Thursday, 12 May 2022 16:35

Press Statement for Immediate Release Featured

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Mr. Miamen Mr. Miamen

Press Statement for Immediate Release

Thursday, May 12, 2022 

Maintain the Integrity and Sanctity of the Liberian Passport: CENTAL Cautions the Weah Administration

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the Press, fellow Liberians.

On Monday, May 9, 2022, Liberians awoke to another disturbing news about apparent misdeeds in government, especially at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Like the 2020 Andrew Wonploe passport scandal related to the sale of Liberian Passports to non-Liberians, for which he was designated by the United States Government for undermining the rule of law and compromising the integrity and security of immigration processes, another grave report has emerged about Liberia’s diplomatic passport being in a wrong and undeserving hand. Frontpage Africa reported, quoting American Court sources, that Liberian businessman, Sheik Bassirou Kante, is undergoing trial in the U.S for money laundering conspiracy and was denied bail over several concerns, including possession of a Liberian diplomatic passport and his ‘deep personal relationship’ with the Vice President of the Republic of Liberia, Madam Jewel Howard Taylor. According to the report, Mr. Kante, alias Royal Gold, who is being tried for wire fraud amounting to US$ 7 Million, admitted to occupying no formal diplomatic position in the Liberian Government. 

The Center for Transparency and Accountability is deeply concerned about the unceasing trends of these incidents, especially this latest passport scandal, which adds to multiple similar cases reported about the continuous sale of Liberian Passports (ordinary, official, and diplomatic) to undeserving and unscrupulous individuals for probable dubious business dealings and other clandestine purposes, including but not limited to corruption, money laundering, drug trafficking, and human trafficking.  Like the Andrew Wonploe saga of 2020, Danish Journalist saga of 2012, and other scandals previously uncovered, this undermines the rule of law, national security, and the integrity and sanctity of our passport granting process. Additionally, it exposes the vulnerability of our systems and processes and devalues our priceless Liberian identity. It is extremely painful that while ordinary citizens queue during early hours and for several days to get passports, to which they are entitled, others have found it rewarding to deny their own citizens in favor of a passport black market. Such disgraceful acts have the tendency to place Liberia as a pariah in the comity of nations, since they have the propensity to undermine international peace and security.

CENTAL is very disappointed that the unorthodox dealings of public officials and their accomplices have become common place in Liberia, as government officials and their collaborators orchestrate plans to defraud the country and fatten their own pockets, at the expense of ordinary Liberians and voters who continue to be grossly mistreated by their leaders. Liberia is not for sale, and we caution the Weah administration to desist from despicable acts that rob Liberians of their heritage because of a few pieces of silver. The latest passport scandal speaks to many things. Among others, it shows:

  1. Gross vulnerability of the system and process for awarding passports (ordinary, official, and diplomatic);
  2. Limited political will and the culture of impunity for corruption and other related offenses, especially those perpetrated by high-ranking public officials;
  3. That often sugar-coated and cosmetic reaction from the national government, whenever major scandals are reported, has done very little to deter those involved and others harboring/having similar ambitions;
  4. The level of commitment required from the Presidency and Legislature to thoroughly and independently investigate these matters as well as fully support institutions statutorily mandated to do are very limited. 
  5. Weak leadership and oversight of the Legislature, as it fails to effectively and independently oversee the work of the executive, the ministry of foreign affairs, and the passport granting process in this instant case;
  6. Undue influence and involvement of the politically connected in the passport granting process, especially higher-ups in government and their cronies and confidantes; and
  7. Weak internal oversight and scrutiny mechanisms and processes leave many things unchecked and vulnerable to manipulation and abuse by people lacking the integrity to serve in public service.

We wish to thank the President of the Republic of Liberia, His Excellency George Manneh Weah for launching an investigation into the matter. While the move by the President to instantly probe into the matter is welcoming, we strongly believe that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is conflicted and cannot be trusted to independently and robustly interrogate said scandal. As the granting of passports to undeserving individuals has been lingering for many years, an investigation that will lead to concrete and lasting solution (s) cannot be left to the very entity and officials presiding over the process. From all indications, the latest development is a symptom of a long-standing problem, which could be traced to the very officials requested by the President to probe into the matter.  For a credible process that ensures the confidence of the public and development partners, the President of Liberia should constitute an independent committee comprising of credible and reputable individuals from the religious community, civil society, the Press as well as the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission to thoroughly oversee the matter.

As this matter is tied to the integrity and sanctity of the country, it cannot and should be treated lightly and subjected to the same “business as usual” approach to dealing with delicate matters in the country. 

CENTAL wish to remind President Weah and his Government about earlier and repeated commitments made to fight against Corruption and promote good governance, as emphasized in the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development. Such commitment cannot and should not be a matter of lip-service and the usual rhetoric that have characterized successive governments in Liberia. Rather, it should be about genuine and demonstrated desire and commitment to pursue a sincere and an impartial fight against corruption. This is the surest way Liberia can be prosperous, economically viable, and strategically positioned to lift its citizens out of poverty and provide basic social services that are decentralized, inclusive, adequate, gender sensitive, and of the required quality. 

In conclusion, we call on our development partners to be more vigilant and unwavering in standing by the Liberian People by exposing individuals who continue to collude to defraud the Country and keep ordinary Liberians trapped in poverty-stricken conditions. More and more sanctions for corrupt and unscrupulous individuals and officials of government are what we need as a strong deterrent tool for the increasing level of corruption and bad governance in the country. Also, we call on the media, civil society, and ordinary citizens to remain vocal and unrelenting in highlighting societal ills and demanding accountability of their leaders, while also denouncing corruption themselves.  The new Liberia we collectively seek will not arrive in the midst of rampant corruption and other forms of bad governance.

Thank you.

Signed:

Management

Read 409 times Last modified on Thursday, 12 May 2022 16:50

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