CLOSING THE GAP BETWEEN WHERE WE ARE AND WHERE WE KNOW WE CAN BE: AN UNDERSTANDING FROM CITIZEN PERSPECTIVE

By: Augustus Daikai Jones

Cell #: 0886824636/0777291528

Email: gstsjns@yahoo.com

(It is an open secret) the gap between where we are and where we know we could have been, (by now), since 2006, is an uncompromising offal that has no place to be disposed of on earth. Do you mean after nine (9) years, (a term and half), President Sirleaf is telling us that her government is still learning the details of managing a Medium Term Expenditure Framework Budget? (What a Shock!)

Infact, the President is describing the unhealthy embattled budget as a deficient bus with dysfunctional parts that she is driving and repairing (at the same time). What a dichotomy! To attribute to the sharp decline in our economy to the 2009 global financial meltdown (at this time) is an expression by one who does not have the ability, capacity and the know-how to be guided by the Fundamental Principles of National Policy (Article 4) in the formulation of government policies and their execution.

I can now understand why President Johnson Sirleaf and the formal Chief Justice, Johnny Lewis, did what they did when the President took the Oath of Office for her second term. The President did not repeat (after the Chief Justice) “to the best of my ability” (even though, the Chief Justice said: “…your ability” – instead of “…my ability”).

The one who is elected to become the President of the Republic of Liberia (such office of public trust) “shall subscribe to a solemn oath or affirmation as follow:

“I”, (The President calls name), “do solemnly swear (affirm) that I will support, uphold, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Liberia”, (so that I, the President) “will faithfully, consciously and impartially discharge the duties and functions of the office of” (the President) “to the best of my ability. SO HELP ME GOD” [1986 Constitution-Schedule]

Though the President submitted herself to subscribe to this solemn oath, but the President did not repeat (after the Chief Justice) “to the best of my ability”, an indication that she wasn’t fully committing herself to supporting, upholding, protecting and defending the Constitution of Liberia “faithfully, consciously and impartially”. She did not and has not committed the best of her ability in the process of the Presidency constitutionally.

No wonder why then (consistent with the principle of individual freedom and social justice enshrined in Article 7) President Sirleaf has not had the courage to “manage the national economy and the natural resources of Liberia in such manner” to show “the maximum feasible participation of Liberia citizens under the condition of equality”. The Liberian citizens are to “advance” their “general welfare” and also to be able to “advance…the economic development of” (Mama) “Liberia”; but because, the President did not swear, committing the best of her ability to supporting, upholding, protecting and defending the “supreme and fundamental law of Liberia”, (the 1986 Constitution); therefore, she is not allowing “its provisions” to “have binding force and effect on” her authority and person as the President of the Republic. She care-less about how we fell about what the Constitution says.

The President would not certainly have been able to look for excuses and reasons or situations to shift blames on for the “poor” management of the national economy and natural resources of Liberia were “Claims Courts” constituted in our justice system effects. The President was able to blame the decline in the level of anticipated revenues on the account of procurement fraud and corruption; only because, she knows that we do not have “Claims Courts” in Liberia.

The best of the President’s ability is not dedicated under oath, to support, uphold, protect and defend the 1986 Constitution; therefore, she will put financial excuses so that, she will not approve, according to Article 35, the “Claims Courts-Bill” to become law.

The House of Representative has passed the Bill to constitute “Claims Courts” throughout Liberia, and has forwarded same to the House of Senate for concordance (since April 2013; and, we understood that the President is the master-minder to its delay in Committee Room).

The Constitution of “Claims Courts” means, government, or any person acting under the authority of the government, who will choose to conduct themselves in acts that will cause decline in the level of anticipated revenues on the account of procurement fraud and corruption will never, never (again) go with impunity; and, this is the President greatest fear. Our understanding is that most of whom are directly or indirectly actors of procurement fraud and corruption are those who considered themselves as the untouchables (the President’s relatives, friends and appeasements). They are the ones who are acting under the authority of the government, and according to Article 26, only “Claims Court” has the prescribed jurisdictional powers over their persons for the proper administration of justice in our Justice System.

