, because they were clamoring for change for a better and inclusive Liberia but said the soldiers quickly dashed the hopes and aspirations of the nation. He said, consequently, the country erupted in violence, and a new song emerged, “you kill my ma, you kill my pa, I will vote for you”. But he said their votes soon became bullets that once again plunged the country into bloodbaths.
Mr. Massaley said there was very high expectation when Harvard educated Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became President. But he lamented that her government became so corrupt and wasteful with public officials including senators, representatives and ministers being paid in tens of thousands of US dollars in monthly salaries while the ordinary citizens drowned in abject poverty and languished in extreme sufferings. He said President Sirleaf introduced “millionaire salary” for senators, representatives and appointed officials.
The former PUL President said the Liberian people lost trust in the Sirleaf government and blamed the educated elite for their sufferings. Consequently, he said the people welcomed President Weah with the song, “you know book, you don’t know book, I will vote for you”. He said our people continue to send clear message that they don’t like the direction of the country and are clamoring for change for a better Liberia. But Mr. Massaley said those who have come to power have not listened to the cries of our people.
Mr. Massaley said the progressive movement of the seventies that inspired the 1980 coup and the subsequent civil wars as well as the defeat of two ruling political parties (Unity Party in 2017 and the CDC in 2023) is a loud cry that the Liberian people are yearning for change for a better country. He hoped incoming President Boakai will listen. He pointed out that President Weah could stage a successful comeback in 2029 if the Unity Party does not heed the warnings of the Liberian people against corruption and impunity.