Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Of Knucklesgates, Mittal Gifts and Lewis’ Outbursts

(A September 26 Post- Article): A Rejoinder

By: Bill K. Jarkloh

Browsing through the web of the, a United States based Liberian online magazine, I came across an article criticizes the 100 pickups donated to the Legislature by Accelor Mittals. To my greatest surprise, the article was flaunted calculations that illogically appeal to nothing more than willfully aimless criticism of a government that is comparatively the best of Liberian regimes. Beginning the article by an anonymous staff writer of the magazine, the article mentioned in woeful comparison of the this government with the gullible Tumbanic regime that “The reign of President William V. S. Tubman, Liberia’s longest serving president was rife with gift presentations by companies and people wanting to do and doing business in the country. It continues that Tubman and many government officials including legislators such as Speaker of the House of Representatives Richard A. Henries and Pro Tempore of the Senate Frank Tolbert were fattened rich from these numerous ‘gifts’ in both cash and kind, such as vehicles, houses and scholarships for selected family members of government officials, saying that many of these officials were also representatives of these multinational and small businesses in the country; thus personifying both conflict of interest and greed which have become institutionalized in the Liberian political culture. He may have an iota of truth in the character of the Tubmanic era, but comparing that regime with this administration is totally outrageous and unparalleled and modus operandi. In the very first place the Tub man regime was not announcing what could gifts that led to the granting of concession agreements. The nature of the Tubmanic administration and others were such that they didn’t announce gestures that influenced their decisions affecting development; instead it told concessions and partners to deliver the funds to government for implementation of the projects such as road-building and construction of other infrastructural facilities for the benefit of the people. The consequential effects of the gullibility of the regimes of past, especially the Tubmanic regime, are the poor and narrow roads in urban areas – say Monrovia; the use of private homes for public buildings and the general under achievement and under development the Tub man administration and others that preceded it. In the case of this administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, it’s transparent. For instance, the administration does not privatize Hilux Toyota pickup, which would not have been the case had the gift been given in the Tubmanic regime. Instead, the pickups were given out to legislature for the very good of the nations. Usually, agriculture is considered the fulcrum of the substantive development. A nation that is not self-sufficient in food production cannot so easily progress. So what is wrong with the President encouraging Legislators to participate in the drive for ensuring food security in the country? The second side of the argument is that the pickups were not given to the Senators to possess them as personal properties. They conspicuously bear government’s RL plates which make them property of the Liberian people which the Legislators represent in the business of governance. However, the author of the article r is not taking those issues into consideration apparently due to self-centered criticisms. He dives into trivialities of arguments. He wrote: Thirty-seven years after Tubman’s death in a London clinic, Liberia under globetrotting Prezo Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, is gradually returning to the ‘gift giving era’ (GGE), much to the dismay of those who hail her regime as the ‘most transparent’ in the history of the nation. Just before what would be almost her 260 day period of running her ‘presidency in the air’ as described by the daily Public Agenda some time ago, Prezo Johnson-Sirleaf’s Unity Party (UP) government received 100 twin-cabin Toyota Hilux pickups as ‘gifts’ from the multinational corporation (MNC) Mittal Steel, better know as Accelor Mittal, for ‘agriculture development’ purpose. In any case, thank God and the government that the pickups were not being made personal properties, and that the writer establish the purpose for which they are to be used when he wrote “Prezo Johnson-Sirleaf’s Unity Party (UP) government received 100 twin-cabin Toyota Hilux pickups as ‘gifts’ from the multinational corporation (MNC) Mittal Steel, better know as Accelor Mittal, for ‘agriculture development’ purpose. Surely Accelor Mittal is indebted to this country and its people. It is its social responsibility to ensure a viable agricultural, health and educational programmes fro Liberia. It noticed this responsibility to the people and has started to deliver on it, hence the worthy donation.

