7 November 2012

Liberia: 'No Hidden Agenda' - Robert Sirleaf Speaks Out - Demands Independent Audit

Photo: Liberia Government
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf addresses the U.S. council on foreign affairs.

The embattled Chairman of the Board of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) has come in defense of his character, saying that he is performing a supervisory role to ensure a thriving economy, and that there was nothing to hide in the oil deal as claimed in many circles.

In the spirit of his commitment to transparency, Mr. Robert A. Sirleaf, told a news conference yesterday that he has nothing to hide and at the same time demanded an independent audit of all expenditures related to his activities in his official capacity as Chairman of the Board.

"NOCAL could no longer continue to operate in secrecy, conducts its activities imprudently, negotiate feebly, and conflictingly present itself as a shareholder and at the same time a regulator; the time has come for openness and reforms", Mr. Sirleaf noted.

Describing such as a challenge, the NOCAL Board Chair said he was aware that every detail of his contribution would be scrutinized by the Liberian people, but by the larger international community.

"I do not only welcome the scrutiny, I was the one who invited it this would allow all to evaluate me and my competency as chairman and judge me by based on what we have been able accomplish and not what one says", the NOCAL Board Chair added.

In response to recent attacks by his critics while he was out of the country attending to the business of the institution, Mr. Sirleaf said the litany of falsehood and half-truths were intended only to besmear his character but to thwart the country's historic achievement in the divestiture of oil bloc LB#13.

"I will continue to restrain myself from responding to the various attacks on me as an individual in the exercise of the duties of this post of public interest", he added.

According to him, there is very little doubt that the attacks were largely personal and disguised as exposing the "ills in our country".

He pointed out that strangely, the "ills" exposed was how low greed and selfishness will permit individuals to sink, adding "This is sad and an example of what is still wrong with our development".

Mr. Sirleat says he expects more personal attacks because that is what people do to promote their personal agendas, describing it as a wholly self-serving hateful attacks that were clearly motivated by the failure to have him participate in the decadent business of putting personal interests above the interests of the country, a practice which has led time and time again to the impoverishment of the Liberian people.

"I have no animosity, only sympathy for the attacker or anyone who after our country has endured, still thinks that we ought to settle for business as usual", the NOCAL Board Chair lamented.

He said he was in favor of the national debate which centered on the transparency, accountability and the ultimate beneficiaries of our natural resources and how it has been managed.

"As a Nation blessed with resource, we have historically made mistakes. As a Nation on its path to reconstruction and renewed national identity, we must learn from the mistakes of our past and forge a new presence for our future. Like you, I believe that all Liberians are the beneficiaries of our resource blessings, particularly from our potential oil revenues. This is why the conversation on the oil and gas sector reform and the reform process its-self has been enlightening and uplifting."

"At home, and across the Diaspora, the voices of interests are the same, proving the growing presence of a sense of shared ownership of our country and its natural resources are one. We encourage all Liberians to participate in this conversation because it benefits our people and is good for our country. The simple truth is that what is own together ought to benefit all and not a selected few."

Sirleaf who did not attempt on resigning his post as demanded by most Liberians, provided reasons he has accepted to do what he is doing.

"Even so, questions have repeatedly arisen about whether or not I should be the Chairman of the Board of the National Oil Company. And I totally respect the dialogue. In quieter moments, I have also deeply pondered that question myself. I know that I could have settled for lesser public exposure and mischaracterizations, and even lesser political attacks on the President, who happens to be my mother." "But, if I can do something to help our country - if by my talent, my experience and competence, I can help my country; if by the privilege and responsibility of being the son of the President and the trust that it brings, I can help our President succeed in her ambitious agenda of transformation; If I can help her build the durable and sustainable institutional frameworks to guarantee that revenues from the exploitation of our natural resources are used to benefit all Liberians- and if I turn away because it will causes me personal pain or draws political criticism, what would be the value of my birth right? And more importantly, what would be the value of my relationship with our people; I made the right choice in remaining steadfast. I owe Liberia me!"

Defending his records, he said he was not interested in anything, stressing "I do not need, nor do I want to own an oil block. Oil blocks are owned by the people of Liberia. I do not need, nor do I want to cut a deal in the middle of the night, and then hide the transaction from the light of day."

"I am not a product of that mind-set, and my long professional history has been a testament to that. I have served many years and many times in positions of trust and never once was I inclined to betray the trust of others.

Like any child would be, I am so proud of my mother. Even greater than that, I am the proud son of a resilient and determined Nation. I want to see all the children of this Nation succeed. I want to see our great nation prosper. I want to see our nation build upon its peace, through economic empowerment and opportunity for all people."

His public comments on the role he is playing at NOCAL came days after Representative Edwin Snowe made scathing revelation concerning the way things have proceeded over time at NOCAL.

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