Open Letter To The President

From Ivan Sayl)

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
January 17, 2007


Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Madam President,

There is currently a credibility leak which is more like a “drip drip” in your pledge to fight corruption. This leak needs to be closed immediately by your administration because it has the potential to seriously bring into question your true desire to fight corruption.

These were your words to the Liberian people and the whole world just a year ago during your inauguration “Corruption, under my Administration, will be the major public enemy”. Those words brought joy and pride to almost every Liberian, home and abroad. Also, your activities as President since then have not only made us proud once again to be Liberians but some of us have already begun investing our money and time in the development of our beloved Liberia. For example, since your inauguration I have been to Liberia about 3 times and I am currently building a home to eventually move back home after more than 20 years in the US. As you are probably aware, there are several other liberians in the US, Europe and other parts of the world just like me that are preparing to come back home and participate in the development of the country but, this can only continue to happen if the national climate is free from the old bad habits of corruption and impunity.

A lot of us really believe the private sector is where those of us fortunate enough to amass a small fortune can really contribute towards the development of the country but, I don’t know of anyone who after spending years working hard to acquire what they have will want to turn right around and lose it all in a country of instability because, that’s exactly what Liberia will become again if the culture of corruption and impunity is not ended.

Madam President, there is a perception that is slowly building that you are not doing enough to curb corruption and, there are a few characters in your administration whose actions or lack thereof may be adding to this perception. Please remember the saying “the perception of reality itself is reality”, this is especially true in the case of Liberia.

A lot of us are aware and are very proud of the work you have done within just a year and, we are very confident in your ability to continue to deliver results for a very much forgotten but very deserving people. That’s why your fight against corruption and impunity must always remain one of your top priorities no matter who is involved, or else all your good deeds will be lost. These are some areas of concerns:

1. Why is Harry Greaves not forthcoming on this oil deal with the Nigerian firm? Is that not an example of a bad habit from the past? Members of societal groups accused him of trying to bribe them with sealed envelopes when they attempted to get the full story on the oil deal; he claimed he tried to give them gas slips.

Now we have the UN panel of experts suspecting impropriety and accusing your government of not doing much to create transparency at a time when we are still looking to international partners for a lot of assistance. Harry Greaves has now given conflicting reasons why there was no transparent competitive bidding for the allocation of the 10,000 barrels per day. We also have allegations now that under Harry Greaves, some petroleum importers are receiving their products without paying the appropriate taxes, completely disregarding the petroleum pre-shipment inspection system set up in January of 2006. With all of the above in mind, how can anyone take him seriously as he attempts to recover lost assets from previous officers of LPRC, which I might add is the appropriate thing to do.

2. Why is the persecution of former members of the NTGL and other former public officials, including Gyude Bryant moving so slowly? We understand your desire not to get involve to avoid being accused of witch hunting but you are the head of the branch of government responsible for persecuting these people. If we really want to get rid of this culture of impunity then there cannot be any hesitation in going after people who have basically stolen the peoples’ money. Remember, these people never accept responsibility for their actions; it’s always about accusing somebody else of witch hunting when an attempt is made to go after them. Besides, we all know why a clever rogue in the market will always be one of the first people to begin shouting ‘rogue, rogue, rogue’.

Also, your administration has yet to implement its own policy of auditing the ministries during the Transitional Government period. Why is that?

There is a reason why a guy will steal so much money and build a humongous house right there in the people’s face, a house that he knows everybody is aware he cannot afford on his Managing Director salary from LPRC but he does not care because he knows no one will go after him. That has to stop.

3. It has been more than 2 and half years since the UN adopted the assets freeze, since then the NTGL Government and now your administration has yet to implement the freeze on anyone of the people in question? Most people have resigned to the fact that the legislature is incapable of enacting legislation to implement the freeze so, your office has to issue an executive order of some kind to institute the freeze. I hope we have not forgotten the purpose of the freeze and, we also need to realize that we cannot ask other countries to honor the freeze and possibly return stolen money back to Liberia when we, Liberians continuously fail to implement a UN Assets Freeze resolution adopted for us. We really never want to allow ourselves to be looked at by our international partners as “how can you help someone that does not want to help themselves?”

4. Why did the Commerce Minister award a rice monopoly deal to a firm without following a transparent competitive bidding process? Why do we even need a monopoly of any kind in a free enterprise system? If some of the reasons are to promote our Liberian owned businesses and provide food security then, there are better ways to accomplish those things than the granting of monopoly. Too bad the process was tainted, especially since the Liberian business firm with the contract appears to be doing a good job in ensuring there is sufficient rice in the country, a testimony to the fact that Liberians are capable of handling these kinds of businesses.

Madam President, there must be a zero tolerance for corruption and impunity. One un-intended consequence of corruption and impunity in the Liberian society is this high level of dishonesty among a good number of the people in the country and this is very disheartening. My non-scientific view of this severe moral problem tells me this is a result of dishonesty in government triggered down to so many aspects of the people’s lives, even the church is not exempted from this behavior. The citizens watched people come into government only to become financially well off a few months later and they think ‘getting-your-cut-now’ is acceptable and so they try to apply that attitude to almost everything they do. What is so sad is the fact you begin to see that attitude the moment you get off the plane at RIA. That has to change. It really has to change.

Madam President, you are occupying an excellent place in these historic times of our nation, what you do today will have a tremendous amount of impact on what Liberia will become for generations to come. This is an awesome responsibility and a lot of us have no doubt you are the right person to set that course for a new direction for Liberia but, that new direction must include zero tolerance for corruption and impunity.

Ivan Sayl
Dallas, TX

© 2007 by The Perspective

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