Monday, 25 April 2011

Gut Feelings About Burning Issues in Liberia

The Editor,
I am happy that you are recovering well from all the ups and downs you face in Liberia: The legal actions taken against you and your newspaper; and the many other headaches you face each day because you want to help bring transparency to a system that has a serious evil upon which a war has been declared by the President of Liberia.
A lot has happened in Liberia since FrontPageAfrica became the fully-migrated FrontPageAfricaOnline. For one thing, I found life difficult trying to find the letter section. Everything seemed to be in disarray. Those squares on the left of the redesigned homepage of FrontPageAfricaOnline, I find difficult to click and read what they are supposed to represent. I hope a full improvement will be in place before the elections in October, 2011.
I read the other day that the war on corruption is not being won. In fact, I hear that corruption is getting worse and the efforts are taking a nose dive. A report that came out recently accuses the three branches of the Liberian government of rampant corruption, one of the reasons President Doe gave for the overthrow of the TWP in April, 1980.
My writings have landed me in trouble with members of my community. I was appointed head of the Publicity Committee of UP-USA Retreat by Gayah Fahnbulleh. When it was time to elect members of UP-USA, I was elected the interim Secretary General of UP-USA, Washington, DC Regional Chapter. The interim leadership then appointed me secretary to the Constitution Drafting Committee. Right now, I am the elected Secretary General of UP-USA, DC Regional Chapter.
Being an independent writer is one thing; being a Secretary General of an entity like UP is quite a different story. The independent writer writes about what he sees and hears. The Secretary General is supposed to write what he or she is told to write. I was called to duty again after our UP election in DC. This time, it was the Interim National leadership of UP in the Americas/ Diaspora. The chairman of the Interim National Election Commission wanted me to be Secretary to the Interim National Constitution Drafting Committee and to the Interim National Election Commission.
Ask not what your community can do for you; ask what you can do for your community. I accepted the challenges and did the best I could to help meet the deadline for the National election of members of Unity Party in the Americas/Diaspora, on April 9, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Frontpageafrica was instrumental in all these various titles I carried on my shoulder. It published most of my letters to the Editor. People who read what I wrote felt good about my ability to carry heavier loads. I have not let them down; neither was FrontPageAfrica wrong for publishing my gut feelings.
Now that most of the work to establish a sustainable UP structure in the Americas/Diaspora is complete, it is time for me to put on my robe of farsightedness to help elect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for president of Liberia for a second six-year term, accordingly to the Liberian Constitution.
Something I heard this morning makes me sad. I heard that a Superintendent in Liberia came to America and bought some expensive cars for her children in Philadelphia. I have no evidence to show; I was given none.  Maybe a few photos will help us remind the people back home who are in government that corruption remains enemy number one and that everything they do is being watched with eagle eyes.
Cooper Kweme



THE PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION of Liberia, in a press statement this week says it is ready for business while frowning on government ministries and agencies for continued delays in settling the debts owed newspapers in Liberia.
THE NEWS COMES amid a multitude of unfulfilled promises to pay newspapers and radio stations for advertisements carried on behalf of government agencies.
WHILE WE APPLAUD the publishers’ latest stand, we fear that the publishers’ ranting will go nowhere and will not prompt the government of Liberia, especially the ministry of finance to settle arrears owed for advertisement.
WHAT IS EVEN more frustrating is the fact that the Finance Ministry has repeatedly ignored pleas from media institution and the president to pay arrears owed to newspapers and radio stations.
EVEN MORE TROUBLING is the fact that the Finance Ministry has created a series of bottlenecks which has made it harder for media institutions to collect payments from governments.
IN MANY INSTANCES, newspapers have complained that even after providing the Finance Ministry with the necessary tax documents and requirements, the ministry has failed to pay up government bills.
IT IS LAUDABLE that the publishers association has set up an Advisory Committee that will guide its current leadership in leading the organization to a nobler destination. But we caution the body to understand that it is sometimes necessary to approach desperate situations with drastic action.
IN THE CASE of the ongoing dilemma of newspapers and radio stations unable to collect funds owed from government, publishers must take a united stand in boycotting coverage of government activities on both radio, newspapers and television in bid to bring attention to the plight of media institutions.
THIS AFFAIR has played out far too long with the President, on numerous occasions making public pronouncements about how ‘she has instructed’ the Finance Ministry to pay bills owed to media institutions.
THE FACT of the matter is, government has failed to understand that media is an expensive business , especially in today’s rapidly change world.
MEDIA CAN only thrive on funding and advertising fees. If the government intends to use the media to disseminate its messages, then it must be prepared to pay up.
OTHERWISE, PUBLISHERS must make a united decision to demand payments prior to publication or airing of government advertisement.
THE TRUTH of the matter is they need the media to get the message out. Thus, we must not sell ourselves short and continue to play the cat-and-mouse game which seemingly is heading nowhere.
IF THE GOVERNMENT does not understand the plight of the media and is not willing to press for its agencies and ministries to pay for services rendered by the media, then we all must boycott and take a united stand, if we are to ever put this matter to rest.
WHILE IT IS TRUE that Jaw-Jaw is better than War-War, in this case, the government appears to be testing our patience and we cannot and must not allow our businesses to decline at the expense of a delinquent government unwilling to pay its bills to thriving media institutions.


