Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is fumbling and bumbling at the wheel of state. Her policies remain quite inept and ineffective. One has to wonder if she even has matters under control. Some time ago, she issued an official proclamation or directive which partly reads: "... The Liberian leader also instructed 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 is urgently urging all government officials of the Executive Branch to take due care of this directive."
We do not know how many officials were on that list of apparent deserters. But we have learned lately that some have returned home, one has refused to return and resigned, and others are calling the president's bluff. They have not returned home, obviously because they feel the environment is not conducive for their safety. So much so for committed soldiers.
While we ponder the gravity of the situation at hand, with a keen eye on the president and how she plays the hand she has been dealt, she issued yet another proclamation exempting seven senior officials from that list. The reason? They have pressing medical conditions and are therefore excused from returning to the country immediately. Oh, how convenient that is. Perhaps they are free to stay away from the country until the epidemic crisis subsides and then they can return safely to their jobs and get their share of the big bucks the government is throwing at a select few.
But wait, wait... Didn't the president's initial directive clearly state that all concerned officials, whether on government of private visits, were to return home? In what category does a "pressing medical condition" fall? Is it not a private visit as well? If the original intent was to excuse those on medical visits, why wasn't that indicated from the beginning?
If this doesn't indicate a weakness on the part of the president, then what does? All indications are the president is running a loose ship, fumbling at the wheel as she navigates these troubled waters. First, given the fact that there are seven "lucky" ones on this new list of exemption, one is forced to wonder how many senior officials were out of the country at the same time. We've been told that some returned and others have failed to meet the deadline to return and have been fired. But yet, seven are excused because of disabling medical conditions. We must come to the conclusion that the list of senior officials out of the country, either during a crisis or in normal times, is questionable. What are all these senior government officials doing out of the country at the same time? Can the government run a tight ship when so many co-captains are absent at any given time? One has to wonder.
We have held the opinion now for a very long time that the government has failed to build adequate health facilities in the country because the president and her team make enough money to travel abroad at any given time to seek medical treatment. Does this not prove the point? If up to seven officials are presently in the USA and elsewhere seeking medical attention for conditions so grave they cannot return to their assignments, the government must be full of sick people. And we mean that literally and figuratively.
Sick though they are, they are too good to be in the country because they are privileged and elitist. They have left the country to the residents of West Point, New Kru Town, Logan Town and all the slums of Monrovia to fend for themselves. They make these people look bad and crazy when they (the residents) demonstrate for their basic rights. After all, privileged people don't march and protest, they leave that to the masses; and yet they blame the masses for unruly behaviors as they watch from behind their glass towers.
Why are they (the rich and powerful) seeking medical attention abroad? Again, as we have surmised, for two different reasons: There are no hospitals in Liberia good enough to treat them, and secondly, they have plenty of money to afford the services abroad from the most expensive medical facilities around the world. Like they say, "Easy come, easy go." These folks make enormous salaries and it is only human to splurge on oneself as long as that kind of dough is there for the taking... And "take" here is a better verb than "earn". There used to be an old commercial on television by an investment firm. They used to say, "At Smith Barney, we make money the old fashion way, we earn it." In Liberia, many favored by the president don't earn their keep, the take it. They plunder the national treasury to meet huge salary demands, yet there are not enough gloves for nurses to handle the Ebola crises. (The UN must take care of that). This, indeed is a national tragedy and that is not a hyperbole.
Let's give an example of the easy money floating around Liberia while some ordinary folks are barely surviving on two dollars a day (United Nations figure). Cllr. Seward Cooper is Chairman of the Board at the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) where many of his underlings earn upwards of ten thousand dollars in salary monthly. That needs repeating. Some employees at NOCAL actually earn more than ten thousand dollars monthly! It is anybody's guess what the big boss makes. Perhaps twice as much? More than twice as much? Well, as that sinks in, let's consider the fact that the same counselor serves as the president's lawyer. How much does he make in that capacity? Perhaps a combined fifty thousand dollars a month, or even more? Now, if you made that kind of dough, would you take your dog to JFK Hospital or any place in Liberia calling itself a medical center? Of course not. It would be wise to seek medical attention abroad to extend one's life in order to enjoy that kind of money. Quite understandable. (We know we’re are treading on dangerous grounds here. This man is a powerful lawyer and we all know how lawyers are with this litigation business...)
Does that explain why the folks in the president's inner circle are granted a break or exemption? But again, one has to wonder how the country is run when up to twenty or more senior officials are out of the country at the same time --- for whatever reason. We said here before that this Ebola crisis would expose the weakness and fragility of this government. It is making prophets out of us. And it is not even over yet.
But let's turn to another matter of crucial importance. The president's office has issued a press release stating that "Meanwhile, the President has 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."
Ours is not a monarchy; the president is not a queen on a throne. Should the president's office handle such a matter? What does the law say? Shouldn't there be a law on the books regarding this constitutional question? One would think this should fall under the purview of the Legislature or the Supreme Court. It should have been known in advance what the rule is on the matter. According to constitutional law, that particular provision should have already been known to the public, and especially to the candidates. By the president's office making such an announcement indicates that the matter lies in the president's discretion. That should not be the case at all.
Dr. Amos Sawyer wrote about what he termed "the cult of the presidency". Are we still victims to that phenomenon? Didn't the ushering in of a president who studied at a prestigious university and has accolades in the areas of Leadership and Governance lead a different way? Is that not a question that falls in the domain of Dr. Sawyer's responsibility as he heads the "Good Governance Commission?" We find this quite puzzling and seek some clarification on the matter, perhaps it will be forthcoming, perhaps it will fall on deaf ears, as usual.