Open Letter: Cummings Replies Pres. Weah; Says He Never Worked in Govt.
Thank you for your response to my open letter. However, it is interesting that you would complain about the openness of mine in the open response of yours, when in fact, open letters are meant to be open (published). Perhaps on account of the angry undertone clearly revealed in yours, suffice to say, it was filled with some falsehoods and contradictions that are uncharacteristic of the high office.
For instance, of course, you must know that I have not directly worked for any Liberian Government. Along with the former Indian Consul General, Mr. Upjit Singh Sachdeva, (“Jetty”), and the Firestone Rubber Corporation, among others, we were asked to serve on the Board of the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) to provide technical and financial support to the institution, for no compensation. Per your parity of reasoning, would you label those board members as working in the previous administration too? When you appointed eminent foreign persons as well as other prominent Liberians to the Board of BWI, were you appointing them to work in your administration?
Granted, Mr. President, that the nature of our country’s politics may be disrespectful of public service, I respect public service, and will continue to honor those who have tried to serve our country honorably. I also do not believe that public service necessarily means working for the government because even in the private sector, the honorable intent is to serve the public. As such, while I have not directly worked for any Liberian Government, I have found my work to be in the service of the public. I am proud of the records of my service to several institutions, and to our country.
Mr. President, guilt by association is wrong. Those with authority, including yourself, should not make it seem acceptable. However, in your case, it is clear that a senator who is authorized by the Constitution to exercise legislative oversight on the Executive is equally culpable, if an administration defaults in its responsibilities to the people and allegedly corruptly passes “sixty-plus” concession agreements. Moreover, you are the President now, and have been for five (5) years. It befalls the authority of your office to audit, seek punishment wherever necessary, and direct a new course for our country rather than double down and continue to use the so-called wrongs of the past to justify even more egregious wrongs of today. Unfortunately, you have not audited the past
administration because it would mean auditing your former offices of Peace Ambassador and Senator.
Also, Mr. President, you claim you have instituted more measures in the fight against corruption. While that remains to be proven, the truth is, the problem in the fight against corruption is not the inadequacy of the laws. Rather, it is the lack of political will, including by leaders like yourself, who either by acts of complicity or duplicity, cannot enforce and or apply the laws uniformly to all. This also means providing adequate resources to integrity institutions to do their work, and not overseeing the effective break down, politicization or compromise of their independence.
Additionally, you as the head of the presidency and government must lead by good examples and higher standards so that the rest of the administration and government can follow because people tend to do what their leaders do. For example, where the law provides for government officials to declare their assets and act transparently and accountably, the President should lead by diligently and honestly doing so himself. This includes publishing your assets for the people to know, which although not required by law, is an indication of the seriousness of your fight against corruption. As President, I will not just declare my assets, but I will publish them.
Unfortunately, Mr. President, this has not been the case in the last 5 years of your administration. Corruption has worsened so badly in your administration that the United States Government has had to publicly sanction three of the closest and most powerful members of your inner circle. I and others have tried to draw your attention to the fact that your response to the sanctions is weak, inadequate and ineffective, and implicates the presidency in the unacceptable perception of being corrupt.
You see, Mr. President, the sanctions are not just grave and serious because the United States Government, our traditional allies and development partners, imposed them; they are because the charges ruin the image of the country and smear the Liberian Presidency. The image of the Liberian Government, revealed as a cabal of thieves over which you preside, is hurtful and disturbing to every Liberian everywhere, especially the many who are already poor and destitute. A response thereto, should therefore be tougher, in order to dissuade this impression as well as any implication and perception that the Liberian Presidency is derelict or complicit, especially given that the sanctioned individuals are close and powerful members of your inner circle.
As you may know, the constitutional appointing and dismissing power of the Liberian President is not one that requires a right to due process of law. To serve in a ministerial, deputy and managing director position, Mr. President, is at the will and pleasure of the President, and a privilege. Therefore, when pronouncements concerning corruption and abuse of such privileges are credibly made against such officials, the appointing authority can, and must act, to preserve the integrity of the whole of the government, and importantly, the image of the country.
