CONGO TOWN, Montserrado – On Sunday, June 9, members of the Council of Patriots, organizers of the Save the State protest, gathered at the headquarters of the All Liberian Party in Old Road to read their petition to the government. They gave the government one month to address their concerns. The protest organizers had been expected to present the petition to the government on Friday, June 7 but that did not happen.Â Henry Costa read the petition, the text of which is contained below:
Whereas the 1986 Constitution guarantees to citizens of the Republic of Liberia the right to freely, peacefully and lawfully assemble to petition their government and elected representatives to take action or avert any negative action as appertaining to the welfare of the Liberian State and People;
Whereas since January 22, 2018, the government of the Republic of Liberia,Â acting through its three branches (the Executive, Legislative and Judicial),Â has been flagrant, defiant, and belligerent in its conduct to the total displeasure of the People of Liberia for whose happiness and satisfaction â€œallÂ government is established;â€
Whereas we, the citizens of Liberia, acting under the banner of the Council of Patriots, are convinced that the deteriorating economic conditionsÂ will continue to worsen mainly because of the intransigence of President George Weah and senior officials of his administration;
Grateful to the international community and donor partners, the Economic Community of West African States, the United Nations, and the European Union for their continuous support to Liberiaâ€™s peace andÂ development;
Aware also that since the inception of the Coalition for Democratic Change-led administration, the leadership of the three branches of government have ignored calls, criesÂ and concerns from citizens on all matters of State, and have instead chosen to prioritize their individual and personal interests and/or aspirations above theÂ national interest, as evidenced by but not limited to the following:
- Continuous flagrant violation of the Liberian constitution and laws including the recent unconstitutional removal of Associate Justice Kabineh Janâ€™eh in spite of public outcries and disapproval;
- Suppression of press freedom and rights, freedom of speech through threats against the BBCâ€™s Jonathan Payleyleh; continual molestation and harassment of Roots FM; denial of basic rights to Isaac W. Jackson,
Liberiaâ€™s Permanent Representative to the IMO; denial of an operational license to Punch FM; and the conversion of the Liberia Broadcasting System-owned and operated ELBC into a partisan propaganda organ;
- Construction and acquisition of scores of luxury private buildings byÂ the president in the wake of his refusal to publicly declare and publishÂ his assets;
- Failure to comprehensively address the issue of Liberiaâ€™s missing L$16 billion to date and the US$25 million
yet unaccounted for and lack of effective action taken against individuals responsible and the betrayal of the public trust;
- According presidential protection and privilege by announcing a â€œretirementâ€ plan for [Central Bank of Liberia Executive] Governor Nathaniel Patray and ignoring any responsibility of the Technical Economic Management Team headed by the minister of finance, Samuel Tweah, the unlawful injection of billions of over-printed Liberian banknotes without removing legacy banknotes, and also for the unlawful act carried out in the use of some US$25 million withdrawn from Liberiaâ€™s foreign reserve for a dubious mop-up exercise;
- Failure and lack of capacity to address the rising inflation and exchange rate, thus imposing unbearable hardship on the Liberian people
- Flagrant disregard for international law and national reconciliation andÂ disinterest in addressing war and economic crimes as documented in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, and general disregard for the rule of law and good governance;
Now, therefore, we, the citizens of the Republic of Liberia, acting in one accord under the banner of the Council of Patriots comprisingÂ patriotic citizens, civil society groupings, pressure and interest groups,Â youth and student organizations, marketers, transport operators, including motorcyclists, taxi drivers, etc.; teachers and education workers, health workers, farmers, and political partiesÂ do hereby demand from our national leaders serving through theÂ Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Branches of our government asÂ follows:
I. Governance, Human Rights, and Rule of Law
