On The Issue Of“Runaway” Official: Madam President, I beg To Differ!

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

One of the issues for which I always take issues with this government is the poor communication system it continues to practice on national issues. I have repeatedly and constantly said that because of this, the citizens are not even aware of some of the gains of the government. I have always stressed the issueof communication because it is very crucial to whatever a government, a group or institution does in any given situation.

Etymologically, the word communication came from a Latin word, communicare, which principally means to “share” and so based on the meaning of the word, it is always necessary to share and exchange information. There is no way one cannot exist or a government can function effectively and efficiently without sharing information to its people. This is why one of the maxims in communication says,” NO ONE CANNOT NOT DOMMUNICATE,’ meaning that in whatever we do, we do communicate whether verbally or nonverbally. More importantly, this is necessary for any governance system for the issue of accountability and transparency.

The reason why communication is necessary, especially for a government that leads people, is to discourage speculations, misinformation and rumor-mongering in the society. Besides, effective communication also provides the basis for understanding a particular situation and also being fully aware of challenges or problems faced by a nation.

But what matters is that the leaders MUST do as they say. That is, their yeas must be their yeas, and nays, be their nays, as this kind of communication helps to build credibility and trust in leaders, as the leaders run an open and transparent administration to provide the needed pieces of information necessary for the people’s consumption and also to help them form an opinion on national issues. Conversely, if this is not the case, it may bring about distrust and lack of confidence whenever leaders say something or failure to act as promised.

It can be recalled that in early August it was reported that President Sirleafsuspended all travel by government officials who are part of the Executive Branch of Government with immediate effect. An Executive Mansion release issued at the time said those included government officials of all ministries, agencies, public corporations, commissions, and parastatals that are under the Executive Branch for a period of one month.

Furthermore, the release said that the Liberian leader has also instructed all government officials currently out of the country, whether on government or private visit, to return home within a week or be considered as abandoning their jobs.She then urged all government officials of the Executive Branch to take due note of the directive.

Indisputably, that pronouncement by the President was welcomed by the public who said this was very important, as the nation combines all efforts to combat the spread of the deadly Ebola disease which continues to claim the lives of Liberians. And so after the ultimatum expired after a week, many persons felt disappointed that the President failed to act, as promised. With that, there were high expectations that after the ultimatum, the President’s axe would have fallen on those who failed to comply. Unsurprisingly, one of her confidants, Darius Dillion of the Liberty Party took her to task on this matter.

Interestingly, just as people were still in astate of disappointment for the President’s failure to act as promised, a release on the matter days later the expiration of the ultimatum, has added more insult to injury. This time, the President was not decisive on those who really have been affected by this ultimatum. All in all, she has not communicated well on this matter. She has now opened another Pandora Box, as to those who have really been affected by this.

As a follow up to her earlier threat of dismissal for those would fail to return after the ultimatum expires, a press release issued on the matter on Monday, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has instituted several measures that take effect immediately. The release said the Liberian leader has directed that all officials occupying ministerial level positions or equivalent (senior and junior), managing directors, deputy/assistant directors or equivalent, commissioners, etc. who violated the orders are hereby relieved of their positions. However, the release pointed out that all public servants not occupying ministerial level positions but are holding important public offices will be removed from the payroll until their return.

As for others still out of the country, the release said they would not be affected by this. The release said, “ it should be noted, however, that special authorization was granted to a few with doctor’s’ evidence of urgent and specialized medical treatment; while the same applies to very few who were directed by President Sirleaf to undertake specific critical assignments.

Those named by the release that are covered by this are, Cllr. Seward Cooper, Chairman of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL); Madam Yusador Gray, Mr. Richelieu A. Williams,Cllr. James VerdierJr., Chairman of the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission, who is also attending the funeral of his mother in the United States; Madam Cyvette Gibson, the hardworking Mayor of the City of Paynesville, Montserrado County; Dr. Amos Sawyer, Chairman of the Governance Commission (GC) and Mrs. Rosetta Jackollie.

In the same press release, the President directed that all government officials who are recognized by the National Elections Commission (NEC) as provincial candidates during the upcoming senatorial elections are also relieved of their positions immediately upon the release of NEC’s final candidate listing. While I always disagree with the President on this directive, I would for now let sleeping dog lies, as it is not an issue on the subject matter, as I have decided to deal with.

Today, my main focus on the issue relates to the names of those who have been affected by this ultimatum. The President, as a sign of good communication, and in keeping with public expectations, should have disclosed the names of those affected by this. By only disclosing the names of those exempted, is not good communication. The interest of the public is the names of those who have been affected. As we say in journalism, “names make news,” likewise, in the public domain, the names of those in authority always make news.

With due respect to the office of the President, she did not do just to the people that elected her. The information to the people is half-baked or ‘middle of the road’ therefore she has not effectively and properly communicated. Hence, she must see reason to tell or disclose to the people those who have been affected by this ultimatum. The work of the government should not be shrouded in secrecy. Since the President, who is the symbol of the country promised to this action, she is equally under obligation to inform the people of the consequences of the ultimatum. This is part of the process of transparency and accountability. But to just do it as it is, is unfair to her people.

Once more, let me say that the President has not properly communicated. Let the people know the names of those officials affected, or else, she has now created room for speculations.

Again, with due respect to the Presidency, I beg to differ on this issue, without mentioning the names of those affected in the release issued this week.

Remember, the people have the right to know, especially so when they have been promised on this matter.

As I conclude, I am happy that Presidential Press Secretary JerolinmickPiah has promised that the list of those concerned would be released soon. Until this is done, I Rest My Case.

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