21 September 2017

Liberia: Senator Wesseh to Resubmit Presidential Transition Act

Photo: Liberia Government
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Senator Conmany Wesseh (River Gee County) says he will resubmit the Presidential Transaction Act (PTA) which was submitted to the House of Representatives and later withdrawn by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

President Sirleaf recently submitted the PTA but later withdrew it due to widespread negative perception the public holds about her motives. The PTA seeks to put in place an arrangement for the transfer of administration from one democratically elected president to another that would build a strong foundation and culture to enhance Liberia's democratic values for sustainable peace and management.

While many people were yet to know the content of the PTA, there were negative reactions that the President was seeking for herself following her presidency, immunity from prosecution for alleged corruption. In response, President Sirleaf, in her letter withdrawing the PTA, said she does not need any protection because her service to the Liberian people will stand the test of time.

Senator Wesseh in defense of the PTA following reports that the President has withdrawn it from legislative enactment said the Act is not about President Sirleaf and her family's future.

Senator Wesseh in an interview with the Daily Observer yesterday said: "The Constitution of Liberia is higher than any law, and this Act cannot exempt the President from any crime that she might have committed."

He said the Act is good because it provides conditions under which families of past Presidents should be treated.

"The wives of Presidents Samuel Doe and Moses Blah are here, but because there is no law to provide them benefits they are entitled to, people blame President Sirleaf that she is a bad woman," he said.

He made reference to the United States where such a transition act was established in 1962 and has since been adjusted to suit the realities of the period.

"This Act is good; it predicts the future of the country and will give security to a President to feel free to give power," Senator Wesseh added.

According to him, transition in Liberia has always been under emergency conditions since 1944 when Edwin James Barclay turned over power to William V. S. Tubman.

He said the Act will give Liberians the hope and direction as to what they must do for their former Presidents and Vice Presidents as well as their spouses.

"As we speak of change, there is a need for a clear predictability, and if there is no predictability then there will be hesitation; and when there is hesitation, people operate under fear and it becomes problematic," he added.

Senator Wesseh further noted, "I am disappointed that the President withdrew the Act, but it is not about her and whether or not she has formerly withdrawn it. The law is good and has to be reintroduced."

The River Gee County Senator argued that as it stands now, when a President leaves office, there is no law that says the President or Vice President deserves certain privileges.

He cited an instance when former Interim President Dr. Amos Sawyer turned over power to Professor David Kpormakpor and he (Sawyer) was left vulnerable without security and other amenities.

He said there are some decisions a leader can take in the general interest of the country that may not favor the few and therefore, if a President is not provided with protection, an evil person can cause danger to the President.

Furthermore, he said, a former President or Vice President deserves respect from the citizens.

Under Part III of the Presidential Transition Act (PTA), the President and Vice President-Elect, and former Presidents and Vice Presidents have specific services and facilities stipulated:

The "President and Vice President-Elect shall be provided logistics in connection with preparations for the assumption of official duties as President and Vice President, which include suitable office space properly equipped and furnished, payment of travel expenses and subsistence allowances, including rental of governmental or hired motor vehicles, communication services found necessary by the President and Vice President-Elect, and daily briefings by all the relevant government personnel and agencies on the state of the nation's economy and national security."

Section two of Part III also calls for provision of office space for the former President and Vice President, two vehicles for the former President, one for the former Vice President, and adequate security protection for both. The President is entitled to five officers of the Executive Protection Service (EPS) and three for the Vice president, annual budgetary allotment to upkeep the former President and Vice President, one-third of annual budgetary appropriation for legal dependents and spouses of former Presidents and Vice Presidents, among others.

It may be recalled that on September 13, a student leader of the University of Liberia impolitely told President Sirleaf to withdraw the Presidential Transition Act because he and the "Youth" fear that it may exempt her from prosecution when needs be, though the Act speaks nothing about any exemption, neither does it seek for protection for a former president.

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