Only the fear of consequence could have ensured the proper management of our national economy and natural resources in the manner that will implement work plans drawn up for required infrastructure, such as roads, electricity and ports to attract more and more investors.

The drastic reduction in the global price in rubber is no justification for the government to be vertical in the management of the national economy and natural resources of Liberia. If we had “Claims Courts” in our Justice System, the government would have been compelled to be horizontal in its approach to the management of our national economy and natural resources.

Why must the governed not share in the benefits of our national economy and natural resources, and yet they must be the only ones to share their burdens? Or better yet, why should the governors not share in the burdens of our national economy and natural resources, but they want to be the only ones to share in their benefits? When persons (among the governors) are injured by an act of any person from the governed, suits for appropriate redress shall originate in a Circuit Court; appeals from judgment of the Circuit Court shall lies directly to the Supreme Court. So also, when persons (among the governed) are injured by an act of any person from the governors, suits for appropriate redress “shall originate in a Claims Court; appeals from judgment of the Claims Court shall lie directly to the Supreme Court” (Article 26). The absence of Claims Courts means governors go with impunity for wrong doings in any part of Liberia.

President Johnson-Sirleaf says her government is not able payment of government’s financial commitments because there was decline in the level of anticipated revenues on account of procurement fraud and corruption; and to me, it sounds like she is making a boast. However, since full cooperation is absence between the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Liberia, which has created stress in the banking-system and the depreciation in the exchange rate, what can this “driver-mechanic” of this “bus” do?

All of those involved in the issue of fraud and abuse of the forestry sector are actors under the authority of government, and any one of them can be persecuted for wrong doings only in a Claims Court. The reason why President Johnson-Sirleaf Government lacked complete control over community issues relating to land and benefits is because, court issues that are against Government or any person (especially the untouchables) acting under its authority are swept under the carpet. When justice is selective, no amount of moratorium can stand in the way of fraud and abuses, not only in the forestry sector, but in every segment of governmental function, often resulting to violence and destruction.

The “bus-stop” for procurement fraud and corruption in government (all over the world) is “Claims Court”. That which is impeding justice in President Johnson-Sirleaf Government is “nepotism”. I challenge the President to dispute this assessment by personally speaking about “Claims Court” and ensure the speeding up of the Legislature process; so that, the Executive process is carried out by her, if she is serious at all, that “corruption” is “public enemy number one”.

“Day has broken” on President Johnson-Sirleaf Government: the level of growth and progress that have been established in the country supported by partners that carryout programs such as free medical services including the hiring of additional health care workers and the provision of drugs and free education are now fully the responsibility of her government.

All the glory for these important services her government has been enjoying, it is now time to show its juice. I hope the President and her government will be mindful of Constitution implications. There are more Liberians who are constitutionally minded than the President would have considered. Therefore, it is my hope that the President will allow her government to be horizontal in whatever understandings (bolder or tougher).

The Constitution of Claims Courts will create additional savings and increase revenues, so that the government will continue to invest in roads, ports, electricity, education, health, security water and sewer (undertakings that were supported by partners).

Even tough, the President says she has renewed her solemn pledge, but if it is yet without “the best of her ability”, changes in official will not make any difference. Prosecution of offenders who are actors under the authority of government “…shall originate in a Claims Court…” (Article 26). You can even reform policies and actions, when deterrent is considered, prosecution is very major. Under our political arrangement, it is the Judiciary Branch of Government that has the constitutional prosecutorial power.

I hope this can be new thinking and strategic repositioning of the President and her government. This new and more robust partnership with the “Citizen Action for Better Liberia” requires understanding. I hope the president (and her government) will take advantage of this “narrowing of gap approach” to where we know, by now, we should be.

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