- Electoral Reforms: Urgently proceed with efforts to amend and/or repeal the current Electoral Laws;
- Immediately commission an independent investigation into the hasty impeachment of Associate Justice Kabineh Janâ€™eh, which has undermined the integrity and independence of the Judiciary at a time when Liberians are craving for justice and commence immediately, in collaboration with the Liberian National Bar
Association, an overhaul of the Judiciary, including theÂ reconstitution of the Supreme Court bench;
- Launch an immediate independent investigation into the mysteriousÂ death of Central Bank of Liberia Assistant Director MatthewÂ J. Innis which occurred at the same time reports from two forensicÂ audits into the missing billions of newly printed Liberian banknotes were released and extend same to other questionable deaths;
- Establish a court to address claims, corruption, and strengthen Criminal Court E, which is responsible to try rape cases;
- Demonstrate respect for human rights, human dignity and press freedom through the comprehensive review of our laws that restrain the exercise of basic freedoms especially the media freedoms;
- The immediate disbanding of the Technical Economic ManagementÂ Team and the criminal prosecution of its members forÂ complicity and involvement in the illegal conduct of the US$25 million infusion and mop-up exercise; In this regard, special reference is made to Finance Minister Samuel Tweah and Central Bank Executive GovernorÂ Nathaniel Patray for which they must be dismissed and prosecuted for criminal culpability under their direct charge the bogus mop-up exercise was conducted and missing billions mismanaged;
- Immediately demobilize all former fighters re-deployed into various entities/security agencies, thus reigniting fear, creating a threat to peace and undercutting the restructuring of our national security sector; and investigate how such a violation of the peace agreement of 2003 have been allowed to occur;
II. National Peace & Reconciliation:
- Immediately establish a task force with a clear mandate to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, particularly the recommendation for the establishment of a war and an economic crimes court in Liberia without delay (the government ofÂ Liberia should make a request to the United Nations for such a court before July 26, 2019);
- Immediately ensure direct budget allocation for the implementation of Truth and Reconciliation Commission-related recommendations;
- Immediately take steps to curb, through public denunciation, reprimand and/or condemnation all anti-peace, fanatical, sectionalistic,Â tribalistic and divisive utterances by officials, friends, associates, political actors (whether of the Coalition for Democratic Change or otherwise) which seek to promote division and disunity in violation of the Liberian constitution;
- Immediately address the return and re-deployment of ex-fighters and generals into our security apparatus in complete violation of the Accra Peace Agreement, efforts to implement security sector reforms and address the question of impunity;
III. Integrity & Accountability
- Immediately implement the comprehensive audit of all governmentÂ ministries, agencies, and parastatals of the period of this administration and legally address past audits;
- Immediately conduct a comprehensive audit of all expenditures on Liberiaâ€™s Foreign Reserve Account and the National Budget;
- Conduct a comprehensive audit of all and any of the dozens of personal infrastructure and/or building projects undertaken by President WeahÂ at several locations in Montserrado County since he assumed office
including the purchase of private jet and yacht; (This is a constitutional
- Immediately give account of how more than US$3 million of the Ebola Emergency Fund contributed by donors and placed in governmentâ€™s consolidated accounts was withdrawn and expended, for which reason many of Liberiaâ€™s major international Partners have protested and demanded restitution;
- Immediately suspend all negotiations for loans and any new concessions with unrecognized lending organizations until at such time when integrity institutions and systems are restored to operate without
interference and within the limits of the law;
- Immediately launch an audit of all infrastructural and ongoing road projects;
- Immediately give account of all Social Development Funds paidÂ by various concessionaires for the benefit of the counties in which theyÂ operate;
- Immediately de-ratify both ETON Finance and EBOMAF financingÂ agreements.