I therefore urge you again to more seriously dismiss, request the documents, if you do not already have it, and forthrightly prosecute your friends. That is the ultimate due process. At prosecution, we will join in insisting that all concerned will, should and must have their due process rights upheld, respected and protected.
Allow me to respectfully remind you that the Liberian Presidency is amongst the most sacred and respected of our public institutions. Preserving its esteemed status should always be of the highest national priority because diminishing the Presidency amounts to disgracing the Liberian nation. The imposition of these sanctions extends to revealing that either you do not know what your appointed officials are doing, or even more unsettling, you know and benefit, so you permit rather than intend to stop it. Act more decisively, Mr. President, so as to rescue the Liberian Presidency from these deeply disturbing national and international perceptions and impressions of corruption and ineptitude. May I also encourage more discipline, diligence and honor in your duty to preserve the sanctity and esteem of the Liberian Presidency.
Mr. President, I am surprised that you have tried to cast yourself as the victim of your own administration and presidency. You are not, and cannot be. Every failure of your presidency has made the Liberian people the victims. It is safe to say for five (5) years, promises you made to our people for change have been promises broken, by your decisions and actions. Many, especially women and our youth, have had their hopes dashed and are still awaiting change. Too many Liberians are suffering today than when you assumed the mantle of the Presidency. As long as you and your administration are committed to the free expression of the Liberian people in choosing their leaders as the opposition is, I assure you our country’s transition to a new, more accountable leadership and real change will happen in 2023, so that our country can provide a better and more prosperous future for all.
You pronounce yourself as a peaceful man, Mr. President. It will be unfair for me to pronounce you to be otherwise. However, you cannot refute that a peaceful man will not headbutt a fellow player on the pitch as you did Jorge Costa, causing him a bloody face and a broken nose in the infamous Porto vs Milan game. You also cannot credibly refute claims that you contributed and helped to direct the activities of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), a factional group in the Liberian civil war, including paying for logistical support in 2002 for MODEL rebels to travel from the Ivory Coast ports to Sinoe County in Liberia, to fight against Taylor’s Government. May I remind you that Liberians died in that military misadventure.
It is also reported that you rented fishing boats and provided guns and ammunitions estimated at USD150,000 to MODEL, and much earlier in 1999, you provided food and supplies costing between USD20,000 to USD25,000 to the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Development (LURD), another rebel group in the Liberian war. It has been further claimed that you did so to foster your long-held ambition for the Liberian Presidency as initially suspected by Former President Taylor, whose unconstitutional removal you supported.
Mr. President, I did not go to Buduburam personally, just as I did not financially-support, participate in, and or direct the activities of any warring faction in our country’s long years of wars. However, contrary to your assertions, I was not perched in a tower in Atlanta but rather running the entire operations of Coca-Cola in all of Africa and assisting, where I could, Liberians fleeing from the crisis. What we do for our people should not give us a sense of entitlement to the presidency as you seem to have. However, the question is, after reportedly fueling the crisis which led to their refugee status; were your visits to refugee camps really about the Liberian people or to paint yourself as a savior, in furtherance of your political agenda?
I do not believe you or anyone else who did, and visited with the victims in Buduburam and other refugee shelters, now deserve, more than other Liberians, to be rewarded with the Liberian Presidency, or in your case, to continue to be President in spite of the increasing evidence of a disappointing and failed leadership of our country. As President, it will be my sworn duty to ensure that no Liberian will ever feel a need to become a refugee or to run from their country because of concerns for their personal security or the security of those of their loved ones.
Having visited Buduburam, and now as leader of the country whose sons and daughters endured the harshness of Buduburam, I can only hope your administration would abandon the pursuit of the politics of division and insecurity as well as act to rein in the roaring corruption, which ultimately led to Liberians fleeing to Buduburam.
