The grounds of Capitol Hill, seat of the National Legislature, the Supreme Court of Liberia and other government offices Thursday witnessed what has been described by many as 'Mills Jones tsunami' as hundreds of Liberians, dominantly women and youth gathered in their numbers showcasing support for Central Bank of Liberia Governor Mill Jones against a recent bill passed into law by the Legislature banning the Governor and other executives of the CBL from contesting political offices while serving in their current positions.
Pro - Central Bank of Liberia Governor Mills Jones supporters stage big rally before the national legislature, but is the last push a little too late?
The passage of the bill has seen widespread condemnations and at the same time some level of support in favor of the bill. Thursday saw the largest single gathering of Liberians protesting the passage of the bill, which they now dubbed Anti Mill Jones Bill.
Samuel McGill, spokesperson for the over 200 Liberians under the banner Peace Loving Concerned Liberian Owned Organizations and Communities who gathered on Capitol Hill Thursday in a petition statement read, but not received by any lawmaker described the decision of the lawmakers to pass the bill amending portions of Central bank of Liberia act as unconstitutional and unacceptable.
"We are greatly disappointed in the National Legislature for amending portions of the act creating the CBL. This action by you, our lawmakers, violates all tenants of international best practices and will disorganize the independent credibility, power and function of the CBL to provide excellent and tangible direction for the Liberian economy and implement the monetary policies in the vital interest of the Liberian people" the statement indicated
Amid chanting of slogans against the lawmakers for the passage of the bill, the group comprising members of various civil society organizations, youth and women's organizations remained on Capitol Hill for several hours, threatening to continue their protest action until their demands are met.
Amongst their demands, the position statement noted "The bill was passed out of political gimmicks and is intended to target Dr. Jones... because of this gross constitutional violation, our institution comprising of more than 1 million members from across Liberia are equally charged with the constitutional right to protect and defend the interest of this country. So ladies and gentlemen, we hereby request that her President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf vetoes this anti J. Mills Jones bill for the sake of peace in Liberia".
The petition further stated: "We also request that the national legislature hereby acknowledges their emotional, political mistake in amending the CBL act and immediately assemble to unconditional revoke this anti-J.Mills Jones bill in the interest of reconciliation, peace and security to all Liberians and residents"
Political corruption-Brown labels protest action
Information Minister Lewis Brown expressed outrage over the protest, describing the action of the protestors as an attempt by some individuals who are taking advantage of the low level of education of many Liberians to use them for personal gains.
"When you are taking care of something for all, we say this thing we put in the law, say you must not put your hand in politics, politics can divide people, whether you like it or you don't like it, when we form line and say this is the person we want, it means we do not want the other person. People leave all of that. I have read something written by people I respect who know book more than me, they say an attack on Jones because Jones is giving money. How does this happen, the Government does not want the man to divide money, it is not true, do we have that much money? And if that will make our country better, we will divide it. We should not divide it because we looking for power, that is corruption, political corruption. It is worse than sitting in a house or sitting in your office and stealing $5. It is worse than that because for the one in the offices, auditors can find out but political corruption is not good. We must fight it and we will fight it. Put more people there, on the street because this is the same thing when they say come and vote people start to use trucks to take people from one place to another where the people do not live, all because life is hard and they are giving the people $5 here and there" said Lewis Brown, Liberia's Information Minister.
According to Brown the law is not targeting Jones and if he feels so, he has the right to resign his post because the Central Bank has been in existence before he was appointed to serve as Governor and the institution will continue when he is gone.
"The law says once you are in this position, once you are Governor, you cannot run for office or political office up until 3 after years after you move. You say it violates my rights to employment, no it does not violate your rights to employment, if you do not like it, resign, you are not forced, who is forcing you to be Governor until the election. Who is forcing you, that is the one that violates your right. Everyone says it is an attack on Governor Jones, Governor Jones, where, the bank was created before Governor Jones; the bank will be there after Governor Jones. Governor Jones has not declared any political ambition, he is working on keeping with the bank and this Government will continue to stand by him in that work" Brown told a regular MICAT press briefing.
The Information Minister disclosed that the Government is pleased with the good work of Governor Jones but using public office for political quest is wrong.
Brown said: "He is doing a good job; let this minister be very clear that this Government is pleased with the work of Governor Jones. We don't need anybody to protest to tell us the Governor is doing good work. Nobody called a protest to appoint the Governor, why you need to protest to tell us the Governor is doing good work? This thing about taking advantage of our people because we are not very educated is too bad. We need to stop; we need to stop abusing each other because some of us know more book than other people. They say if you are Governor or on the Board, you have access to something that all of us own. You have power over our money. Don't use that power to further corrupt our political system; you say I will not do it. So, the job you are doing that different job you looking for, the loan you are giving something behind it? I thought this loan is just to make sure our system works, keeps the rate down to give Liberians opportunity to make it, after all that Liberian peoples' money. Ooh, something under it? What's making you vex like that? It is not good when people try to insult our people like this man".
Jones visit to several counties heightened rumor of his presidential ambition come 2017 as a lawmaker from one of the counties Dr. Mills Jones recently visited, Lofa confided in FrontPageAfrica upon seen the Monrovia protestors Thursday on Capitol Hill that he believes Jones needs to be restrained from politics.
"Look when Jones visited Lofa, I have been in that county for years, but the crowd, I saw behind that man, even me, I have not had such crowd in my own home, we needed to do something about Jones and politics because he is managing our country money", the lawmaker stated.
Sirleaf signs Amended CBL Act?
Meanwhile, Frontpageafrica has gathered that amid all the protest and public sentiments regarding the act, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has already signed the act into law.
A lawmaker confided in FrontPageAfrica that the president bargained with the lawmakers to pass the Code of Conduct Bill that has been languishing at the Capitol for a long period into law in order for her to also sign the amendment to the CBL act into law.
The amendment to the CBL act has led to mixed reactions in Liberia and beyond with diverse views been expressing some in support and others against. Cllr. Gongloe argued that the action taken against Governor Jones and other Executives of the CBL by the Lawmakers is discriminatory and breached Article 11 section (C) of the Constitution.
Dr. Sawyer, who heads the Governance Commission of Liberia, described the CBL amendment as an apartheid law. Said Sawyer: "Also in the news last week it was reported that the legislature passed into law, at lightning speed, a bill amending the Act establishing the Central Bank of Liberia.
"This development of many aspects of the bill seems reminiscent of the Mandela laws of the Apartheid era in South Africa, where the laws of exclusion were individually targeted to control the actions of a single individual".
"Such laws are typically designed to be retroactive in their effects and with grave implications for the function of governance institutions and creating uncertainties for office holders even after the expiration of their tenures."
"The Constitution states that all persons are equal before the law and therefore entitled to equal protection under the law. Laws should not be discriminatory, laws should be for all", said Gongloe.
Former Auditor General of Liberia, John S. Morlu, II and former Human rights activist, Aloysius Toe have all written articles expressing support for the bill. In passing into law, an amended provision of the March 18, 1999 Act authorizing the Establishment of the Central Bank of Liberia, the Legislature decision aims to prohibit the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia and members of the Board of Governors from contesting political office(s) while serving in their respective offices and shall not be qualified to contest any elected office within three years consecutively after the expiration of their tenure with the CBL.