A Ministry Of Justice Dormancy Is Holding Up Development


By Gbe Sneh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
June 9, 2006


By now it ought to be clear to the Ministry of Justice that hurdles that lie in the way of national development will not be cleared with just lip service. The news media can make mention of GOL’s resolve to combat corruption, enforce the rule of law, eschew impunity, in every popular local newspaper, in every electronic outlet, on all radio frequencies, on a daily basis, but, if these do not translate into concrete actions, the nation will remain suspect in the eyes of our development partners, and pretty soon, the people will begin to have a morale letdown.

Quite frankly, GEMAP is weak on the “G”. As the G in GEMAP represents governance, the nation would be well served by bringing in experts to also work with the Ministry of Justice regarding the implementation of governance as it relates to enforcement of the rule of law and taking steps to stop corruption and impunity. This ministry seriously needs to learn how to study and act upon national investigations, when the reports therefrom reveal potentially criminal acts. Investigations include Financial Audits, Reports On Illegal Plantation Occupations, Elicit Mining of Gold And Diamonds, Women Being Raped, People Being Murdered Across the Country.

Why waste the time and money to appoint investigative committees or order audits, if the ensuing reports appear destined to the archives only? Reconciliation, Accountability, Transparency (RAT for short), creep into a yearning by the Liberian people and their international partners to see concrete steps taken in reaction to these investigations.

We hear of individuals, groups, and even companies withholding pertinent documents requested by auditors and other investigators - the LPRC review of the Mechanical Engineering Group (MEG) contract, with Speaker Snowe refusing to furnish or clarify documents; the segment audit of NTGL vehicles purchases, where auto dealers kept requested documents under wraps . Does the legal term, “subpoena”, appear anywhere in the Laws of the Land?

It is unimaginable that General Motors or Chrysler would tell the United States that it is having problems producing, or simply refuses to give up, its corporate income and expense records! Corporate Suicide! The last thing GM or Chrysler wants Uncle Sam to think is that it is paying its taxes off the records. Why is the Ministry of Justice so nonchalant about these illegal happenings? We definitely need to expand GEMAP to help breathe some life into our dormant Ministry of Justice!

The consequences of this Ministry of Justice inaction are clearly evident. Recently, Liberia was an invited sit-in at the AGOA (Africa Growth and Opportunity Act) Ministerial Conference in Washington, D.C. Why was Liberian just a sideliner and not a player? The answer is a simple one. Take a look at the eligibility criteria imposed by the United States: “The Act authorizes the President to designate countries as eligible to receive the benefits of AGOA if they are determined to have established, or are making continual progress toward establishing the following: market-based economies; the rule of law and political pluralism; elimination of barriers to U.S. trade and investment; protection of intellectual property; efforts to combat corruption…”

Have we made progress to establish a market-based economy? We could get a break and get away with that one. We have shown “political pluralism” in the past elections. We definitely have not imposed any barriers on US trade and investments. We have never been charged with any “intellectual property” infringements. That leaves “rule of law” and “efforts to combat corruption”. You can bet your last Sammy Doe Five Corners that Uncle Sam does not feel we have done enough to meet these two requirements! Trust me, you would win.

AGOA has created a wealth of opportunities for thirty-seven African states. It is a multi-billion dollar program that is boosting the economies of these states.. We have to enter this duty-free haven offered by the US for our products in this huge market. Standing on the sideline will do us no good. A much craved Economic Shot In The Arm would not be forthcoming if we only stand and watch. The Ministry of Justice knows what we must do to get off the sideline. When the local news headlines start scripting charges brought against some of the Big Criminals in Monrovia, look for Uncle Sam to move Liberia off the sidelines and onto the playing field. You can also bet on that.

We fought very hard to have UN Sanctions maintained on the notoriously corrupt Gyude Bryant led NTGL. Thanks Be To God! For, our forests would have been depleted; Liberia would have become a State of Puddles, with not a penny to show for it. Now, we want to fight even harder to have these sanctions removed, as we have some faith in the current administration. But, we need some ammo to ward off an all-out assault by Global Witness and its allies. They are armed and serious. This is in no certain terms intended to belittle Global Witness’ stance, we believe it mean well. We need Liberian Ministry of Justice court actions to fight back.

The Ministry of Justice must awake from its slumber, or else, let’s expand GEMAP to help shake and wake it up, lest, the Big Criminals in Monrovia would continue to feel they are home free, while the whole nation suffers roadblocks to development.

The inaction is so frustrating, one is tempted to send Monrovia Kindergarten Schools on a field trip to the doorsteps of the MOJ Building to sing, “Ministry Of Justice, Dormez-Vous., Dormez-Vous? Ding-Dong Bell, Ding-Dong Bell.” Maybe, that will work faster than ‘all the big, big book we keep on writing.’ Anything, just anything to remind the ministry of its responsibilities and spring it into action. Ding-Dong Bell!

© 2006 by The Perspective
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