Congratulations Mr. Speaker, But… (Part Two)

By Theodore T. Hodge


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
February 28, 2006


In a preceding article I took issues with my esteemed colleagues who find fault with Mr. Edwin Snowe running for and winning a legislative seat and subsequently being voted speaker by his peers in the Liberian legislature. Well, I believe, as I have already emphatically stated, that the right to self-determination should be up-held; it is a central tenet of democracy. Citizens should have the fundamental right to choose their leaders.

A second reason I gave for grudgingly supporting Mr. Snowe’s right is that a number of people of questionable character and reputation were also elected. If those people have the right to stand as honorable men and women in the Liberian legislature, Snowe is no worse a scoundrel than the lot. I named a few people whose ascension to power I’ve come to accept grudgingly as well. Here, in the interest of fairness, I must add one more name to the list of villains: Hon. Gloria Musu Scott. Mrs. Scott served as Supreme Court Justice during the tyrannical rule of Charles Taylor. How she could justify her relationship to this deranged despot, and still claim innocence for his misrule, should boggle any prudent mind. Yet, the good people of Maryland County found it fit to name her an “honorable” person. In my view, instead of taking a seat in the honorable senate, she should be preparing her defense as a co-defendant when Charles Taylor goes to trial. It is only appropriate that she sits by his side; after all, wasn’t she the legal brain trust behind his regime? (But that’s my personal view. The “people” of Maryland County, on the other hand, think she’s “honorable” material).

There are people running around Liberia now with the dubious theory that everything that went on in Liberia was Charles Taylor’s fault. I disagree. Charles Taylor ran a gang and there is no way to separate him from his gang members; they are all culprits, although their degree of criminality may not be equal. To absolve these characters is to believe that a person can remain submerged in water for a considerable time and still come out dry instead of wet. That’s impossible.

It is, therefore, my personal view that Senators Blamoh Nelson, Adolphus Dolo, Gloria Musu Scott and Jewel Taylor are all dishonorable men and women that should stand as co-defendants with Charles Taylor for economic and moral crimes against the Liberian people. I do not mean to dismiss the concerns of others who raise relevant questions about Speaker Snowe’s position. All, I can say for now is that he is seemingly in good company.

In the meantime, should the United Nations lift its travel ban against Mr. Snowe until it has proven allegations against him in a competent court of law? The short and emphatic answer is, no! Yes, it is true the people of Montserrado may have a right to elect Mr. Snowe, but the United States, European Union Countries, Asian and other member countries of the United Nations are under no obligation to grant him the right to visit their respective countries. If the United Nations considers him a persona non grata, its member countries are under no obligation to explain their actions; they have a right to initially ban him, even without a trial and conviction.

Certain cases come to mind as I ponder Speaker Snowe’s ban by the UN. The case that serves as the most relevant precedent is that of former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim. After serving the UN Mr. Waldheim sought the presidency of Austria and won it. However, the same year, 1986, before the Austrian national elections, it was revealed that the former UN Secretary General had deliberately lied about his past. He is said to have served in a paramilitary unit of the NSDAP (Nazi Party). Mr. Waldheim, according to revelations, had been a Nazi, at least a Nazi sympathizer and lied about it! He denied the charges and the Austrian people exercised their right to believe him. They elected him president.

Ironically, Mr. Kurt Waldheim the former respectable Secretary General of the UN was now branded an undesirable alien, banned from setting foot on American soil because he was linked to atrocities against civilian innocents. President Kurt Waldheim was deemed persona non grata, (1986-1992), by many countries. In six years as president, Mr. Waldheim who had previously traveled the globe as a diplomat, made almost no state visits except for visits to Vatican City and the Near East.

Was he guilty? This is what has to say: “Because of the ongoing international controversy, the Austrian government decided to appoint an international committee of historians to examine Waldheim’s life between 1938 and 1945. Ultimately, the committee found no evidence of Waldheim’s involvement in war crimes, but its final report stated that he must have known more than he was now willing to admit.”

What are the lessons here? There are three, actually. Firstly, the Austrian people knew they were entitled to vote their conscience. Although the controversy sorrounding Waldheim’s past had come to light before the elections, he was still favored by the majority; he won despite the scandal. They exercised a fundamental right: The right to choose.

The second lesson is that along with choices comes responsibility. Traveling abroad is a privilege, not a right. The people of Austria knew the right of voting Kurt Waldheim as their president had a steep prize: International isolation. They chose to suffer the temporary plight of isolation rather than to be dictated to by the international community. In this case the “right” and “responsibility” went hand-in- hand, as they should.

The third and equally important lesson is the final phase: The inquiry. The Austrian government did not allow the charges against President Waldheim to go unchallenged. The government was willing to put its reputation on the line to test the veracity of the allegations. Though President, Mr. Waldheim was not above the law. The conclusion that the appointed international team of historians reached has already been revealed.

So, to summarize: Yes, the people of Montserrado County exercised a fundamental free right to choose their representative. The members of the Liberian House of Representative also exercised the right to choose their peer as leader. It is important to respect the right of the international community to place Mr. Snowe on a travel list ban even before it publishes convincing evidence to validate its claim. But most importantly, the case against Mr. Snowe must be pursued with vigilance because his honor, along with our national honor, is at stake here. In the interest of justice and fairness, if the international team, along with its Liberian counterparts, fails to prove its case against Mr. Snowe, the ban must be lifted. If, on the other hand, Mr. Snowe is found guilty of committing economic crimes by participating in and spearheading massive corruption against the Liberian nation, he deserves to be stripped of his honor. No man is above the law, not even the very wealthy Honorable Speaker of the House.

Mr. Speaker, once again please accept my congratulations, but are you willing to walk the extra mile to prove your innocence? I hope you consider the proposition fair.