Liberia Lacks "Rule of
Law," Says Brumskine
By Musue N. Haddad
Providence, Rhode Island
August 1, 2001
Former President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate, now in exile in the United States, Counselor Charles Brumskine, says unless a substantial amount of resources used to prosecute wars be diverted to empower the people, democracy in Liberia will remain a farce.
Cllr. Charles Brumskine served as Orator for Liberia's 154th Independence Anniversary celebration in Providence, Rhode Island over the weekend. Addressing the theme "The Path We Must Choose To Rebuilding A New Liberia," the exiled politician stated:
" The adventurism of the Taylor government must be stopped Democracy requires a healthy and literate society. Like all other indicators of democracy, Liberia is doing poorly with these two. Public resources use to prosecute wars would better serve the education and health needs of our people", the exiled Liberian senator stated repeatedly amidst applause from the large audience including U.S government officials.
Outlining the shortcomings of Taylor leadership and the burden on Liberia and the sub-region, Brumskine pointed to the continuous increment of internally and externally displaced Liberians, the lack of and severe degeneration of basic services including health services, education, water, communication facilities among others.
" Liberians at home are denied the Four Freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of every person's right to worship God in his own way, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Our parents and children, brothers and sisters remain in a state of destitute characterized by hunger, poverty, disease, and lack of education, the rule of law has collapsed".
Possibly measuring the depth of the collapse of the Liberian society from his experience as a one-time member of President Taylor's Legislature whose hope to build a Legislature free from Taylor's influence almost caused his life, Cllr. Brumskine, expressed optimism that, with a united effort, Liberia can rise from its devastated state.
" Ills of the past that should not have been, glorious opportunities that have been, but squandered, should now serve only as guiding lights to the future, as we strive to become a better people and a greater nation. We can not afford to dwell on the past; it only poisons the future. And the future is the direction in which we are headed not just you and me but our children and our children's children", he preached to the audience.
While there are certainly ills in long and recent past in the lives of Liberians, Cllr. Brumskine urged Liberians to put a halt to the attitude of collective guilt.
" When ever one commits a crime, violates public policy, or simply offends our sense of decency, it is he, and he alone, not his family, friends, or ethnic group, that should be held responsible for his transgressions. Political savvy may justify whatever we say or write on the premise of its popularity at a particular time; moral consciousness, however, requires that we say or do not only that which is right, but also that which unites our people and not divides them", the exiled Liberian politician emphasized. It was obvious that Brumskine's statement took the minds of the audience to the tendency by the present Liberian government to label family members, friends and members of ethnic groups of those it perceives as " against it" as accomplice and supporters of activities it considers "anti" to have them kidnapped or arrested.
In an attempt to answer the nagging question: why he joined the Taylor's government, Brumskine said his attention was caught by the available opportunity to serve his country and people devastated by the war. " Liberia had been devastated by a brutal civil war, so many lives had been lost, infrastructure - political and physical-had been destroyed, the need for men of integrity to enter public service was screaming out to anyone that would hear. There was a great need, which, regrettably is even greater today, to help rebuild our country and provide an example of democratic leadership. And for the little difference I made, I am grateful to God".
He said that his association with the Taylor's administration ended abruptly because of his desire to serve with integrity and commitment, guided by morality rather than "political gauge; abiding by the rule of law, and not catering to any man; seeking the interest of the people, not enriching one's self ".
Enumerating guiding tools for the rebuilding process, Brumskine
stated that the issues of two different laws: Customary law and
Statutory must be resolved since Liberians whose activities are
regulated by customary laws are governed by a system that does
not adhere to the basic constitutional principle of separation
"Under customary law, all three branches of government merge into the Presidency. Laws providing that the determinations of civil matters under customary law are channeled through the executive branch, instead of the judiciary.
"With the two laws in place: Customary and Statutory- a person can be treated differently from another simply because that person lives in accordance with norms and customs of the Liberian traditional society. For example, a woman married under customary law could find it difficult to inherit from her husband unlike a woman married under statutory law."
It is because of these lawful defaults in the legal system that Brumskine believes there should be a change: the statutory and customary laws be harmonized to conform with the constitution to avoid legal flaws and to enable every Liberian have the right to judicial review of justice matters, as provided under the constitution.
On issues that encourages defects in the Liberian administrative process he stated that laws including constitutional provisions, which deal with the removal from office of traditional chiefs, and the appointment of acting chiefs by the President, should be reviewed and amended to ensure that a chief is more responsive to the needs of his constituents than the wishes of the president who does the appointment.
Brumskine called for the cessation of hostilities between armed groups in Liberia and expressed the hope that the assurance by the Taylor government that it will respect rule and law and its pronouncement to the holding of a free and fair elections in 2003 is carried out.
Statements from U.S government officials to the Liberian Community Association of Rhode Island on the 154th Anniversary of Liberia also came from Rhode Island Senator, Jack Reed.
Senator Reed said while Liberia was founded upon the ideals of liberty and tolerance, those fundamental beliefs have experienced challenges that intensified during the war.
He recounted the challenges in ensuring the passage of the Liberian Immigration Fairness Act; S. 656 to enable Liberians in the U.S attain legal status.
Senator Reed disclosed that some of his colleagues have cosponsored the Act . He reminded Liberians to rally and have their friends and other Liberians remain in contact with Washington through telephone call, letters fax and channels to support the Liberian Immigration Fairness Act.
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