This, therefore, is why when your party representative threatened to make opposition officials “disappear”, rather than applaud such provocative and dangerous comments made in support of you, and in your presence, as President of all Liberians with a duty to protect all Liberians, you should have publicly and immediately chastised him. Unfortunately, you did not and by your reaction, made such expressions and possible follow-up actions against peaceful Liberians exercising their constitutional rights to democratically oppose your failed leadership, seem acceptable. It is not acceptable, Mr. President. It is wrong and undermines the security and peace of our country.
Mr. President, Congratulations on your previous appointment as Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF. It is true that leading athletes like you, David Beckham, Lionel Messi and other celebrities are asked to use their fame for international advocacies and causes. However, as you know, it is not the policy of UNICEF to request their Goodwill Ambassadors to suspend their work, or not to provide travel and daily subsistence allowances (DSA) to their Goodwill Ambassadors when they travel to represent UNICEF, as you seem to suggest. You also cannot claim to have suspended your career when the record shows that after you became Goodwill Ambassador in April 1997, you continued playing for AC Milan, in its 1997/1998 Season, including your November 9, 1997 Serie A, Round 8 Game between AC Milan v. Brescia, and in the 1998/1999 Season. When then did you suspend your career?
Mr. President, I am not a sports celebrity. I am a global business leader. I have never been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador because I am not a celebrity. However, I believe in honesty, discipline, accountability and hard work which are missing from your 5-year leadership of our country, thus taking us backward rather than forward. I am therefore compelled to oppose your presidency even if I applaud your previous service as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1997. What is however disappointing is your reported involvement in another crisis shortly thereafter between 1999-2002.
As you may know, Mr. President, many come to politics to achieve selfish ends. By attempting to recount your past as you did and not your current stewardship based on which you should be seeking reelection, your letter leaves the sad impression of one who believes our country owes him the presidency or some unpaid debts, for which, despite his present failures, he should be permitted to continue, in order to collect his payments. I happen to believe that whatever we have become today, we owe to God, and to our country. And so, it is us who should repay to God and country so that others may benefit and have the chance to do better than us rather than have our country repay us.
Mr. President, whether it be to support learning institutions or people in need, I have never tried to politicize, publicize or gain any personal or professional advantage from helping the Liberian people when I have done so, and as I continue to do so. I do this principally because I cherish God’s blessings and do not believe He has blessed me to dishonor or disrespect others by exploiting my kindness extended to those in need. I will continue to follow this path which I believe to be right. However, be assured that I have done more charitable works for our country and people than you will ever know. But for the record, I have contributed to our country and people in the areas of education, health, safe drinking water, youth and women empowerment, entrepreneurship, etc. in the tune of over Five (5) Million United States Dollars.
Asking the country to ignore your current failures, as you seem to imply, by remembering your kindness of yesteryears, so that you get undeservedly reelected, is like a child asking the teacher to pass him, although his performance and grades do not allow it, only because few years ago, he drew water for the instructor. Your performance does not allow for another six(6) years of the Liberian Presidency, Mr. President and our people know it.
That is why, standing on the shoulders of the millions of Liberians who desire real change in our country and improvement in their lives, we humbly accept your challenge to meet you at the ballot box in 2023. We are determined and committed to do so not because we hate you, Mr. President, or have forgotten the joy you gave by your soccer exploits, but we must do so because we must rescue our country from bad governance. We need a reset of our nation’s course towards unity, equality and shared prosperity. This is why we will meet and defeat you at the ballot box in 2023 and make your failed and disappointing leadership, a one-term presidency.
Please accept, Mr. President, the assurances of my best regards, and should you ever desire a public debate, or a meeting, on any of the issues I have and will continue to raise, please feel free to name the place, date and time, and I will be there.
Liberia deserves better. Liberians deserve better.
Alexander B. Cummings