- Immediately halt the unlawful awarding of contracts to businesses with close ties to the President and senior members of his administration;
- Reconstitute through independent vetting all integrity institutions to ensure independence;
- For the purpose of transparency, President George Weah and hisÂ officials should immediately publish â€œassetsâ€ they areÂ reported to have â€œdeclaredâ€ to the General Auditing CommissionÂ and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission and ensureÂ that they are verified;
- Immediately establish a special court to try all corruption cases in Liberia so that indictments cannot linger indefinitely and so that justice can truly be served to those accused;
- Beginning effective fiscal 2019/2020, reallocate to health institutions allÂ appropriations for medical check-ups and benefits for public officials serving in the three branches to improving the countryâ€™s health system (Less attention is paid to Liberiaâ€™s health sector because most officials can travel abroad not for cases referred by hospitals but also for as simple a process as seeking a medical check-up, which is why
priority consideration is not given to the countryâ€™s health sector);
- Legally expel all individuals previously convicted for crimes in their countries who are now operating in Liberia;
- Immediately provide an explanation as to which individuals within the Central Bank of Liberia or the Government of LiberiaÂ received or approved the injection of the new Liberian banknotes into the economy without effectively removing from circulation theÂ equivalent quantity and/or value of legacy banknotes (This is a recommendation and/or request from Krollâ€™s Associates); and address the role of the Technical Economic Management Team chaired by the minister of finance, Samuel Tweah, as well as its culpability;
- Immediately stop funding activities of the first lady. There is no such office legally created under our constitution;
- Immediately conduct a comprehensive audit of the National Legislature;
- Develop, design and implement an economic reform plan to revive our declining economy and address financial and fiscal reforms; comply fully with the budget and Public Financial Management Laws by stopping the habit of off-budget spending;
- Restore integrity to our forestry sector by taking urgent steps to maintain the current monitoring system as the contract with SGS will soon end;
- Immediately desist from withdrawing funds from Liberiaâ€™s foreign reserve;
- Immediately cease any and all actions, intentions, desire and attempts to reduce civil servantsâ€™ salaries at any time in the short, medium, and long terms;
- Immediately give a full status report of Liberiaâ€™s foreign reserve and henceforth stop its unlawful use and state why the national reserve isÂ being depleted despite there being no national emergency on hand;
- Immediately place a moratorium on hiring to include state-owned enterprises until at such a time when a comprehensive report on the status of these enterprises has been prepared, submitted andÂ considered by the Legislature without prejudice to their continuous viability;
- Immediately remove all additional procedures and cost-adding steps and simplify all import and export procedures;
- Immediately remove the precondition of obtaining Container Tracking Numbers (CTNs) before loading any containers destined for Liberia; and,
- Immediately address the runaway exchange rate and high prices of goods and services.
VI. Education, Health & Agriculture
- Develop and implement a comprehensive program to properly fund the education, health, and agriculture sectors as a matter of priority;
- Immediately remove duties on all agricultural inputs and implements in order to support local food and cash crop production.
- Immediately review the continual selective appropriations to privately owned and operated educational and health institutions without regard for long-standing institutions that have been rendering invaluable
services in these sectors for decades.
- Immediately implement the free tuition policy for public universities and communities as announced by the president.
VII. Basic Rights
- Halt or refuse to sign into law the New Rape Law that makes rape offences bailable.
- Unconditionally pass the Domestic Violence Bill and increase fundingÂ (beginning with the current budget) for Criminal Court E for casesÂ relating to women and other rights issues.
- Review and provide adequate budget support to gender equality in necessary areas of integrating law enforcement, funding systemic programs such as the creation of safe homes for victims, provision of counseling programs, and the development of specific policies ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.
- Unconditionally release the report on the More than Me rape and sexualÂ violence case and prosecute those deemed culpable for the offences.
- Immediately remove the suspension on Punch FM’s license and stop the jamming of Roots FM as a means of enhancing access to public information.
Petition made on this 9th day of June A. D. 2019 in the City of Monrovia, the Republic of Liberia by the Council of Patriots, a conglomeration of patriotic citizens, civil society groupings, pressure and interest groups,Â youth, workers, and student organizations, and major political parties.
The people have spoken!
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah