Liberia: ‘Suspend Tariff on Petroleum Products, Restore Three Days ‘Free Call’ Promo During State of Emergency’ – Sen. Dillon Recommends
MONROVIA – President George Weah’s declared state of emergency is likely to be endorsed by the Legislature but that will have to come with the implementation of some bargains like restoring the three days ‘free call’ promo, lifting US$0.30 tax off petroleum products, provision of regular and stable electricity, among others, for the 21-day period, Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon has told FrontPageAfrica.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
In an exclusive interview with FPA, Senator Dillon said he is supportive of the state of emergency but concerned about measures relating to the state of emergency.
He said, “I believe that the state of emergency as announced, in as much I do agree that there should be these kinds of measures, I think it was more like a knee-jerk reaction on the part of the President. It has clearly shown to me it was not well thought of and well planned.”
His comment was in response to complaints from residents of Montserrado County that not enough time was given for them to adequately prepare for the lockdown/state of emergency.
President Weah announced the state of emergency on Wednesday, April 8 at 1pm, stating that it would go into effect beginning Friday, April 10 at 11:59PM. Friday was, however, a holiday causing all stores and banks to remain closed.
This led to crowded banks and markets on Saturday morning with no regard to the social distancing rule.
“We as government-imposed tariffs on it, we can suspend that tariff and restore the ‘three days’ to the status before we imposed the tariff on it so that while our people are home looking for food, looking for medicine, trying to cooperate with the instructions from the government, some of these headaches can be removed. Keeping in contact with relatives and friends at this time is very essential.”– Abraham Darius Dillon, Montserrado County Senator
Senator Dillon noted that “When the President declares a state of emergency, the President should be prepared already. What is confusing the Liberian people is that the Constitution says the President may in consultation with the Speaker and Pro-Tempore declare a state of emergency. It goes further to say that thereafter the President will lay before the Legislature – before the entire body – the justification for the state of emergency and the measures to be taken during that period. The fact that the President announced the state of emergency on April 8 to take effect on April 10 and up to today April 12, there is no formal presentation to Liberian Senate, it only says that the President announced a state of state of emergency without plans.”
He said the Legislature cannot modify what it has not seen and don’t know and the President has failed to furnish them with the measures, therefore, the Legislature cannot do anything at the moment.
He said this has led to the state security carrying out a discretional enforcement of the state of emergency.
The Montsrrado County Senator said there is the need for the Executive to clearly define whether there is a curfew or a lockdown.
Dillon: “There is no understanding. The security man can use his discretion whether you can get on your porch or you can leave your yard to go your neighbor for salt or you should stay in your room. A lockdown is to confine you to a certain locality, curfew means don’t come outside at all, stay within… As it is, because there is no clear defined measure that we can either modify or revoke, it is left in the hands of the security and sadly we have a regime security rather than state security.”
As part of alleviating the economic burden off citizens during the state of emergency, Senator Dillon says he’ll be proposing to the Legislature for the temporary restoration of the three days ‘free call’ promotion by GSM Companies as to enable families stay connected while they are social distancing.
“We as government-imposed tariffs on it, we can suspend that tariff and restore the ‘three days’ to the status before we imposed the tariff on it so that while our people are home looking for food, looking for medicine, trying to cooperate with the instructions from the government, some of these headaches can be removed. Keeping in contact with relatives and friends at this time is very essential,” he said.
He also called for civil servants to be paid for a period of two months in order to have them prepared “for what it takes to stay home”.
Senator Dillon underscored the need for the state electricity supply to be regular and stable in order to make people comfortable as they stay at home.
“We placed 30 cents per gallon tax on petroleum products for us to construct roads and I agree with that, but during this period, we’re not constructing roads; let’s suspend the 30 cents per gallon, reduce the cost of petroleum products by the pump. The reason behind it is more people are using generator for electricity in this country.
He called for the distribution of rice among recognized old folks homes, orphanages and people with disabilities. According to him, this can be done with the funds coming from the World Bank to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Senator Dillon said he expects the government to encourage the private sector to pay their employees, especially teachers teaching private schools.
According to him, there’s also the need to talk to the commercial banks to suspend the regular payment of loans and also freeze the interests since there is no economic activity ongoing to enable creditors settle their obligations with the banks.
He further called on the Executive to define which of the security apparatus would be in charge of the state of emergency.
“Article 88 of the Constitution is clear that the Legislature by a two-thirds majority of both Houses finally decides on the state of emergency and the measure to be taken, the President will simply implement the decision of the Legislature,” he said.