It is therefore unfortunate that those who wants the UP administration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to under achieve in total failure are criticizing such magnificent moves the government is making such as the international travels moves that have fast restored Liberia amongst the community of nations, resulted to the waiver of the more than US$3,7bn debt burden of Liberia and further led to Liberia’s recognition in the fight against corruption and terrorism.
The pseudo critics will never see the rebuilding of the security forces, the stride being made in the lifting of sanctions on the country’s productive industries and the efforts toward the reconditioning of the roads and the cementing of bilateral and multilateral ties between and amongst Liberian and other nations on one hand and nations of the world including Liberia. Which of the contenders for the Liberian Presidency could have achieved so fast like the Johnson-Sirleaf Administration have done just within a little over two years? As such, it is certainly woeful for a writer to craft a reason to persuade readers to believing that the pickup should have been budgetary allocated to the underperforming health, agriculture, education and utilities (water and electricity) sectors to speed up their over performances to the national economy, when in fact the purpose of the pickups, as he mentioned earlier, were presented also as ‘gifts’ to members of the National Legislature for agricultural purpose.
For me and reasonable people, it is highly illogical for the writer’s aligning of the pickup gifts from the Executive to the legislators with the National Legislature extension the session to pass numerous bills submitted by the President. The question that comes to minds is “are the bills intended to benefit President or the administration singularly or the Liberian people? Were they passed without confirmation? Was any qualm raised during the hearing that was ignore and swept under the carpet because legislators were enticed? Or in fact is it a wrong thing for a concession to donate or gift or contribute to the good of a partner government?
The writer mentioned – sorry- used as the exception, Grand Bassa County Senator Gbezongar Findley who turned his vehicle to the county’s agriculture officer, saying all of the legislators have clinched to theirs and are happy smiling that the gesture was a worthy one that will enhance their operations. This is begging for reason from readers when there is no reason using the Grand Bassa Senator who uses the option of using the very pickup for the very agricultural purpose through the County’s Agriculture officer. But he should be made to understand that whether through agriculture officers or through the senate, the ultimate purpose the use of the pickups need to achieve is for them to be use to promote the national agricultural program. They could even be given to a private farmer in a public manner devoid of cynicism of an official coveting anyone of the pickups.
By why does go to legitimate incomes of the law makers? Should they work in such offices without an income that will not corrupt their performance? Maybe that’s the intension of the writer when he wrote,“ Shocking as it may seem, it is difficult to comprehend why a transparent leader would give a pickup to a legislator who on the average gets US5, 000.00 monthly in both salary and incentives. On a yearly basis a legislator gets US$60,000.00. So in six years, a legislator in Liberia would be reaping US360, 000.00. There are some ninety-two legislators in the country’s bicameral legislature; they would be reaping a total of US$33,120,000.00 in six years!” What is disgusting about his criticism is when he mentions that Liberia’s legislators are the highest paid in West Africa without any graphic picture of incomes of other West African countries. So to even mention income of the President and economic immunities and incomes of executive officials constitutes nothing but treachery.
Yes! The Treachery was openly seen in the concluding paragraph which reads thus: “Mittal’s Joseph Matthews must not lie to us that the pickups were meant for development. Even the little ones in today’s Liberia know that the gifts were part of the (eating money) scheme to grant any privilege requested by Mittal.” So I ask the writer: How? Why? And what is the measurement of this so-called “Gobachopism” or money eating scheme he alluded to as far as an open donation of pickups from a concession of the government is concern, when the pickups were not coveted or converted to private use? Anyway, let me pause and invite his answers to the 3-ws question.
Finally, don’t mistaken me for a Government Public Relation manager or a Unity Party member, even though nothing wrong with that if I were. All I am presenting is a critical analysis of some of the obscurity that people try to insinuate in the operation of a transparent system. For me I want every Liberian to rally around the government to succeed because it is not possible for all presidential contestants to occupy that one presidency. This is time for Liberians to move Liberia forward instead of detracting genuine efforts because our favorites or partisans are not steering the ship of state. Let’s us put away egocentricity, favoritism, political and religious differences - concentrate on meaning achievements without detracting them to move the country forward.