Editorial

Echo from the Capitol

New leaderships have taken seats at the Capitol following the elections Monday, 15 January of a new Speaker for the House of Representatives and a new Pro-Tempore for the Liberian Senate, respectively, ushering in the 54th Session of the Liberian Legislature.


Speaker Dr. Bohfal Chambers promised to rebrand the House of Representatives thru dynamic leadership with national reconciliation as a hallmark, while Senate Pro-Tempore Albert Tugbeh Chie vowed to closely work with the Executive branch of government to initiate stimulus programs that would reverse the dismal performance of the economy in both short and long terms.

Both leadership of the 54th Legislature promised to prioritize the general wellbeing of the Liberian people to achieving peace, prosperity and stability. These are encouraging commitments, and Liberians anxiously welcome these early promises, which they hope are not mere lip services, but would be made realities.

Members of the 54th Legislature have no choice. They must go all out in doing legislative businesses differently that would depart from the recent past when greed and selfish interest took precedent over genuine commitment to service.

The Legislature as first branch of the Liberian government serves as a pendulum that keeps the Executive in check and also an engine that drives the Judiciary thru its lawmaking. And so it sits in a crucial position to stabilize the entire country thru responsible leadership.

Liberians are still struggling to come to terms with the manner in which the 53rd Legislature went ahead and ratified several dozen concessions that made no tangible or visible impacts on their lives as citizens. They kept hoping for the better up to the last minute of this administration that relinquishes power next Monday, 22 January to an elected government.

They sincerely look forward to a departure from such failed performance that left them with nothing, but failed hope and dreams, particularly our fellow compatriots that reside in concessional areas.

The 54th Legislature has a glorious opportunity to prove public perceptions wrong that it would be another rubberstamp legislature that will dance to the tone of the Executive even when there is nothing to dance for, while the masses languish in poverty and misery.

Therefore, we challenge Speaker Chambers and Pro-Tempore Chie to execute the Liberian people’s duties with scrupulous commitment and outmost sincerity so that their legacies will go down in history as leaders who presided over a legislature that refused to do business as usual.

The echo from the Capitol is one of hope and anxiety. Hope that the electorate confidence will not dashed along the wayside again, and anxiety that their expectations will be met in line with the promises made to them when the leaders they have elected went to seek their votes.

Adverting a national health crisis

A strange skin disease that has reportedly affected 1,777 persons in five counties in Liberia could eventually turn into a potential national crisis here if concerted steps are not taken immediately to contain the sickness that is characterized by severe body itch and sensation.


The plague is affecting victims of all ages, including babies, toddlers, young people and even adults.The Public Health Institute of Liberia or NPHIL in collaboration with the Ministry of Health has begun an investigation into the disease that leads victims scratching their body parts both at home and in public with such intensity.

Due to the severity of itching and scratching characterized by sensation, victims often lose consciousness abruptly, unmindful of what is unfolding around them in public or who might be watching the deep sensational concentration.

Doctor Ralph Jetoh of the NPHIL says the plague has spread to Grand Bassa, Bong, and Margibi, Rivercess and Montserrado Counties, respectively, with Montserrado County, which hosts the Liberian Capital, Monrovia, recording the highest number of cases.

He surmises that the disease might be scabies that is easily transmitted thru clothes or bodily contact, warning infected victims to get rid of clothes they currently wear or disinfect them to avoid further spread.

Doctor Jetoh says surveillance officers have been deployed in various infected communities and counties respectively, but laboratory test is yet to be conducted to derive a conclusive finding.

Although health authorities in the country are recommending various medical lotions such as BB Lotion and Whitefield Oilmen, among others to contain the plague taking over its victim’s entire body, but we call for urgent laboratory test to establish actual source of this disease.

Besides, we think that pending laboratory test, mass chlorination of wells and creeks across the country should be conducted immediately, particularly in the five affected counties in case the source is water borne. It is no secret that most citizens both in Montserrado and the rest of the 14 counties lack access to pipe borne or safe-drinking water, so they drink from untreated wells, creeks and even rivers.

Even though there are no reports of similar health situation from neighboring countries, unlike the Ebola Virus Disease in 2014 that came from nearby Guinea into Liberia, killing over 5,000 of our fellow compatriots, we believe an aggressively concerted effort should be taken immediately by health authorities here to avoid a national health crisis. Maintaining a healthy population as a country should be our first priority.

