A Big Blow To The Fight Against Corruption In Liberia
By Martin K. N. Kollie
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
The mystifying death of Cllr. Michael N. Allison is horrifying and scaring for our emerging democracy after going through a dark era of vindictiveness, cruelty, butchery and despotic execution of innocent lives. His sudden demise is creating serious apprehension among Liberians far and near. I have been pondering over this atrocious incident since its occurrence and I am yet to unknot my skepticism about this untimely loss. I am wondering what or who may have killed this self-sacrificing patriot whose ultimate interest was to stamp out all forms of corruption within public service. The death of this whistle-blower is initiating societal pandemonium as we catalog another gloomy history of atrocity and mayhem in a post-conflict country that is still struggling to expel its shady past of tribalism, sectarianism, and vandalism.
The death of Cllr. Allison is a serious setback to the current fight against corruption in Liberia. This inhumane episode has given more zeal to economic vampires and old-time micro-felons to intensify their ambitious campaign of looting state coffers and pillaging public interest. Can this loss be a victory for corruption and corruptors? This question seems too difficult to answer right now, but one thing that is crystal-clear is that, no matter how long corruption invades our society, we as a nation and people shall subdue its devastating effects one day. The road to defeating this societal menace may seem too long and unsteady, but with collective courage and determination, we are going to achieve a triumphant end. Vampires and Vultures may oppose us during our steadfast campaign to fight corruption, but our resilience and rigidity to alarm against illegitimate acts will make public trustees more accountable and transparent to those they serve.
Rampant corruption is not a new phenomenon to Liberia. It has been eating up every sphere of our nation for 167 years now. This systemic pandemic continues to undermine genuine development and socio-economic growth even after 15 years of civil intolerance and instability. The effect of corruption is more devastating than cancer, HIV/AID, and Ebola. The fight against this virulent social disorder did not just begin today, but long before its colossal maturity. This unethical practice has grown even larger to an extent it is not only hampering development but it is also hunting men and women of honesty and integrity who have made it their lifetime duty to blow loud whistles against it. Liberia has a longstanding legacy of public ill-transparency and dishonesty and even up to date, situations of corruption are becoming horrible as pillagers remain restless about witch-hunting whistle-blowers and silencing anti-graft actors.
The culture of impunity has been a contributing factor to the sharp increment in the number of new corruption cases. When political vultures and economic vampires embezzle and misuse state resources, they are not made to account for these resources simply because of their high-ranking statuses in government. Sometimes, cases of corruption with sufficient proofs are compromised as a result of political machination. The lack of political will has been a major challenge to our current warfare against corruption. If we truly intend to promote a society of integrity and honesty, we must begin to impartially prosecute all corrupt officials of government who are instigating this act. It makes no sense to exercise selectivism when indictees of corruption are made known. Our courts and judges today are vulnerable to bribes and all forms of inducement. Some of them are money-driven and integrity-drained. As a result of this, perpetrators of corrupt practices become ‘not guilty’ even though there are available facts to prove otherwise. The weak and corrupt legal system of our country is providing a fertile ground for corruption and if rapid interventions are not made to overhaul our judiciary sector, corruption will forever remain a major enemy to reckon with.
In 2013, it was not a surprise for Transparency International to have labeled Liberia as the most Corrupt Country along with Mongolia on planet earth. It was the first time ever in our history for such a global anti-graft institution to rank us in such a category. This investigative report was somehow shocking to few Liberians, but it was realistically based upon prevailing indicators. Beside this disturbing news, the Liberian government was heavily criticized for its inability to make corruption public enemy number one. Furthermore, enough effort not being made by this regime under Madam Sirleaf to vigorously tackle the issue of corruption. Corruption cannot be fought or dealt with through rhetoric. The fight against corruption must come along with sincerity, commitment and loyalty. Our nation can never win this fight through empty words but through concrete actions. There is multiplicity of genuine corruption cases lingering without prosecution as doers move about freely.
Ambassador Deborah Malac’s assertion made in 2014 was accurate when she said “corruption is harming Liberians and creating unnecessary costs of products and services that are already difficult for many Liberians to afford”. The hyper inflation of basic commodities and towering exchange rate are hindering economic growth and development as a result of corruption. Economic sabotage, mismanagement of funds, and misappropriation are common acts of corruption currently impeding public welfare. The US State Department 2013 Human Rights Report on Liberia indicate that low pay levels, minimal job training, and few court convictions have exacerbated corruption and helped to foster a culture of impunity. Furthermore, judges are susceptible to bribes to award damages in civil cases. How far is the conflict of interest case involving former Auditor General Robert L. Kilby and General Services Agency Director General Pealrine Davis-Parkinson?
The death of Cllr. Michael N. Allison, who was a major witness in an ongoing corruption case of US$25,000 involving House Speaker Alex Tyler and Representative Adolph Lawrence, must elevate a turning point in our collective fight against corruption. Our nation is bleeding currently due to this gruesome death. Some prominent citizens have met their mysterious end like Michael N. Allison and nothing has ever come out of their deaths up to now. The fight against corruption begins with protecting whistle-blowers against potential intimidation, harassment, and death. It is not enough to establish integrity institutions such as GAC and LACC, but government must go beyond this level to provide maximum security and safety for anti-graft stakeholders who are risking their lives to expose misconducts in society. Corruption will never end in Liberia until this mechanism is given due consideration. Economic Vampires and Vultures will do all they can to shutdown and silence critical voices of integrity, but we can only crush their sinister agenda by legislating a whistler-blower act.
Even though the Liberia National Police does not have the sophistication to investigate this high-class case, but it has prematurely come up with preliminary findings. According to the LNP, Cllr. Michael Allison died as a result of drowning. What is the empirical reliance of this report? The Police was in total error to have released findings so early without comprehensive investigation. This matter is crucial and no one, not even investigators from the national police force should overlook our collective courage to ensure the source of Cllr Allison’s death.
Furthermore, we have learnt with regret that there is a Sierra Leonean Pathologist currently examining the corpse of Cllr. Michael Allison. This investigation is beyond Sierra, including other African Countries. I am not a stranger to this continent and many at times important cases of such nature are compromised. We want to call for the establishment of an independent international investigative committee comprising of professionals from other continents and not Africa. A Pathologist from Brazil or Canada could be more independent than a Pathologist from Sierra Leone.
The death of this fearless anti-corruption actor must reshape our pattern of dealing with this public enemy (Corruption). This terrifying incident has taught all of us an unforgettable lesson as we proceed to building a new Liberia. May we use his death as a source of courage and inspiration to remain relentless against our adversaries. His homegoing is really painful and heart-aching. As our nation mourns, we want to demand a speedy investigation into this matter. This disturbing occurrence must provoke the attention of the UN, EU, AU, USA, ECOWAS, MRU, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Transparency International, Carter Center, and all reputable institutions whose mandate is firmly hinged to uncompromising values of integrity, transparency, accountability, and justice. We also want to propose to the 53rd National Legislature of Liberia to promptly enact a whistle-blower law.
Truth crushed to the ground will rise again! Rest in peace Cllr. Michael N. Allison as we pursue the real cause of your death.