THE ROAD TO THE 2011 ELECTIONS IN LIBERIA: The Forthcoming National Referendum In Liberia -What is it all about?

Nathan N. Mulbah,, Contributing Writer

Random House Webster's College dictionary defines Referendum as “the principle or practice of referring measures proposed or passed by a legislative body to the vote of the electorate for approval or rejection”. Referendum is also defined as the process that voters can vote “Yes” or “No” to a proposal to change some parts of the Constitution.
In the current Liberian case, Joint Resolution 001/2010 was adopted by the National Legislature on August 17, 2010 by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 52nd Legislature proposing a Constitutional Referendum to amend four provisions in the 1986 Liberian Constitution.
The said Joint Resolution by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 52nd Legislature, proposed an amendment to articles 52(c),72(b) and 83(a) and(b) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
The National Elections Commission (NEC) will conduct the impending referendum in keeping with Article 91 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, which among other things, states that “the Elections Commission shall conduct a referendum to amend certain provisions of the said 1986 Constitution for as specified by law”. The date for the National Referendum is August 23, 2011 and Only Liberians with valid 2011 Voters' registration cards will be eligible to vote in the forthcoming National Referendum.
Campaign for the forthcoming Referendum will start May 1st and end at mid-night on August 21, 2011 in line with the Key electoral dates published by the Commission. Campaigning for the referendum will commence on May 1, 2011 and ends at midnight August 21, 2011.
Already, civil society organizations, political parties and other groups interested in campaigning for or against any of the ballot questions as stated supra have registered with the NEC in keeping with the key electoral dates.
Voting for the August 23, 2011 National Referendum will take place at the centers where voters registered during the recent Voters' Registration exercise held across the country. Voting on the Referendum will start at 8 a.m. in the morning and close at 6 p.m. in the evening. Each of the issues to be tested in the referendum will be put in color and symbol for the voters to understand.
The National Referendum will involve four basic propositions: Proposition 1, Article 52(c) seeks approval so that the residency requirement for Presidency is reduced from ten (ten) years to five (5) years prior to the ensuing elections. When it is passed on, it will read: “Resident in the Republic five consecutive years immediately prior to the election in which he/she seeks to contest provided that both the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates on any ticket shall not come from the same county.”
Proposition 2, Article 72(b) of the resolution will be tested to be amended to read “ …the Chief Justice, Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and Justices of the subordinate courts can serve for life, except that they shall be retired at age seventy-five.” It further provides that that a justice or judge who has attained the age of 75 “may continue in office for as may be necessary to enable him/her render judgment or perform any other judicial duty in regard to proceedings by him or her before he/she attained that age.”
Proposition 3 focuses on Article 83(a). When it is amended, it will read: “Voting for the President, Vice President, members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives shall be conducted throughout the Republic on the second Tuesday in November of each election year.”
Elections of City Mayors and their respective councils, as well as for chiefs, “shall be conducted three years following each General and Presidential election.”
Proposition 4 calls for the amendment of Article 83(b). Under this new Article 83(b), “All elections of public officers shall be determined by an absolute majority of the votes cast. If no candidate obtains an absolute majority in the ballot, a second ballot shall be conducted on the second Tuesday following. The two candidates who receive the greatest number of votes on the first ballot shall be designated to participate in the run-of-election.”
In summary, Article 83(b) reads: “Except for President and Vice President, all elections of public officers shall be determined by a simple majority of the valid votes cast in any election. Election of President and Vice President shall be by absolute majority of the valid votes cast.
If no Presidential ticket obtains an absolute majority in the first ballot, a second ballot shall be conducted on the second Tuesday following expiry of the time provided in Article(c). The two presidential tickets that received the greatest number of valid votes on the first ballot shall be designated to participate in the run-off election and the ticket with a majority of the valid vote cast shall be declared winner.”
Basically, the upcoming referendum is a big elections project that will come few months before the 2011 Presidential and Legislative elections and the NEC, the substantive electoral management of the Republic of Liberia, will have to conduct these two elections back to back.