Renewing our pledge

The New Dawn Newspaper, published by Searchlight Communications, Incorporated is an independent media outlet dedicated to disseminating factual, balance, accurate and timely information to the Liberian public and the world at large. We believe the public trust is sacred and must be guarded professionally to keep society in check for the general good.


In the past twelve months, we have tried with honest dedication to upholding ethical standards while serving the people of Liberia, promoting no specific political agenda or holding allegiance to specific group or political party except to defend and promote the Motherland. We renew our pledge in 2018 to continue on this path.

In our endeavor to champion Liberia’s cause, many may misjudge us and brand our activities as being enemies of the state. But this would be paradoxical. How could we be crusading for the country’s betterment and at the same time be its enemies?

Specifically, we provide the platform for the marginalized segment of society to be heard by highlighting its plight and drawing the attention of those in the governance process of the state to intervene or take action in remedying whatever problem that may be unfolding.

In the tripartite relationship, we are fully cognizant that one side could accuse us of going too fast while the other may scream that we are proceeding very slowly. We pledge to maintain a level head in pushing for the political, social and economic advancement of Liberia.

In this New Year, we look forward to strengthening cooperation with our business partners and cultivating new ones, for democracy can only strive in a fertile economy that would propel the engine of growth, the ultimate goal of a nation state.

Just returning from the ballot box a week ago where a new President and his vice were elected, we have a new opportunity as Liberians to join hands to develop our common patrimony. This country needs its best minds in order to progress.

This is where our role as a media outlet would be critical in advancing the national development agenda of the incoming administration. We pledge to critically examine those programs and policies that would be carved by our national leaders in ensuring that they move from being mere lip services and become tangibles.

As usual there will be few greedy and selfish individuals coming into government with ulterior motives, bent on depriving the country and its citizenry of scarce resources by lining their pockets and purses instead of channeling allotted funds to real developmental projects. We pledge to use our watchdog and sentry-keeping role to expose and shame such unscrupulous officials and even call for their prosecution or dismissal.

Lastly, while in the execution of our sacred responsibility if we had wrongly and inadvertently injured the reputations of some public officials or private citizens in the course of last year, we sincerely apologize and pledge to go beyond surface journalism by thoroughly probing issues and getting all sides in order to gather nothing but the truth before coming out to the public. This is our pledge for 2018.

Thanking int’l partners for standing by Liberia

Liberia’s evolving democratic process could not have reached this far or accomplished much without support of the international community, especially, ECOWAS, AU, UN, EU and the Government of the United States. These partners and many others are very instrumental in supporting the peaceful conduct of both the first and second rounds of elections in the country that would lead to transfer of political power from one elected government to another in January 2018.


We note with keen appreciation the prompt deployment of a High Level Mission to Liberia on 1st November 2017 comprising of Professor Alpha Conde, Chairman of the African Union and President of the Republic of Guinea, and President Faure Gnassingbe, Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, and President of the Republic of Togo, immediately during the post-electoral dispute that characterized the first round of elections.

Subsequently, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Marcei Alain de Souza, authorized the return of a 35-member ECOWAS Election Observation Mission (EOM) here to support the electoral process and observe the 26th December runoff presidential poll under the leadership of former Ghanaian President, John Dramani Mahama. Also, Ex-president Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, under the auspices of the African Union, has been in Monrovia to observe the runoff election between Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai and Senator George Weah.

The presence of these distinguished personalities, regional and continental bodies does not only lend credibility to the process, but demonstrates global solidarity with the Government and people of Liberia. Liberians are grateful.

he United States Government, Carter Center, National Democratic Institute and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems have all been exceptional in helping to sustain democratic governance in Liberia. We as a country owe our partners a lot for standing by us as they have always done during challenging times.

In a preliminary declaration released here on the conduct of Tuesday’s runoff poll, the Head of Mission of the EOM, former president John Dramani Mahama urges all development partners to continue to provide more support to this country in ensuring that it maintains its progress towards political and socio-economic development.

This will be critical in the post-elections era in order to sustain the dividends of democratic elections such as peace, economic prosperity and national healing, among others. Continuous global support to this country would greatly help in not just getting the incoming government off the ground, but guiding it to sustainable development.

Liberia remains a critical member of the Comity of Nations. It is a founding member of the United Nations, African Union, formerly Organization of African Unity, Mano River Union and ECOWAS, among other international bodies. This country is also immediate past chair of ECOWAS.

The assistance of the international community was very critical in ending 14 years of civil war here initiated by ECOWAS. We note with grateful hearts, the gallant soldiers of the Economic Monitoring Group, ECOMOG, who gave their lives during the 1990s in restoring sanity to this country. “Thank God for ECOMOG”, like every peace-loving Liberian would always express.

