Crying Trusteeship & Sovereignty To Maintain Recklessness And Fiscal Mismanagement – A Different View

By: B.J. Samukai

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
July 8, 2005


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The on-going debate on the “Liberia Economic Governance Action Plan” for Liberia has generated emotions surrounding the perception of “trusteeship” once this plan comes into action. The issue of trusteeship was first mentioned in a local daily, in its interpretation of an earlier report on the extensive nature of corruption and reckless fiscal mismanagement by the NTGL, and proposals being considered by the international community to help Liberia deal with the situation.

It is very clear from the LEGAP document recently published, that no where in it does the document suggest “trusteeship” (either by name, action or intent), neither is the implementation of said document meant to bring into disrepute the sovereignty of Liberia, nor is there any intent or implication to do so. The public and beneficiaries of the LEGAP proposal (ordinary Liberians who are being robbed in broad daylight) deserve better than false interpretation.

The intent of the proposal is quite clear in its presentation – bring fiscal sanity, restore credibility, ensure financial transparency and accountability with credible Liberians and the robust assistance of the international community working together. Can the NTGL do that? The NTGL has no legacy of competence nor credibility, my answer is NO. Thus, I have no element of doubt in my mind absolutely whatsoever, that the way forward has to be a concerted partnership between Liberia and the international community, in technical, financial and managerial terms.

What has been revealed so far reflects outright deficiency in fiscal management on the part of the Transitional Government, and the craving danger of mortgaging future revenue sources for the elected government by the NTGL. The argument is that if nothing is undertaken to bring this situation under control now, the very sovereignty that is being argued about, shall be completely mortgaged by rascals in the NTGL through bogus contracts. It has now been confirmed (by the NTGL Chairman) that corruption has permeated our society on a scale unparallel in our recent history.

The danger that “Liberia’s sovereignty will be submerged” under the LEGAP arrangement by the international community has no basis. From reading the document, there is no implication that Liberia would be placed under trusteeship, neither does it seem to be the intention of the authors of said document. The document also does not state that it intents to strangle government from exercising political jurisdiction, neither does it state that it will seek to determine who is appointed, hired or fired. In contrast, the LEGAP seeks to stop NTGL scalawags from scavenging the Liberian treasury like fleas on virulent disease.

Indeed, the document may need refining specifically regarding assistance for the dispensation of justice. There are better credible legal minds in Liberia that have not yet been tapped for the Judiciary and to sit on the Bench. Recent rulings from the present Bench of the Liberian Supreme Court that were either ignored or not yet been enforced by the NTGL (the case of the Iron Ore Writ of Prohibition) are very troubling. This is a clear insult to the Liberian Judiciary by the NTGL, and reckless disregard for the dispensation of Justice. The sanctity of our Nation’s Highest Court must be maintained. The Liberian Judicial System must be revived without any doubt or conflict of interest. Justice denied is Democracy in chaos.

How does the LEGAP affect Liberia’s sovereignty against the following actions: Why should the Minister of Commerce have the right to grant waivers to select businesses for the payment of legitimate taxes? Why must the Liberia refinery provide monopoly and mortgage future payment of import duties to select businesses? Why must legitimate revenue payments required for importing rice be waived for select businesses – and why have these businesses not paid their taxes? What is wrong with revenue sources being centralized and transparently accounted for from the time of receipt to the time of disbursement? LEGAP will seek to correct these practices.

Who granted the Chairman of the NTGL the right to call up a public corporation or business entity to make payments for whatever purpose, thus committing government on future revenue sources? What legal authority does the Chairman of the NTGL has to continuously order up payment without the requisite legitimate procedure for disbursement? Where is the issue of Liberia’s sovereignty in managing Liberia’s revenue from such reckless bunch of notorious individuals? LEGAP will seek to seal this sifter in the Chairman’s office.

The parallel relationship between Liberia of today and the International community is a historical necessity brought upon by the nature of our civil conflict. It is a relationship of continued dependency. There must be areas of tangency to reverse this relationship for the benefit of the greater Liberian population and minimize or eliminate this dependency syndrome.

Thus, Liberia’s socio-economic, and political nightmare has seen the involvement, intervention and participation of ECOWAS, AU, UN, International Contact Group, Local and International Media, over the past 15 years to bring sanity to our country. Today, Liberia is unable to defend its own borders. Liberia is unable to provide even the basic necessities for its people (don’t ask me why). Liberia has no running water; The Chairman uses water in two buckets to flush his toilet (what a shame to Liberia’s sovereignty). There is revenue to buy jeeps, and renovate private houses, but there is no money to provide health delivery services.

The NTGL, as part of its national priority has proposed a USD80million dollar budget for 2005/2006. These characters have allocated a scrapping 5% for health delivery services (where the infant mortality ratio is nearly 1:6 and HIV prevalence rate of about 11%); less than 8% has been allocated for education where the illiteracy rate is nearly 85% of the population; but they have the guts to allocate a whopping 24% for defense and security related organs (in a country where there are more guns than textbooks in the entire country and over 200,000 persons have been killed by weapons and rebels). For nearly twenty five years ( a quarter of century) our country has allocated more and more for arms, bombs, war-like materials, the whole nine yards, and where are we today?

Liberia’s control of its destiny rest with sitting in the mansion (where there is no running water, and toilets have not been working for over 15 years), working in the Capitol building (where lawmakers share toilets with rats and roaches), and in government ministries, where civil servants have become beggars to everyone who come to process any document (including civil servant salaries). If this is not the worst that a nation can come to regarding its sovereignty, then we need the Hubble-telescope to see and reason better.

The argument of catch words (such as “trusteeship” and sovereignty) is not to deny living up to principles and the self-respect of citizens of our nation, but the rationale for demonstrating the resolve to bring dignity to our people, and abide by the principles of decency and hope. The argument is also not about being subjected to outside domination, but to demonstrate a transparent level of responsibility in managing the affairs of state, sources of revenue, and providing the basic tenets of livelihood with the assistance and support of the international community.

Our historical circumstance is a dependency relationship that no excuse of sovereignty can conceal. The LEGAP is a reasonable alternative to the reckless fiscal mismanagement, outright disregard for simple decency, and corrupt practices led by successive gang of thieves. If there is a need to rework the LEGAP document, then let’s come up with some specific suggestions. If there is a need to ensure Liberia’s input into the LEGAP, then let us present the best and brightest and not thieves and rebel representatives.

The failures we have experienced have been empirically shared alongside our inability to endure the tenacity of thoroughness, depth, and openness. The challenges of good governance in an atmosphere of democracy are supported by educated, trained, experienced, relentless Fourth Estate, and by individuals with characters unsurpassed by international standards. Our experiences abroad in which we are held to the highest standards of competence, accountability, and credibility should not remain the domain of only living abroad.

We must transcend shallow perception, suspicion and misconception. Options for the future are not limited to the decadence of fear to constructively engage with our partners in the international arena. LEGAP is not trusteeship. LEGAP is not taking away our sovereignty. LEGAP is a partnership arrangement (between Liberians and its international partners) to deal with clear-cut national deficiencies. LEGAP is within a specific timeframe, with the intent to build local capacities, and establish a legacy of credibility. Parameters of cooperation should be established, commensurate with the best and brightest of our country. Liberia deserves an LEGAP solution to its national nightmare.

About The author: By: B.J. Samukai, a Liberian, is a 1988 Fulbright Scholar from The American University in Washington D.C., He has worked in various capacities in past interim governments. He presently works and resides in Dar es Salaam).