FOR MONTHS now allegations have been flying in the corridors of the national legislature of Liberia, alleging that lawmakers in both the lower house and the upper house have been involved in corruption.
THE REPORTS have ranged from allegations of envelopes changing hands to lawmakers using their offices to blackmail passages of crucial bills and legislations intended to impact the lives of the Liberian people.
NOW FOR THE first time, a lawmaker has spilled the beans and is throwing light on a practice many believe has been the norm in the national legislature, that lawmakers were rampantly practicing ‘cold water’ or receiving envelopments in exchange for favors.
MONTSERRADO COUNTY Senior Senator Joyce Musu Freeman-Sumo of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change, during a heated-debate last Thursday, April 7, 2011, in the plenary session of the Senate, boldly declared that Senators take ‘bribes in envelopes’ to compromise national interest.
SENATOR FREEMAN-SUMO went on to say that the envelopes are given ‘under the table’ to quell genuine and critical opposing comments of Senators on crucial issues of national concerns.
SAID THE LAWMAKER: “You think that the one we here for. Sooner people talk, when they [Senate leaders] do wrong, you talk about it, they call you and give you ‘envelope behind the table’. I don’t want no envelope from nobody. I don’t want sh*t. Nothing I don’t want from nobody. Nothing I don’t want. I don’t want nothing from nobody”.
Bribery under Liberian law is a crime- punishable by at least two years imprisonment.
THIS IS NOT the first time that allegations of bribery has dogged the legislature. In 2010, the Ministry of Justice kept a close tab on allegations of bribery in the national legislature. At the time, Solicitor General Tiawon Gonglo said under Article forty-two of the Liberian Constitution a Legislator can be arrested for bribery, which is a felony. The minister said when the investigation finds credible evidence, lawmakers involved in the bribery scandal would be brought to book.
BRIBERY WAS focal point of U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech on his first visit on the African continent as president. In a speech in Ghana, Obama said: “No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves ... or if police – if people can be bought off by drug traffickers. No business wants invest in a place where the government is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy that is tyrannical, even if occasionally you sprinkle an election in there. And now is the time for that style of governance to end”.
WE URGE the President Pro Tempore of the Senate to give this matter urgent attention to ensure that the reputation of the Senate is not further dampened or stained amid allegations of bribery and envelopes.