Senator Joyce Freeman-Sumo Reveals Peers Take Bribes Under The Table
By: Julius Kanubah, FPA: Legislative Affairs writer,April 10, 2011
The term bribery or financial inducement in the Liberian Legislature seems to now be making inroads as a tool to sway away key decisions against the national interest as Liberia grapples with the issue of rebuilding, development and accountability.
Within the past six years the Legislature has been at the center of damaging allegations of bribery ranging from ‘under the table deals’ to ‘admittance of bribe taking’ to oust former Speaker Edwin Snowe and the passage of concession agreements worth millions of US dollars. And, yet evidence continues to emerge of bribe taking by Liberian Legislators though its leaders have flimsily moved-in to rebuff the scam.
The latest and more revealing account has surfaced from the mouth of Montserrado County Senior Senator Joyce Musu Freeman-Sumo of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change of football legend turned politician George Weah.
During a heated-debate Thursday (April 7, 2011) in the plenary session of the Senate, Senator Freeman-Sumo was bold and loud enough to admit that Senators take ‘bribes in envelopes’ to compromise national interest.
According to her, the envelopes are given ‘under the table’ to quell genuine and critical opposing comments of Senators on crucial issues of national concerns.
“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”.
This statement by Senator Freeman-Sumo was revealing and stemmed from the backdrop of her contention over what has become the controversial approval of the 2010/2011 supplemental budget in the tone of US$24 million.
She was fuming over an earlier media pronouncement by Senate President Pro Tempore Cletus Wotorson that the Executive Mansion’s submitted supplemental budget has been approved by the Senate as part of a concurrence vote with the House of Representatives which had earlier endorsed the financial instrument.
The point of argument by Senator Freeman-Sumo was against the reported action of the Senate Pro Temp to ignore a letter she wrote complaining Maritime Bureau Commissioner Binyah Kessely of allegedly raining stinging insults on her.
The CDC Senator had alleged Commissioner Kesselly branded her as being ‘crazy’ and that he threatened to deal with her because she had linked him to being with Ellen as Benoni Urey was to former Liberian President and war crimes detainee Charles Taylor.
She claimed Commissioner Kesselly made the threat in a telephone talk in response to a news article where she raised the unexplained and questionable allotment of US$3.4 million dollars to the Bureau of Maritime Affairs in the supplemental budget.
As part of her angered and outburst on the Senate’s floor, Senator Freeman-Sumo insisted that the decision to pass the supplemental budget with doubts hanging over the allotment to the Maritime Bureau was dubious.
“The reason for which the Commissioner [Binyah Kesselly] threatened my life for and I wrote your, is the same reason your passed the budget for on ‘yea and nay’ vote… the same budget where I identified the place where they want to steal money from for the election because they putting special money in the Maritime Bureau for election purpose is the same budget your passed”.
In her words, the wrong concurrence vote on the passage of the supplemental budget by the Senate was intended to demonstrate the ‘bribe taking practice’ by the Senate under the leadership of Pro Temp Cletus Wotorson- the 72 year-old proud Geo-physicist turned politician.
“I don’t want shit. Nothing I don’t want from nobody. Nothing I don’t want. I don’t want nothing from nobody. He [Pro Temp Wotorson] coming be calling the people one-one to somersault on their decision and then he says he cares. He think[s] that the one we here for”.
The revelation by Senator Freeman-Sumo of ‘under the table acceptance of envelops’ containing money to serve as financial inducement to influence the decision of Senators is seen as another damaging leak by a sitting Liberian Legislator.
Though the Montserrado Senior Senator made the disclosure amidst a pocket of confusion on the Senate’s floor, it is without doubt an explosion that will dent the image and hunt members of the Upper House of the Liberian Legislature.
It remains unclear how the senate will consider the revelation of senator freeman-sumo that senators do take ‘bribes in envelopes’ to compromise national interest.
The Senate through its President Pro Tempore Cletus Wotorson has in the past rejected allegations of ‘bribe taking’ to render decisions on crucial national issues including the confirmation of Presidential nominees.
Bribery under Liberian law is a crime- punishable by at least two years imprisonment. During a visit last year to Ghana US President Barrack Obama made the issue of bribery an essential theme in his speech. “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”.
With these strong words from the US President, it seems that the case of Liberia is different as the Legislature and government officials continue to be linked to ‘demanding or taking bribes under the table’. How long will the issue of alleged ‘bribe taking in the Legislature’ stop remains everyone guess.
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