What Has Liberty Party Done 4/11/2011

First release 4/2011 

By Jacob Smith, Secretary General, Liberty Party

We generally would not respond or otherwise react to letters such as yours, especially one written by an unknown. But we respond to your letter because it raises some rather interesting issues, the lack of understanding of which tend to leave many in the darkness, with the like of you serving as the “guiding light.”

Liberty Party under the leadership of Charles Walker Brumskine, as our Political Leader, strives to conduct itself in a manner that is unprecedented in our recent history. For example, following the 2005 Elections, Counselor Brumskine did not establish an armed group, waging war against Liberia, resulting in the death of 10% of our population and destroying our country. But after Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s party at the time, Liberia Action Party, lost the 1985 elections, she did not remain in Liberia and attempt to engage the government of President Doe, as Counselor Brumskine now does. Instead, Mrs. Sirleaf moved out of Liberia, from where she lobbied every government and international organization, causing every imaginable sanction to be imposed upon the people of Liberia all in pursuit of her scorched earth policy. Even as President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate, when Charles Taylor was President, Brumskine continuously engaged the government, serving as an instrument of reform.

The woman whom you now canonize, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was a founding member of the NPFL, although she attempted to change her story during her appearance before the TRC, by stating that her financial contribution to the NPFL was intended for “charitable purpose.” President Sirleaf undermined and waged war against President Doe until he was captured and killed. Again, after losing the 1997 elections, Mrs. Sirleaf did not remain in Liberia and engage the government of President Taylor, as Counselor Brumskine now engages her government. Instead, she left Liberia for greener pasture, from where she undermined and waged war against the Liberian People just to satisfy her insatiable desire for the presidency of Liberia.

Against this background, it is not surprising when someone like you do not know the role of an opposition politician. Quite a number of Liberians have known opposition politicians as individuals who encourage the overthrow of government or cause war and brings massive suffering upon the people of Liberia. So I hope we can agree that a loyal and patriotic opposition politician should not cause sanction to be imposed on his/her country or wage war against the people, as Ellen Johnson Sirleaf did from 1985 to 2003. You might also be surprise to learn that opposition politicians are not to build schools, hospital, or other infrastructure. These are functions of the government, which is expected to employ the resources of the nation for the benefit of all. Of course, your letter tends to suggest that development is limited to physical or infrastructure construction or reconstruction. 

Because the President appears to share your restrictive definition of “development,” Counselor Brumskine and Liberty Party have repeatedly reminded President Sirleaf and officials of her government that Liberia did not suffer fifteen years of war because of the lack of electricity and pipe-borne water, or resurfaced roads in Monrovia. Those are the consequences of war and not the cause of war. Therefore, unless we reconcile our people reform the institutions of government, while minimizing corruption to reduce poverty, Liberians are likely to again destroy what we appear to have!

So what Counselor Brumskine has done and continues to do is what is expected of opposition politicians—engaging the government, providing guidance from Liberty Party’s perspective, and serving as an alternative voice for the people. You may not realize this, but unless the institutions of government are reformed through the contribution of the opposition, Liberia runs the risk of losing all again. You might want to find out how it works in Ghana or the United States or any other country that is practicing the democracy to which we aspire.   

President Sirleaf attempted to dismiss a judge, Judge Jones of the Debt Court. But for the intervention of Counselor Brumskine, President Sirleaf would have dismissed an official of the judiciary. At least Tubman got the Legislature involved, by way of a joint resolution. The President’s unconstitutional action was aborted only because Counselor Brumskine spoke out against it. Now the President and the people know better!

In 2006, upon assuming office as President, Mrs. Sirleaf attempted to curtail the constitutional oversight responsibility of the Legislature, by pronouncing that no official of her government would appear before the Legislature without her expressed consent. But for Brumskine who spoke against and providing constitutional guidance for President Sirleaf, the President’s assertion would have become settled practice in Liberia. Now the President and the people know better!

Sirleaf appoints city mayors, believing that electing them is wrong, but still refuses to have them submit to the constitutional process of confirmation. Of course, Brumskine is the one who continues to speak against such practices that we all considered ills of the past. Ellen Sirleaf has been in power for four years and has failed and refused to hold elections for chiefs, dismissing and appointing them at will. Counselor Brumskine continues to speak out about the need to develop democracy in Liberia, but the President insists on perpetuating the imperial presidency. But the President and the people know better!

Four years ago, President Sirleaf stopped Haddah, K &K, and other importers of rice from importing and otherwise dealing in rice in Liberia, ostensibly because of their alleged close ties with former President Taylor and because she wanted to open up the rice market. But then instead of opening up the market, Sirleaf proceeded to give rice monopoly to Sinkor Trading Company. Sinkor Trading was a company owned by Allen Brown, one of Sirleaf’s major campaign financiers. After Sirleaf and company had accumulated millions by exploiting the poor Liberian people for more than a year, and after much talk of impropriety from Counselor Brumskine, Liberty Party and others, Sinkor Trading phased out of the rice business, as Sirleaf arranged an oligopoly of John Bestman, her campaign manager and senior executive of Unity Party, and other members of Unity Party and her friends and supporters to dominate the rice market.

During her announcement that she would seek a second term, the President informed the Liberian people that the price of rice has been reduced from US$35 a year ago to US$25, and the price of cement has been reduced from US$16 to about US$8.50, because her government has of late “encouraged competition by opening the markets.” It was Counselor Brumskine who said the announcement came four years too late, because for four years, Liberians who least could afford it have been made to pay US$10.00 more than was necessary for a bag of rice, and US$7.50 more than was necessary for a bag of cement.

