A Public Figure Must Be As Clean As Snow

By Gbe Sneh


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
December 31, 2005


Transparency, accountability, integrity, competence, respect for human rights: these are the buzz phrases in the way forward. They represent units on the yardstick by which both the make-up and performance of the new government will be measured. They were not only promised to the people by those who will be in power, they are being demanded by the people.

With respect to the above setting, it is imperative that we make every effort to, first of all, prevent contravening elements to these principles from the line of power, and secondly, to weed out such elements if they already have found their way on the power line. We have already suffered enough shocks as it is; we can’t take any more. Let’s make it very easy on ourselves this time. Like we say at home, “It’s no fuss.” Let’s just perform simple background checks on all those on the power line.

President-elect Sirleaf has already promised that there will be declaration of assets by all public figures. That is a very good start. It is, however, important to note what this exercise implies. Knowing a public servant’s net worth, at the time he or she takes a public position, establishes the grounds for any inquiries into glaring changes that may occur down the line. This implication has to do with a future safety measure. Is there a past connection with regards to net worth? Now, we are talking about the “bug-a-bug” that the incoming government has to declare its stance on. Dealing with wealth amassed under questionable circumstances by any current public figure is nothing to be effected by extracting a public apology from the culprit, and worse yet, playing dumb or “sissy”, by letting him or her walk away, free.

If a Gbetah fisherman erects sister Petronas Towers in Monrovia, won’t we like to know where he got the money from? If he claims to be a friend of Melinda Gates, and shows us some documents of mega bucks, bank transactions, we can live with that. At least he would have come clean. That, my fellow Liberians, is the simple process we have to use on all former public figures taking seat in the new government. If their past government salaries, plus any business ventures, plus any inheritance, plus any loans, plus whatever else they might claim, does not add up to the current net worth they enjoy, it is the right of the people to know why there is such a discrepancy. Let’s not confuse this with a “Witch Hunt”. How can one cry “witch hunt” when there exists a probable cause that his or her net worth may have been acquired with stolen public funds?

For “crying out loud”, our regional and international partners - ECOWAS, EU - that have been drilling us about what Liberia must do to promote democracy, and hence, peace, are definitely not helping us in the fight against economic crimes. How? When is the European Union going to make public the findings of the AUDIT of the MARITIME BUREAU? When is ECOWAS going to complete and make public the results of the AUDIT of ALL PUBLIC AGENCIES? It is not long ago, when the wailing about NTGL corruption hit a crescendo, that we pled with our local Liberia Institute of Certified Public Accountants to remove a block on a proposed ECOWAS AUDIT. Where is the report? A public audit report is not a “hush-hush thing”. It is meant for public consumption and possible public action to plug control breakdowns and to implement auditor directives! We need these reports URGENTLY to conduct the exercise alluded to above. We are calling on ECOWAS and the EU to give us these audit reports.

Sitting pat has been our Achilles Heel, and we have been chastised and laughed at about it. It is time to change that. That any public figure, rather than ride with his or her “didiba”, however allegedly, into oblivion, chooses to resurface in our new government, is a demoralizing affront that bodes not well to the collective national healing we seek. It is a brazen act, in your face, drenched in airs of invincibility and impunity. It exacerbates wounds. It is counter flow to the healing and peace process. Why else are the women wailing, threatening civil protests, including HUNGER STRIKES and PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATIONS, more than five thousand of them? It is not that ‘women like to cry’; it is for justice for all, which includes men who don‘t like to cry. Only justice begets healing and peace.

The argument that crimes against the people have been going on since God created Adam and Eve, that crimes have been so widely spread that why pick on Edwin and not Fatu, suggests that we accept crimes in perpetuity. To this argument, we say, even the Bible has Genesis as well as Ecclesiastes; anything, good or bad, has to start somewhere! Crimes in the past were encapsulated in the Untouchable Trinity - the CRIMINAL, JUDGE, and JURY were one and the same. Who would have dared prosecute President Taylor while he was at the seat? Who would have dared bring his son-in-law to book on questionable spending of public funds? If you are touching your throat, while trying to answer these latter questions, you need not do more, you already have the answers.