We applaud the international community for being a reliable partner. Liberians can but only hope that their incoming government would play by the norms of global politics, economic cooperation and peaceful co-existence for both regional and world peace.

Let Liberia win

Any candidate emerging victorious from the December 26 runoff presidential election should not celebrate in isolation but realize that Liberia is equally winning. Victory at the ballot box should mean victory for Liberia because the Motherland is our common denominator as Liberians. The ultimate desire of Liberians is to have a government that would initiate sound economic policies that will improve their lives.


This will deliver the real meaning of victory. Winning an election in itself soon becomes meaningless unless the people experience improvement in their standard of life. The euphoria that follows electoral victory is short live.

When an elected government succeeds in reconciling rival partisans and the entire country following an election, it sets the wheel in motion for onward march to economic development and prosperity.

With reconciliation and unity much can be achieved for the common good and posterity. The wounds that are inflicted during elections should not be left along to heal by themselves. They would require prompt nursing for quick healing.

Whether it is a victory for VP Boakai or Senator Weah, this will be the immediate challenge for the new government to confront in order to have all hands on deck. Genuine reconciliation would go a long way in seeing this country takes off.

We are sounding these early warnings because it is equally important that whoever losses the runoff election would graciously accept defeat and allow Liberia to continue with peace and progress.

Defeat at the ballot box should not mean the demise of a political party and its leadership. In fact, it provides an opportunity to re-strategize and reconsolidate for future elections.

A political party in opposition is an alternative government, waiting on the mandate of the electorate to take state power. It should never consider itself as losing all and eventually die a nature death.

Liberia needs both opposition and ruling political parties to strength its growing democracy. The political leaders should not let this country and its people down by turning the other way.

Aiding predatory logging companies to milk Liberia

International environmental watchdog, Global Witness releases a damning report in which it reveals how the Government of Liberia stabs its own citizens in the back by secretly writing off US$13 million of Bid Premium payments owed by logging companies operating in the country. In effect, the government gives logging companies exploiting our forests tax holidays spinning over 10 years with the accrued amount stated above denied the citizenry.


The GW report released Tuesday, 19 December further details that in the next three years the companies will not need to pay what they owe this country, but will be able to claim ill-defined “investments” accrued between 2016 and 2020 against this tax bill. What a sell out!

According to the report, the government secretly passed a law in October known as the Forest Industrial Development and Employment Regime Act, but only made public last week when all attention is toward electing a new President to succeed Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

GW notes that there is no logical explanation why Liberia should subsidize loggers who have persistently broken the country’s law and now are failing even to pay taxes they owe the state, wondering what motivation led the government to this action that is meant to keep villagers in perpetual poverty while their natural resources are being depleted right before their eyes without any benefit coming to them.

Although the government has promised to respond to the report, but we join the GW in calling on partners in the forest sector, including the United Kingdom, Norway, European Union, and the United States not to only suspend support to the sector, but to demand explanations from the authorities.

It is regrettable that while foreign governments and partners bring their countries’ monies here to help us resuscitate a key sector of our economy, our leaders would undercut the process by scrupulously enacting laws to sell cheap at the detriment of the suffering majority.

It is apparent that tax holidays benefit a few elite at the expense of the masses. Greedy and heartless politicians make such decision under the guise of attracting investors to help the economy to grow, but their real intent is to grow their personal pockets and bank accounts. It is not for the love of country.

The logging industry is an important sector of our economy. It has contributed millions of dollars thru taxes during past administrations. There is no justification now whatsoever why predatory companies should be given tax holidays in the tone of US$13 million to take away our logs, leaving nothing behind for future generations.

Those officials, including members of the Legislature and the Executive responsible for such give away should think twice now or be made to account for their actions or else, posterity would judge them unkindly.

 

Aiding predatory logging companies to milk Liberia

International environmental watchdog, Global Witness releases a damning report in which it reveals how the Government of Liberia stabs its own citizens in the back by secretly writing off US$13 million of Bid Premium payments owed by logging companies operating in the country. In effect, the government gives logging companies exploiting our forests tax holidays spinning over 10 years with the accrued amount stated above denied the citizenry.


The GW report released Tuesday, 19 December further details that in the next three years the companies will not need to pay what they owe this country, but will be able to claim ill-defined “investments” accrued between 2016 and 2020 against this tax bill. What a sell out!

