Tuesday, August 3, 2010

George Weah: Why He May Lose Again

By: Joseph G. Bartuah, Jr.
Prior to and at the inception of the 2005 elections, everybody thought George Weah was going to win. His popularity suggested it; the words on the street acknowledged it and Weah himself thought so. In fact, if the constitution did not require the winner to get 51% of the vote, he would have won the race. However, there was a run-off election because Weah did not get the required 51% of the vote. In the runoff election, Weah went head-to-head with Unity’s Party standard-bearer, Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Despite his strong showing, Weah did not win the second round, as Sirleaf was victorious.
From my perspective, the main reason why Weah did not win the election was because of the Unity Party planned propaganda. Remember, the whole Mamie Doe thing? The rumor came out during the runoff election that George Weah had promised Grand Gedeans that he would marry Mamie Doe, if they help him to win the election. That was just a rumor. In fact, that was just politic. Weah, at the time was already a married man. But the politics paid off well. Liberians fell for it; Nimbaians fell for it and even Prince Johnson fell for it and campaigned for Ellen in Nimba County. The runoff campaign turned into a sort of Nimba versus Grand Gedeh election. The rumor worked well because Weah and the CDC party did less to dismiss the story. It is hard to believe this, considering the fact that Weah has a radio and TV stations. Therefore, Weah’s inability to refute a story that was apparently false cost him the election.
Sadly enough, the CDC standard bearer has not learned his lesson. Weah and the CDC have so far, refused to publicly acknowledge the wrong-doing of Deputy Speaker Torkpah Mulbah who happens to be a member of Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change. Recent news reports accused the Deputy Speaker Mulbah of ordering his men to beat an on duty police officer. According to the reports, Officer Beh and other patrolmen were at a check point around the Thinker Village area when a pick up truck arrived with no headlights, tail lights or license plates. The truck was stopped and considered to be in an unsafe condition. The driver got on the phone and began to call his boss, Mr. Mulbah. The phone was handed over to Mr. Beh so that he and Mr. Mulbah can talk. The conversation did not go well and the Deputy Speaker felt insulted. The honorable man arrived at the check point ordering his guys to beat Mr. Beh. The incident has left many Liberians thinking about the fate of law enforcement in the country.
Weah and the CDC’s failure to publicly distance themselves from Mr. Mulbah on his disgruntled behavior clearly shows that the CDC standard-bearer lacks leadership even in his own party. Past and recent developments have shown that Weah’s popularity in his party and with some segments of the Liberian populace is mainly due to his status as a former football icon rather than his leadership capability. If he cannot stand has a leader and tell those in his party whose negative deeds are bringing negative publicity to his party, one wonders how can he muster the leadership acumen to lead Liberia in the future?
Put another way, Weah is like an idol in his party and will like to keep it that way. Therefore, he won’t like to lose any fans of his. Interestingly, this is not Mr. Mulbah’s first embarrassing act against the interest of his party. In 2007, the Supreme Court ordered him to pay $6000 USD to one Tamba, a man whose rubber he had seized. In 2008, police stopped the Deputy Speaker’s car and saw bags of narcotics, a drug that is illegal.
As a person, you will think that his party will call him and advise him after several violations of the law. However, the CDC has chosen to label reactions to the Deputy Speaker’s unbecoming actions as ‘politics”; rather than condemning the story, they claim that politics has been the motivating factor. To be frank, the story is very big on its own. How do you expect people to react when the headline reads: Deputy Speaker order beating of police officer? It will be good if the CDC can think that this is not politics; the deputy speaker’s behavior is outrageous. The Liberian people are outraged that their lawmaker can go into the streets and order people to beat police officers. It is good to keep in mind these officers are doing a very tough job. They are not armed, therefore, they should not be taken advantage of.
In 2006, CDC refused to speak out against the Mamie Doe story. This time they are refusing to speak against the wrong-doing of one of their own, Mr. Mulbah; instead they call it politics. But when October 2011 comes, when the debates begin and polls open, CDC will regret why this story ever came up. They will also regret their reaction and it might cost them an election.
About the author: Joseph G. Bartuah, Jr., 21, is formerly a high school broadcaster from the Rock International Academy in Paynesville. Unlike his dad, who electronically campaigned for candidate Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf from abroad during the 2005 presidential elections, he was in Liberia at the time, although he couldn’t vote due to age disqualification. Joe, Jr. is currently a second-year student at the Bunker Hill College in Boston, majoring in Political Science. He can be reach at his email address jbartuah@hotmail.com.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Rethinking Liberia's Public Service