Bribe Or Donation?

Liberian Presidency And White Envelopes, Has Ellen Too Fallen Prey To Gratuity From Concessioners?
Wade C.L. Williams

The President of Liberia Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was baited on Thursday April with  a white envelope containing an undisclosed amount of money at  the LIBINCO OIL MILL located in Newcess No. 4 District in Grand Bassa County.
The envelope containing what the Managing Director of the company called ‘a small donation’, comes at a time when the government is still battling with a report from the United States of America’s Department of State alleging that the regime is beset with unabated claims of corruption especially within the judicial system of the country due to envelope exchange containing money. 
Mr. Peter Bayliss, Managing Director of Equatorial Palm Oil PLC said the envelope contained a small donation on behalf of the board of PLC to her and to her market women foundation.
Says Bayliss: “We would like to make a small donation on behalf of the board of Equatorial Palm Oil to you and to your market women’s foundation and we hope that you will put the money to good use and that it will help to build some of the extra parts of the development puzzle that you are putting together.”
According to Opposition Politicians the action by the company’s Managing Director demonstrates the kind of sinister transaction that takes place behind the curtains in the absence of the public and the press. 
Mr. Jacob Smith an executive of the Liberty Party (LP) in an interview with FrontPage Africa said his party is expected to come up with an official statement on the matter, adding “this is form of cover up and is intended to blindfold the public. This is an abuse of the public trust and more to that an affront to the Presidency. “
As soon as Bayliss concluded his statement the President stood up in response by posing a challenge to the company, by asking them to work along with the Superintendent of the county Julia Duncan Cassell in completing an unfinished market building for the women of the county with what is contained in the envelope and also suggested that a second market building be added to the project.
Though it seemed that the President refused to accept the donation, she gave PLC a project which they are under obligation to complete. Says Pres. Sirleaf “The women of Grand Bassa County will be pleased today, because I went by a market, an unfinished market in Buchanan and I spoke to the market women and they said to me ‘this market place was started long ago and it’s not finished. We would like for you to help us finish it I’m going to ask you to keep this donation and finish that market building.”
With the supervision of the Superintendent PLC is under obligation to complete two market buildings by directive of the president.
The Liberty Party Executive further said the latest action could serve as confirmation that even the office of the President is yet to be trusted even though she claims to be fighting corruption.
“We do know that the President accepted that money. The Party is going to be coming up with an official position statement on that, our country cannot be traded like that and for anything.” Smith further said.  
Continued President Sirleaf: “The Superintendent is going to work with you on it to supervise it, it can be called a donation from the Sirleaf market women fund because we build markets all over, but this particular one from the LIBIN will be for the women of Buchanan Grand Bassa County.”
Amidst thunderous applause from the audience the President said: “I don’t know what’s in it, but you know what’s in it, if it can finish that building and build another small market somewhere else, that’s what I’m asking you to do with this donation. Thank you on behalf of the women of Buchanan.”
Though the president admitted that she is not to receive envelops or checks it is yet to be seen what other branches of government would make of the president’s apparent refusal of gift from a concessioner. But the mystery remains to be unraveled, but the question remains did the president really refuse the donation?