We will now let out of the bag what prompts this writing. Mr. Edwin Melvin Snowe, Jr., Representative-elect, Montserrado County, District 5, falls in the category of a past public figure (Minister of LPRC), now turned Legislator, jockeying to be Speaker Of The House Of Representatives, RL. His declared (for the elections) net worth starts with a palace worth $168,000 (ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-EIGHT THOUSAND UNITED STATES DOLLARS), located at ELWA, Snowe’s Beach. And here we thought only Tommy Bernard has a beach in Monrovia. It continues with a smaller home valued at $31,000, at Dupor Road. Compared to the palace, this one must be a “thatch house”. Not done yet. He has put up business structures at a $67,000 clip. Lying in wait is a $1,500 lot, and all are anxious to see what the Snowe Magic Wand will make rise out of the ground. Do not take my word or Mr.Pajibo’s for it; visit the NEC website , or click the link below, and you will hear it from the “horse’s mouth”.

Now, one needs not be Albert Einstein to follow this simple math calculation that follows: The average Liberian government employee is on record for making about $20 monthly. Ok, Mr. Snowe is a minister, so let’s say, he gets paid $500 (just some figure to work with) a month. If he dodges paying taxes, he bags $6,000 a year. Divide 168 by 6. Has Mr. Snowe been working in the position of minister for TWENTY-EIGHT years? How old is this man? This, precisely, is the initial shock, before factoring in related items that would make it even more ridiculous that this man is worth so much right under our watch, in broad day light!

How does Mr. Snowe, a man with so heavy an excess baggage over his head, a suspicious baggage that Liberians are begging to look in, and he is not bulging, become SPEAKER of the HOUSE? Only if his peers vote him in. Therefore, to the Honorable Members of the incoming House of Representatives: If you should be canvassed by Mr. Snowe for the Speaker of the House post, the least you could do, for the sake of those who voted you in, and above all else, for the sake of your integrity, is to let him answer some questions.

Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen of the House of Representatives, RL, is it not reasonable to caution you that, in Mr. Snowe, you are risking having a leader, Speaker of the House, who is not only controversial on the national scene, but the international scene, as well? Mr. Snowe needs to remove the shackles of the UN TRAVEL BAN! Why would you want to wind up with a leader, who when the position warrants it, is unable to travel beyond the borders of Liberia? Regardless of any reservations you may have on the UN decision, that is the reality. Mr. Snowe is in no position to represent you and the Liberian people outside the country. Please, don’t say: Ok, we will send his Deputy Speaker. Please, your honors, don’t tell us that among the SIXTY-FOUR minus one members of the House you can’t find a qualified Lady or Gentleman who is not controversial to be Speaker.

Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen think of your promise to the people that you would not be involved in shady deals. Make it a clean start. Remember, we are all calling it a new day, a new beginning for our nation. Do not betray your constituents by compromising your integrity right out of the gates, no matter what tempting bait is used to lure you. Vote your conscience.

This is not a “Witch Hunt”; it is strictly in line with the New Liberia we are trying to build. The scenario staring Mr. Snowe has a simple plot - we want the man to come clean. Speaker of the House is nothing to play with. Mr. Snowe has reentered the Liberian Kitchen, at a completely different time. Today, the heat is up a notch. The people want answers whenever there are questions. Any public figure who can’t stand the heat, needs to stay out of this kitchen.

We don’t want to hear any of that “personal vendetta stuff” being used to discredit Mr. Pajibo. That is just a calculated distraction from what is. This writer has no clue as to who Mr. Snowe is. It is all in the numbers stirring us flush in the face, my people. We are simply taking a stance as citizens. That’s all.


Related Articles:
LPRC Managing Director Edwin Snowe Pockets US$1 Million Yearly, Human Rights Group Alarm Over Corruption