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The Global Witness Bombshell Demands Liberia’s Attention

The Global Witness Bombshell Demands Liberia’s Attention

WHEN HOUSE SPEAKER ALEX Tyler opened his behemoth mansion and resort on the RIA highway to the public, many wondered how did he—not by the sudden wave of a magic wand—go from owning a townhouse plus a US$5,000 yearly income, to become one of the presumed richest men in Liberia.

SOMETHING IS ROTTEN in the state of Denmark, wrote William Shakespeare in his play Hamlet. This idiomatic expression is often used to describe corruption or a situation in which something is wrong. AS WE ARE LEFT TO PONDER the meaning of the idiomatic Shakespearean expression, the nation has once again garnered the headline for the wrong reason. NOT FROM THE U.S. State Department annual report—oh no!—or Transparency International yearly corruption index where Liberia is usually at an all-time low—HELL NO! IT’S THAT INTERNATIONAL WATCHDOG, Global Witness, sitting at the table with the prima facie detailing the lack of honor amongst 40 thieves who, in the absence of Ali Baba, tacitly sold their birthrights for thirty pieces of dirty silver. THE RELEASE OF CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS in a detailed report by the anti-corruption watchdog, Global Witness, shows the depth to which public officials would stoop in exchange of the Benjamin. And perhaps a scoop into how the Speaker of the House of Representatives became one of the “noveaux riches” overnight as evident by the behemoth mansion perched atop a hill to be seen by all and sundry. IN WHAT APPEARS TO BE ANOTHER classic tale of Santa Claus visiting kids who were on their best behavior throughout the year, the report says Sable Mining, a company owned by two individuals of unsavory character, hired respected corporate lawyer, Senator Varney Sherman, to waltz his way through the overly bloated corrupt bureaucracy by bribing every step of the way in a bid to acquire the prized Wologizi Mountain. AND IN A TYPICAL SANTA FASHION, Senator Varney Sherman bribed every Tom, Dick and Harry he thought would be an impediment in what has become a costly misadventure. Amongst those are former and current members of the Legislature and President Sirleaf’s cabinet. “Sable and Sherman paid bribes in order to change Liberia’s laws and get their hands on one of its most prized assets, the Wologizi Concession,” said Jonathan Gant, Senior Campaigner with Global Witness. “The government must act fast and investigate Sable, Sherman and the officials they paid.” THE RELEASE OF THIS report comes on heels of the International Anti-Corruption Summit in the United Kingdom as several countries gathered in London for the launch of the new global plan to recover stolen assets. IT ALSO COMES IN THE WAKE of comments made by British Prime Minister, David Cameroon, in chitchat with Queen Elizabeth, II, earlier this week about ongoing anti-corruption summit currently taking place in the British Capitol when he labeled Nigeria and Afghanistan as being “fantastically corrupt”. “WE'VE GOT SOME LEADERS of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain... Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world," he was overheard saying. SUCH AN EMBARRASSING and undiplomatic comment to say about another government, some may say, but the reality speaks true to itself.”   THE REPORT FURTHER COMES amid the release of the Panama Papers which show how corrupt governments and corrupt friendly individuals are funneling money into offshore accounts. INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND managing Director, Christine Lagarde, in a three parts essay on the heels of David Cameron’s Anti-Corruption Summit in the UK writes that the direct economic costs of corruption are well known, "the indirect costs may be even more substantial and debilitating, leading to low growth and greater income inequality." "[CORRUPTION] UNDERMINES trust in government and erodes the ethical standards of private citizens." LAGARDE CITES A RECENTLY updated study that estimates $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion (or around 2 percent of global gross domestic product) in bribes is paid annually in both developing and developed countries. COMING TO LIBERIA WHICH IS, no doubt, itself a “fantastically corrupt” country, it is a downright shame that former and current members of the Legislature and the President’s cabinet would tweak the law to favor a shady company.  But perhaps by divine intervention, that never came to fruition. THAT A COMPANY WHICH little or nothing is known about could come here and offered raw cash to get a concession agreement while making sure the law is bent in its favor while our leaders look the other way, has given us an insight into how 63 concession failed concession agreements which did not meet the legal benchmark, were passed. AND INTERESTINGLY SITTING in the midst of these allegations are two individuals who want/wanted to lead this nation. House Speaker J. Alex Tyler and Grand Cape Mount County Senator, Varney Sherman. SENATOR SHERMAN, IT SEEMS, has an affinity for moonlighters. Years ago, he was named in a documentary by undercover investigative Danish journalist Mads J. Cortzen of helping him (Mads) acquired a Liberian diplomatic passport and an Honorary Consul position to Chad. THESE ALLEGATIONS REQUIRE serious attention from President Sirleaf. While we welcome the setting up of a commission to investigate this issue, our hope is it wouldn’t be swept under the like the Dunn Commission Report and so forth. AS MS. KARGARDE, RIGHTLY SAID, corruption erodes the trust between the governors and the governed. While we are not disputing the fact that no nation is corrupt free as the Panama Papers recently suggested, we believe that it should not prevent us from having top notch and quality healthcare delivery system, quality education, good roads etc. “PUT TOGETHER A GOVERNMENT whose functionaries are hell-bent on making money for self and associates at all costs; add a Minister who is ready to sell his own soul to the devil for money for money from whatever quarter; add a President who sees nothing wrong in being unable to separate his private and government coffers and into this mix, put a parliament made up of bleating goats ready to sing any song that lines their pockets and finally coat the mixture with a nest of vipers passing off as journalists whose pockets have ever yawning chasms. And presto you have the right combination. Corruption that beggar’s belief.” THE PASSAGE QUOTED above though written about Sierra Leone bears striking parallel to the situation in Liberia. The passage further reads…”Frank Timis is in good company in Sierra Leone where he has succeeded in getting one President Ernest Bai Koroma in his pocket, ready and willing to dance with gusto and energetic fervor to any tune he Vasile Frank Timis comes up with as long as his personal accounts are taken care of. Frank Timis must have watched and indeed studied the scenario in Sierra Leone and when he made his first bid during the Tejan Kabbah reign must have been pleasantly surprised at just how cheap and ready policy makers in Sierra Leone were ready to tow his chariot of corruption using the sweaty backs of hapless Sierra Leoneans.” AND SO CAN WE CONCLUDE that the above passage could just as well been written about Liberia? The Frank Timis spoken of is a shady character and notorious drug dealer. How does the situation in Sierra Leone compare to Liberia where reports of shady characters and drug dealers acquiring concessions have been rife? Are the parallels to Liberia not so similarly striking? Where are but gone are the Edwin Barclays, the Edward Wilmot Blydens, the Albert Portes, the Didho W. Twes, the Raymond Horaces, the Booker T. Bracewells, the Juah Nimelys, the Madame Suakokos, the Suwah Kpuyuus, The Mary Antoinette Brown Shermans? Gone perhaps but never ever forgotten! OH HOW SWEET IT IS TO DREAM of yesterday! Good-bye to yesterday; Good-bye to Patriots! Good-bye to tortuous dreams of Nationalism, of Patriotism and of Statesmen and Stateswomen! Welcome to Carpetbaggers! Welcome to Demagogues! Welcome to Scumbags!

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