By: Joe Teh

Public service in any country offers great opportunity for leaders to give back to the people self-less stewardship. It’s a vocation of calling, not just for anyone who is not prepared to serve. For those who harbor the voracious get-rich-quick mentality as their primary motivation for entering public service, they’re undoubtedly in the wrong place, because the key is “service”, not “riches”.
The continued misuse of public office and the abuse of power thereof; graft and total lack of interest for the development of Liberia as ostensibly espoused by many public officials in the country tell us that those we choose to lead us careless about us.
Despite the military coup of 1980 and the bloody Charles Taylor’s war of the 1990s, many Liberian public service officials have ignored the tragedies caused by an inefficient government. They have refused to change their attitude about working in government.
No news comes out of Liberia these days without mentioning accountability issues, incidents of human rights violations where public officials abrogate the law unto themselves. In fact, some key cabinet members are even predicting more theft of public funds in the days and years ahead.
These are the same reasons which brought about the military coup in 1980. Charles Taylor and company used these reasons too, to unleash a devastating reign of terror on Liberia for 14 wasted years. Still there’s no improvement.
Consider these recent examples: Deputy House Speaker Tokpa Mulbah, has been indicted by a grand jury on charges of assault. The deputy speaker (CDC-Bong County), ordered the torture of a uniformed police officer for stopping the deputy speaker’s vehicle which had no registration plate on it.
Margibi County Representative Ballah Zayzay, faces allegations of fraud, breach of ethics and conflict of interest. He used his office to win a bid for his private company which took $50,000 of government money and never delivered on the terms of the contract.
Now, former Information Minister, Lawrence Bropleh, dismissed and likely to face prosecution on allegation of theft of more than a quarter million dollars of public funds, wants to seek legislative seat in the 2011 elections.
What a shame. Is this any good example of public service in a country still trying to recover from the ravages of war? Nope. The beneficiaries of public service in Liberia are not the masses who are still waiting to be employed to improve their quality of live, neither the children who are craving for education so they can learn and live beyond what they have experienced with their parents. The beneficiaries of the national wealth are the senior government officials who have access to power and sources of revenue.
And just as audit reports reflecting an Olympic style competition for the pillaging of public funds in Liberia are distressing, not one person has been tried and convicted to be punished. Yet, officials found by audit reports to be liable for missing money from development funds go about their businesses freely and probably plotting to steal more.
The presumption here is that once a public servant, you are also a public master, who assumes private ownership of public money intended for the public good. And once you are satisfied, the public is also satisfied. Wrong.
However, I must acknowledge that there are few political leaders, or cabinet ministers, at least a couple of them that I know in Liberia, with courage to make a positive difference. They offer us hope in spite of the gloom and doom and apathetic picture presented by the official misconduct of their colleagues, that they are potentially the alternatives for change we can live with.
As Liberia is about to start actual reconstruction, rethinking public service is not simply an ethical issue. It is a discipline and moral imperative that require every Liberian to show commitment to the credo: Liberia first. Accomplishing the task of an efficient and disciplined public service involves reforming our individual characters and lifting the national system requirements for public service to the next level.
First, there must be a clear documented policy of conflict of interest. Potential candidates for public office must know what constitute conflict of interest, violation of which could lead to a defined penalty under the law. Second, there must be a written public service code of ethics that specifies public expectations of government officials.
Although the constitution broadly alludes to these requirements, the specifics were left with government, most especially the Legislature to define. Various mechanisms for enforcement and punishment for breach must be detailed in prescription in keeping with the relevant provisions of the law.
Liberia cannot continue to remain the same old way as we have known it. Our current generation of public servants must show a positive example of the kind of legacy we want to leave for our children and posterity. If we must make public policies that will reflect the aspiration of our future, then transformation of our thinking from greediness to integrity is a nonnegotiable prerequisite.

About the author: Joe Teh is a Liberian journalist residing in Springfield, Massachusetts. A familiar fixture in Liberian journalism for the past 25 years or so, Mr. Teh is formerly news editor of the New Democrat Newspaper and later Star Radio in Monrovia prior to immigrating to the U.S.