According to the report, the government secretly passed a law in October known as the Forest Industrial Development and Employment Regime Act, but only made public last week when all attention is toward electing a new President to succeed Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

GW notes that there is no logical explanation why Liberia should subsidize loggers who have persistently broken the country’s law and now are failing even to pay taxes they owe the state, wondering what motivation led the government to this action that is meant to keep villagers in perpetual poverty while their natural resources are being depleted right before their eyes without any benefit coming to them.

Although the government has promised to respond to the report, but we join the GW in calling on partners in the forest sector, including the United Kingdom, Norway, European Union, and the United States not to only suspend support to the sector, but to demand explanations from the authorities.

It is regrettable that while foreign governments and partners bring their countries’ monies here to help us resuscitate a key sector of our economy, our leaders would undercut the process by scrupulously enacting laws to sell cheap at the detriment of the suffering majority.

It is apparent that tax holidays benefit a few elite at the expense of the masses. Greedy and heartless politicians make such decision under the guise of attracting investors to help the economy to grow, but their real intent is to grow their personal pockets and bank accounts. It is not for the love of country.

The logging industry is an important sector of our economy. It has contributed millions of dollars thru taxes during past administrations. There is no justification now whatsoever why predatory companies should be given tax holidays in the tone of US$13 million to take away our logs, leaving nothing behind for future generations.

Those officials, including members of the Legislature and the Executive responsible for such give away should think twice now or be made to account for their actions or else, posterity would judge them unkindly.

 

Excuses! Excuses! VP Boakai!

Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, Standard Bearer of the governing Unity Party does not want to take responsibility for happenings in the rapidly disintegrated party he heads. VP Boakai wants Liberians to believe that he has clean hands in the ‘political bad blood’ between his predecessor President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the ruling UP.


“I am guilty by association; that is the only crime I have committed against my long-time friend Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. My association with Cllr. Sherman and Party Chairman Wilmot Paye, who won the chairmanship on white ballot, is the only crime I have committed”, Vice President said on a local radio talk show here on Monday, 18 December.

But we honorably disagree with the man, who is vying to become the next President of the Republic of Liberia, and question his leadership skills when he keeps blaming others for happenings around him.

The Vice President, who has served in the outgoing Sirleaf administration for the past 12 years in the midst of widespread mismanagement of state resources and corruption, says he has been a racing car parked in the garage, not tested despite being President of the Liberian Senate that ratified all concession agreements during the period under review whose impacts are eluding the citizenry.

Now to the main issue. As Standard Bearer, he presides over the governing Unity Party that has preached and continues to preach divisive and heat messages in the past six to 12 months, specifically raining derogatory statements against President Sirleaf without saying anything to the contrary or making intervention. Instead, he conspicuously kept silent while UP Chairman Wilmot Paye publicly read hit speech spewed at the President, and sometimes appeared in public along with Chairman Paye when those divisive speeches are delivered, indicative of his approval.

We are taken aback that barely one week to the runoff presidential election, the 74-year-old Vice President and Standard Bearer wants Liberians to believe that he has just recognized these leadership shortcomings that have succeeded in not just harming his political ambition, but rifting the ruling UP apart before coming out to apologize to President Sirleaf.

VP Boakai’s argument of guilt by association is seriously groundless. We wonder how could he be the Standard Bearer and before his watch, as he claims, the chairman emeritus Cllr. Varney Sherman and the current Chairman Wilmot Paye take the party in the wrong direction. Where is the leadership ability for which he wants the Liberian people to elect him as President?

What does the Vice President mean when he says his association with Cllr. Varney Sherman and Unity Party Chairman Wilmot Paye has soured his relationship with his long-time best friend, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf? Surely these are not mere friendship or personal friendship. These two individuals have been members of the ruling UP before or since 2011 and had occupied senior level positions, Cllr. Sherman as national Chairman and Paye as Secretary General, respectively before their current status in the party.

Is Boakai telling the Liberian people that as duly elected Standard Bearer of the Unity Party, he has been running the party on the basis of friendship rather than prescribed standards?

He needs to stop the blame-game now and muster enough courage to take responsibility for happenings in the party rather than watch things to degenerate as they are. Seven days or one week is no time to fix relationship that has been damaged for more than one year.

Christmas and Election

Liberian electorate are bracing themselves for two important, but mutually exclusive events that are sure to become a center for discussion for the rest of the year or perhaps beyond. One of the events, Christmas, is an annual celebration that is globally observed by Christians around the world as the date of birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, while election, a totally different exercise, is purely politics.


