Liberia: Who’s In Charge of the National Legislature?

The Standoff between Rep. Yekeh Korlubah and Deputy Police Chief Marvin Sackor Shows Lawlessness Begins and Ends at The Top

IN MOST MODERN representative democracies, it is the norm that the citizens elect officials to make political decisions, formulate laws, and administer programs for the  good of the people, particularly those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder.

IN LIBERIA, and most countries in Africa, where democracy is practiced, this is not often the case. In fact, many of those elected and appointed to positions of trust are simply out for their own interests and not in the interest of those who elected them to office.

A CASE IN POINT is a recent controversial amendment to the 1972 Vehicle and Traffic Law passed by members of Liberia’s national legislature, giving themselves the right to drive any way they feel necessary to the detriment of other commuters.

THAT LAW WAS INITIALLY intended for the President and vice president. Over time, with an increasing appetite for the big shot mentality that has consumed those at the helm of power these days, every Tom, Dick & Harry lawmaker or official of government,  now feels entitled and wants to enjoy the same rights as the top two officials in government, the President and the Vice President.

THUS, UNDER the cloak of darkness, when no one was paying attention, those that the people elected to seek their interests, sought theirs – without remorse.

SELF BEFORE COUNTRY has become the norm these days – under the guise of Representative Democracy.

UNDER THE AMENDED law, which was never debated in the halls of the national legislature or provided to the public for all to see, these elected officials, signed off on a legislation that says, vehicles owned or operated by the the following officials are exempt from traffic stops:

THEY INCLUDE: Convoy of the president, the convoy of the president’s spouse, the convoy of the vice president, the convoy of a [former] president, the convoy of a [former] vice president, the minister of justice, the minister of defense, the minister of state, the minister of finance, the minister of foreign affairs, the chief of staff and deputy chief of staff, the convoy of the speaker of the House of Representatives, the convoy of the president pro tempore of the Senate, the members of the legislature, the convoy of the chief justice, the associate justice[s] of the Supreme Court, the Liberia National Police, and other agencies of the national security apparatus of the government as maybe [sic] designated by the president of Liberia.

TOO MANY people have become so obsessed with the big-shot mentality that they are forgetting to understand the essence of representative democracy. Instead, they have become power-drunk with a dictatorial mindset and tendency – all because people in their various constituencies believed in them and put power in their hands.

THE CONTROVERSIAL law excludes lawmakers from confining to the rules of the road, meaning they are not legally required to abide by rules against reckless driving, operating a vehicle in an unsafe condition, or speeding. The senior government officials would also not have to adhere to traffic signals or be banned from driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

RECENTLY, THE HEAD of the Liberia National Bar Association(LNBA), Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe opined that the amendment to the vehicle and traffic law which gave elected and appointed officials of government the right to use the third lane needs to be looked into as it may create more chaos in the traffic. “I don’t like it but I’m not a legislator but I believe that it has the tendency to create a situation where more Liberian citizens would be considered first-class citizens and will create more chaos in the traffic,” said Cllr. Gongloe.

THAT DECLARATION became a reality Tuesday when Rep. Yekeh Korlubah (ANC, District No. 10, Montserrado County) and Col. Marvin Sackor, Deputy Inspector General of Police for Operation, held traffic at bay in a standoff that ricocheted across the city.

WE HAVE USED our platform on numerous occasions, to raise awareness about the dangers of elected and officials of government disregarding and disrespecting the traffic  laws in total disregard for other motorists and commuters.

IN MARCH, Cllr. Nyenati Tuah, Deputy Minister for Codification at the Ministry of Justice, usec his position to thwart justice from three kids he injured when his vehicle ran into a motorbike carrying the children on March 1, 2020. Cllr. Tuan is also being accused of abandoning the kids, while their poor mother struggles to medicate them.

THIS IS JUST ONE of many incidents taking place in Liberia each and every day.

USING THE AMENDED traffic law as a license to encourage their abuse of power, many of these lawmakers are backed by their friends, relatives, hangerons and loved ones, who encourage them to break the vehicle & traffic laws, disrespect traffic officers and put other commuters at risk.

