The Informer (Monrovia)

17 January 2013

Liberia: Public Split Over Taylor's Benefit - U.S.$225,000 At Stake

Photo: Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera television news records the moment Charles Taylor was sentenced.

Former President Charles Ghankay Taylor's letter to the Liberian Government requesting amenities allegedly due him under the laws of the country has provoked serious public debate, generating at least two opposing argument.

One group argues that Taylor, jailed in Europe for war crimes and crimes against humanity, does not deserve any penny of taxpayer's money, while the other contends that the former leader deserves every dime that is due him under the laws of the country.

Taylor is requesting about US$25,000 annually in benefits, and this spread over a period of nine years since his resignation would amount to at least US$225,000.

Taylor, in his complaint to the Liberian Senate to prevail on the Executive, through Ministry of Finance, to pay his annuities as a former President of Liberia quoted provisions under the law and an act passed by the 51st Legislature (during his term) that grants benefits to former President, Vice Presidents and Chief Justice.

He based his arguments on Section 1.4 of the New Executive Law, Section 2.4 of the New Legislative Law and Sub Section 3, of Section 13.4 of the New Judiciary Law to read as follows which reads: "A former President of the Republic of Liberia who has honorably retired to private life and who is not in any way gainfully employed by government shall receive from Government a pension equal to fifty (50%) percent of the salary of the incumbent President. In addition, a former President shall be provided a personal staff and facilities for the remainder of his/her life. The amount allowed for this shall not be less than twenty-five thousand (US$25,000.00) United States Dollars per annum."

In his three-page communication to the Senate, the former Liberian leader (2007-2003) pointed out that since his resignation from the presidency in 2003, he has not received his annuities from the Liberian Government.

Taylor, 64, was found guilty by the UN backed Court of Sierra Leone on May 30, 2012 of 11 counts of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity, when supporting rebels between 1996 and 2002 in return for blood diamonds.

He has been sentenced to 50 years in jail but his lawyers have since taken appeal against the court's ruling.

"Taylor deserves his just benefits as long as it is enshrined in the Constitution," said James Davies, a Liberian journalist.

Davies told the Informer that Taylor being good or bad as people claims that he was "bad", has got nothing to do with what is inscribed in the law. "Taylor was bad? Being bad is relative, and that should not be the argument. If the constitutions or any law calls for him to get his benefit, I think it should be given to him," he argued.

Adolphus Mawalo, also a Liberian journalist who works for the Government-run New Liberia Newspaper backed Taylor in getting his benefits if the laws provides for it. "Yes, the former President should be given his benefits as long as it is legal."

Mawolo said the laws of the country need to be upheld. "Personally, I feel he should get his benefit; there should be no argument about that if it is stipulated in the constitution or under any act of the national legislature."

Davies, Mawolo and their likes argue that today it is Taylor and tomorrow it could be any other former president. "It could even be President Sirleaf who will need her just entitlements after she leaves power," Kormassa Kollie, a petty trader on Perry Street noted.

However, on the other hand, opponent of the former President's demand contend that he does not deserve any benefits from the Liberian government because he resigned from the position. "He was elected to serve the Liberian people; he did not honorable end his tenure and give up the office because of his own negligence," stated Tugbeh Johnson. "How can you demand pay for the work you have not completed? No, he will not get a dime," the 43-year-old New Georgia resident told this writer in Johnson Street while waiting for a bus to take him home.

For Esther Boryou, Taylor is an international criminal that cannot be given the country's money needed to undertake development. "Look, the government must know that we need electricity and pipe born water we are yet to get 10 years after the war. They must never think of giving money to the very person who brought war in this country. No way!"

Madam Boryou who refused to further identify herself "before the Taylor's boys look for me" said "Charles Taylor is an international criminal; he's in jail and does not need any support from government.

"This man brought war here; he destroyed this country and now he wants us to keep paying him for the destruction and backwardness he brought in this land? God forbade!" exclaimed Mondesco M. Farley," who says he's a resident of Jamaica Road.

Several text messages and calls yesterday morning on Truth FM, Fabric Radio and talk shows hosted by local radio stations pictured a clear division among Liberians on the issue.

The Liberian Government has yet to make any officials comment on the former President's demand, but the Senate Tuesday sent the communication to its appropriate committee room for review before it will be discussed in detail next Tuesday.

"Sadly," Taylor continued in his complaint, "I am without notice as to why Finance Ministers of the Republic of Liberia have failed and/or refused to comply with the law of the land as regards my annuities."

The former leader asserted that the Senate and House of Representatives of the 51st Legislature of the Republic of Liberia passed "An Act to amend an Act is providing for retirement pension of the President and Vice President of the Republic of Liberia, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, the Pro Tempore and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court" which he stated above in Section 1.4 of the New Executive Law, Section 2.4 of the New Legislative Law and Sub Section 3, of Section 13.4 of the New Judiciary Law.

He said "the fact is that I have not received my entitlement as set out under the law as a former President of Liberia since I resigned the office on 11 August 2003. A reasonable observer, properly informed, would reasonably apprehend bias because there is evidence that some individuals that are covered by this Act are receiving their annuities."

Taylor is also seeking other privileges customarily giving to former members of first families such as Diplomatic Passports for his wife and children, adding that "it is a tradition reserved and respected over the years and hope that it can be honored without prejudice."

According to Taylor, "I posit that there is the scared and overriding principle that, justice must not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done. Ultimately, the action taken so far by Government, whether an oversight or contrived, I suggest, reflect on the integrity and standing as regards the appreciation for the rule of law and the fair conduct of government. This practice of selective application of the law of the Republic is in itself a violation of the law."

He therefore request the intervention of the Liberian Senate to bring an immediate end to what he referred to as a "mammoth injustice," and cause his lawful annuities to be made available and same be done for personalities who may be a victim of such act.

Following the reading of the communication Tuesday, Sinoe County Senator Mobutu V. Nyepan raised a motion for the communication to be sent to the committee on Judiciary and the committee Ways, Means & Finance, and copies circulated to each senator for and discussion next Tuesday.

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InFocus

Liberia: Opposing Views on Taylor's Benefits

Al Jazeera television news records the moment Charles Taylor was sentenced.

Former President Charles Taylor's move to claim benefits from the Liberian government has sparked a major split in public opinion. Read more »