But the back-to-back occurrence of the two events, the former historically characterized by festivities and the latter requiring deep sober decision making within 24 hours generate interest for discussion ahead of the poll, particularly given the heated legal battle that marred the results of the first round of polling.

The National Elections Commission or NEC Tuesday announced December 26, 2017 for the conduct of the runoff election between Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai and Senator George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change.

The CDC is reportedly calling on its partisans to stay away from a festive Christmas in order to be ready for election the next day, December 26. We are also hearing though unconfirmed, that the ruling Unity Party is calling for the resignation of NEC Chairman Cllr. Jerome Korkoya before the runoff.

Whatever the case, Liberians would have to proceed cautiously in meeting tense two dates especially, the runoff poll to elect a new President, who is to be inaugurated in January as constitutionally required.

The reported call from the CDC should be taken in good fate, because we believe it would be realistically strenuous to come from day long festivities sometimes characterized by drinking alcoholic beverages, which could run to the next day and still maintain physical and mental balance to go to the ballot box to elect a President. This does not in any way imply that all Liberians are drunks.

However, it is important that we as Liberians go to the runoff with sober minds that would enable us to come out with a decision that we can truly call ours. This means celebrating Christmas with deep reflection for the task ahead the next day, in this case, electing the next President of Liberia.

Christmas globally is an annual event, unlike election for the Presidency, which in line with the Constitution of Liberia, must be conducted after every six years. And this is where we are as Liberians.

We should not move from the former to the latter with the festive mood of the day before bearing in mind we would have to live with whatever decision that will be made on December 26 for the next six years. This is why it is very important that we do so with sober concentration void of any emotional influence.

Celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ in a manner befitting true Christian values and tradition would propel us all to go to the ballot box the next day, seeking his guidance for direction in making our choice for President.

 

Senate’s action is disappointing

The action by members of the Liberian Senate to abandon a very important public hearing Tuesday, 5 December that borders on the state of the economy for an honoring program of Senate President Pro-Tempore Armah Jallah is not only disappointing, but the highest degree of disrespect and disregard for the masses shown by our elected officials.


The Plenary of the Liberian Senate had invited heads of four revenue generating agencies, including the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia Milton Weeks, Commerce and Industry Minister Axel Addy, Finance and Development Planning Minister Boima Kamara and Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority Madam Elfrieda Steward Tamba for a public hearing on the economy.

The hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, 5 December with all of the officials in attendance except for Governor Weeks, who had sought an excuse. But at the eleventh hour, the procedure could not take off because Presiding Officer and Pro-Tempore Armah Jallah was instead busied attending his honoring program in the conference room of his office at the senate.

A local group, Media Center for Policy Evaluation and Research or MECEPER honored Pro Tempore Jallah for his progressive leadership style demonstrated in the Liberian Senate over the past years.

MECEPER National Coordinator T. Michael Jonny says the prestigious award given Sen. Jallah is the first since the establishment of the organization in 2016 by a group of professional journalists in Liberia, the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

We are seriously taken aback that the Senate, dubbed here as the “House of Wisdom” would prefer to suspend an important public hearing about the economic health of our country just to serve the personal interest of its head, in this case, Pro-Tempore Jallah.

What was even further belittling, is that heads of the institutions concerned, in due respect to the invitation, had turned out at the Capitol as scheduled, left all else they had to do on that date, and waited so long only to be informed that the hearing could not be held because the Presiding had prioritized his honoring ceremony over the process, rescheduling the exercise for next Tuesday, 11 December.

The decision coming from such high office like that of the Senate Pro-Tempore simply signals to the public that our elected officials, who should jealously guide the matters of state, are relegating them for personal interest. It is so sad for Liberia.

The impression coming from such scenario is that our national leaders are playing lip-service. They are not concern at all what happen to this country as long as their individual or collective interests are assured. God help Liberia!

We wonder what would happen next Tuesday if another so-called group showed up at the Capitol to shower praises on Pro-Tempore Jallah. Would he reason responsibly by deferring his personal glorification to prioritize the issue of the economy that affects the well being of all citizens or go to collect more accolades at the expense of the general good? It is about time that those, who find themselves occupying high offices today, look down where they came from because one day, they will have to step down.

We challenge the senators to hold the public hearing next week as pronounced to enable our people have clear understanding or appreciation of problems confronting the economy and what probable remedies are our disposal to offset these challenges instead of playing with our own destiny.

 

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