SO, WHEN REP. Korkubah decides to use the same laws that have been touted over and over again, everyone has a view to express and a fish to fry on both sides of the aisle.

For 173 years, Liberians have tolerated the bad, condemned the good and embraced lawlessness and abuse of power. 

TUESDAY’S FRACAS was just in a long-line of bad tidings that continues to shine a negative light on Liberia.

NEARLY TWO YEARS AGO, IN June 2018, Rep. Korlubah was involved in a similar tussle over use of illegal license plates.

NO ONE MADE MUCH noise then because the legislators were in the process of amending the law giving all of them license to break the laws of the traffic at will.

AFTER ALL, the President is doing it, the Vice President is doing it. So, why shouldn’t they?

IN FACT, when Mr. Oliver Dillon, an inspector at the Ministry of Transport was simply doing his job by impounding Rep. Korlubah and another lawmaker, Rep. Francis Dopoh’s vehicle in June 2018, the Plenary summoned Dillon and Minister Samuel Wlue and held them in contempt.

THE HOUSE PLENARY  at the time, demanded the appearance under the doctrine of contempt for what it termed as the allege arrest, gross disrespect, humiliation and delaying of one of their colleagues while on his way to session. The MOT pair was summoned to explain reasons why Rep. Dopoh’s official vehicle was allegedly parked for half an hour and disrespected by the transport inspector.

EVEN THOUGH, the inspector told legislators at the time that Rep. Korlubah’s vehicle was not registered and his driver did not have a license when he was stopped at the 540 Junction in Congo Town, Minister Wlue was forced to crawl on his knees like a little boy and beg for mercy and forgiveness.

TODAY, the practice continues. Nearly all of those elected in the national legislature are guilty of breaking the laws. They use the wrong or expired license plates all the time  – and have the balls to dare police officers and inspectors doing their job to stop them – or try to put them in check.

JUST 24 HOURS ago, FrontPageAfrica spotted the vehicle of Rep. Alex Grant(CDC, District No. 2, Grand Gedeh County without a sticker on his plate, parading in the opposite and incoming traffic in the Congotown belt. Transport officials, queried by FrontPageAfrica Wednesday explained that members of the legislature are currently are using two license plates because nearly all of them have refused to turn in their old plates.

A SENIOR OFFICIAL speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear of being summoned, explained: “The reason being, the white license plate for example, that has the number before the letter, 23 R, similar to the Rep. Kolubah’s vehicle  which is currently at the center of the controversy was originally sent to the legislators but they rejected them. When these plates came into the country and we decided to decommission all of the plates, it is those white plates we wanted to give them but they said they did not want those plates, they wanted instead the black REP, their traditional plates, and the ministry agreed.”

THE OFFICIAL CONTINUED: “The ministry sent the REP plates to the lawmakers with the LB REP. They should have returned the white plates which they refused but they did not and they still have them in use. So, right now they have two plates, the white plates which they refused to send back to the ministry and their traditional black REP plates.”

THE OFFICIAL FURTHER explained that some lawmakers are still using the older plates processed under the previous company contracted, Modern Development & Management  Corporation(MDMC) and not the new plates processed by Union Strong. Those plates, FPA has been informed do not have the LB  on them and should not be on any vehicle in the traffic.

HOW CAN those tasked with the responsibility of enforcing traffic laws do their jobs in the midst of so many big shots in the country?

WHO IS OVERSEEING THESE lawmakers and who is keeping them in check? The Speaker of the House of Representative? The Pro Temp of the Senate?

UNTIL elected and appointed officials decide to do the right thing by Liberia and for Liberia, we are likely to witness more fracas, chaos and confusion in the coming days, weeks and months.

TOO MANY people have become so obsessed with the big-shot mentality that they are forgetting to understand the essence of representative democracy. Instead, they have become power-drunk with a dictatorial mindset and tendency – all because people in their various constituencies believed in them and put power in their hands.

FALLING FOR A POLITICIAN’S promise is not a crime. This is why, no Liberian or human being should endure such punishment, not from those at the helm of power, certainly, not from those, on whose shoulders, those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder, rely on, or have so much expectations.