Again it was Counselor Brumskine who spoke against the less than transparent behavior of the President. He stated that the presidential power used in 2010 to encourage competition by allegedly opening the markets, thus reducing the price of rice was not suddenly granted to the President by the Constitution and laws of Liberia. That was power, he said, which the President had since 2006. So why did the President wait for four years, on the day when she decided to announce her candidacy for a second term in office to talk about opening up the market and lowering the price of rice?

Remove your partisan veil for a moment, Mr. Kamara, and see how much money has been exploited from the poor people of Liberia. Corruption in the Sirleaf government is one of the reasons why poverty continues to rise in Liberia, even after four years of peace, not to mention the unprecedented level of non-military assistance and international goodwill! Let’s assume that our people consume about a million bags (100 lbs.) of rice a year. At an unjustified profit of about US$10.00 per bag, Sirleaf and company would  have pocketed US$10 million a year; multiplied by 4 years, that would be US$40 million in illegal profit that could have been used to reduce poverty, build schools and clinics in the interior of the country, and so on. Don’t forget the profit on cement! In democratic nations, someone would be charged for racketeering and criminal profiteering. Those are the sort of criminal activities that cause Presidents to resign; instead the President you support believes that the people should give her a second term. If she did or even allowed that in her first term, one can only imagine what she would do or allow in a second term.

In 2008, as the Global Economic Downturn hit countries after country, Liberty Party under the leadership of Counselor Brumskine issued an Economic Policy Brief, analyzing the implications for Liberia, with major recommendations. Liberty Party informed the government that Liberia’s economic recovery could be stunted with serious adverse implications for long term political and social instability. (Copy of the Economic Policy Brief will be provided to you upon request.)

The Sirleaf Government initial reaction to our position was that the Liberian economy was not sufficiently integrated into the global economy for the global economic downturn to impact Liberia’s economy. Not too long after the government assumed that position, ArcelorMittal Steel announced that because of the global economic downturn it could not commence operation. Therefore, instead of many Liberians being employed, the few that were employed were laid off. Now the President and the people know better!

We recommended several adjustments to fiscal and business policies, to deal with the then emerging economic storm.  The Government’s first reaction to our Policy Brief was that the global economic downturn would have minimal impact on Liberia because its economy was not fully integrated into the world economy. However, the government belatedly adopted some of our recommendations, such as the suspension of the tax on certain basic commodities, the opening up of the market for more competition, and the proposed reduction in top tax rate on personal and corporate income taxes, respectively.

Again, from among the many recommendations made in the Economic Policy Brief, two of the major ones have now been adopted by USAID and World Food Program (WFP) for the benefit of the Liberian people.

The USAID has entered into an arrangement with local banks for the funding of Liberian businesses. We are also informed that the World Food Program (WFP) will purchase rice from local farmers in an attempt to stimulate economic growth in the agriculture sector. While this is a welcome beginning, it confirms what we have said all along, that the Sirleaf government is lagging in its development initiatives. WFP’s involvement in Government’s indicates that after four years of her administration, Liberia’s development partners are still not convinced that the government has the capacity for development assistance.

Of course, increase in the unemployment rate in Liberia could have been avoided if the Sirleaf government had only adopted the recommendations contained in Liberty Party Economic Policy Brief in a timely fashion.

You mentioned that Mrs. Sirleaf, while an opposition politician, established an NGO in Liberia. What that says is that even as demonized as President Taylor is he allowed Madam Sirleaf to do what she thought was good for Liberia. Today it is a totally different scenario with unimaginable stumbling block being in the way of people who are not partisans of the President, especially opposition political politicians.

Even so, Counselor Brumskine and the Liberty Party continue to invest in human resource development by providing scholarships to needy Liberians at various levels of academic programs in the country. This is something that Counselor Brumskine started since 1984, when he had no thought of the Presidency of Liberia or any other political office. As the result of his humanitarian effort, thousands of Liberians have been educated.

In January of 2010, ERU brutalized the youth of our country so badly, it was déjà vu for many. These young men were beaten by the ERU and severely injured, thrown into jail, and denied medical attention for three days. They were subsequently charged and sent to court for simply desiring to participate in what was supposed to be an election of officers of the Federation of Liberian Youth. (FLY). Again, it was Counselor Brumskine who stood up for them.

It has been Counselor Brumskine, along with others, who have continuously battled with the President for wanting to destroy the Liberianization Policy. The Liberianization Policy ensures that specified businesses are set aside for Liberians, enabling them to make a living in their own country.

When President attempted to abdicate her constitutional duty and outsource county development funds to privately owned entities, NGO’s, who was it that to the government to task? Of course, it was Counselor Brumskine. Counselor Brumskine recommended that instead of outsourcing government functions, the President should strengthen the service delivery capacity and empower local administration; and, develop capacity of her local government officials. He further recommended that the President dismisses the incompetent individuals whom she has appointed to manage the people’s money; and that corrupt government officials be prosecuted.

Who spoke out for the Liberian civil servants when the Sirleaf Government was downsizing them, without regard to the fact that Liberia is a post-conflict nation not providing alternative employment opportunities for the many Liberians who were downsized? Yes, it was Counselor Brumskine. By the way, Mr. Kamara, have you heard that President Sirleaf has just created a preference for Unity Party members in securing government jobs, in contravention to Article 18 of the Constitution of Liberia? Should Counselor Brumskine perform the role of an opposition politician and speak out against yet another travesty in the interest of the Liberia people or would you prefer nothing be said?

Mr. Kamara, we certainly hope you now understand what a real and loyal opposition politician should do (and not be required to do) and some of what Brumskine has done over the last four years.  

 

Jacob J. Smith

Deputy Secretary General,
Press & Publication, Liberty Party

 

 

 

 

 

 

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