"Those with the heart of Pharaoh will certainly live in denial and refuse to listen. Those with a passionate and humble spirit will understand that leadership requires more than just being elected. It is a call to serve." -Council of Patriots
In what could be summed up as a "Thank You" press conference held at the headquarters of the All Liberian Party (ALP) in Monrovia, The Council of Patriots (CoP), on June 9, finally released its final list of demands for President George M. Weah's action. The CoP says it is giving the President one month to fulfill the demands.
Present at the press conference were former Vice President of Liberia, Joseph N. Boakai; ALP political leader Benoni Urey; Liberty Party vice chair for political affairs, Darius Dillon; Student Unification Party of the University of Liberia, Martin Kollie; Unity Party secretary general, Mo Ali, Henry Costa and other supporters of the CoP.
"On Friday, June 7, 2019, Liberia made history against all of the suspicion, threats, intimidation and arrests," CoP said in a statement. "The unprovoked actions of Government to undermine our peaceful assembly by even stooping as low as preventing and denying Liberians, business People, international organizations and even their own partisans, of using the Internet and social media. Despite humiliation through all kinds of security checks and patrol, Liberians were determined to make a statement to the world. We, Liberians, made that statement together. All Liberians are Patriots and love our Dear Country and will not rest till we offer our best."
The Council of Patriots extended gratitude to God for His wisdom and to all Liberians and Friends of Liberia, as well as ECOWAS, UN, EU and all of Liberia's development Partners for for their support. Thanks also went to "the security forces, though wrecked by a spoiled system, to turnout to join us on this journey," the CoP said.
"We had one of the largest turnouts in recent history and incessantly knocked on the doors of the halls of power. Those with the heart of Pharaoh will certainly live in denial and refuse to listen. Those with a passionate and humble spirit will understand that leadership requires more than just being elected. It is a call to serve."
The Council of Patriots said, "the petition was not presented because the President, as our Leader, chose to deal with us not as his fellow citizens but his subjects, not as his people but as his enemies."
Responding to the statement released by ECOWAS on June 8, the day after the protest, the CoP said: "whilst we commend our international partners, we expected that the ECOWAS Release would have taken into consideration the following issues and concerns:
that COP religiously followed all the protocols agreed with the government including, but not limited to, the following: non-use of drones; use of specified routes; use of agreed protest site; and the need for citizens to remain peaceful throughout the protest;
that government failed to honor its own pledge that it would send the Vice President to receive the petition on behalf of the President - a failure that angered the protesters;
the censorship of social media on the day of the protest which undermined additional mobilization efforts
non-mention of the fact that ahead of the protest, there were deliberate attempts by government to send waves of panic through the public. Armed security men were seen in communities and parading in the streets instilling fear; and,
that armed security officers were prohibiting free movement of citizens by making the presentation of ID cards a precondition for participation in the protest."
CoP observed that the Weah administration "has chosen to perpetuate the bad governance culture of holding political prisoners - a practice in which previous governments indulged. Currently, about TWENTY (20) peaceful and law abiding youth and students are being held at the central prison in detention. We call on the government of Liberia to release those peaceful citizens that have been abducted by the state." The CoP said they also noticed the use of foreign security forces on the day of protest wearing state security uniforms.
According to the ECOWAS statement, "... surprisingly the organizers of the protest introduced and extraneous demand by informing that their petition would only be delivered upon immediate release of the students and others that were detained by the Liberia National Police few days ago.
"It is disappointing to note that, with all the elaborate mediation efforts and arrangements made by the government, Local and International Stakeholders, the petition that was to be delivered to the government, could not take place," ECOWAS said.
Yet, the Council of Patriots insists that "the petition was not presented because the President, as our Leader, chose to deal with us NOT as his fellow citizens but his subjects, NOT as his people but as his enemies."
President Weah had earlier designated Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor to receive the CoP's petition on behalf of the government, even though their earlier demand was that the petition be delivered to the President himself. We gathered out there as early as 7 am GMT to deliver our petition, waited for 11 hours on the government but they failed to live up to their own decision to send the Vice President to receive the petition.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are pleased to announce to the Liberian people and the world, and do place the government of Liberia on constructive notice that we are hereby releasing our LIST of DEMANDS as contained in the PEOPLE'S PETITION. We expect the government to respond to these demands within the period of one month after which we will determine a new course of action," the Council of Patriots concluded.
The final full text of the final petition is given below, as delivered:
PETITION TO SAVE THE STATE
June 9, 2019
Whereas the 1986 Constitution guarantees to citizens of the Republic of Liberia the right to freely, peacefully and lawfully assemble to petition their Government and elected Representatives to take action or avert any negative action as appertain to the welfare of the Liberian State and People;
Whereas since January 22, 2018 the Government of the Republic of Liberia, acting through its three (3) Branches (the Executive, Legislative and Judicial), has been flagrant, defiant and belligerent in its conduct to the total displeasure of the People of Liberia for whose happiness and satisfaction "all government is established";
Whereas, We, the Citizens of Liberia acting under the banner of the Council of Patriots (COP), are convinced that the deteriorating economic conditions will continue to worsen mainly because of the intransigence of President George Weah and senior officials of his administration;
Grateful to the International Community and Donor Partners, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), United Nations, and European Union for their continuous support to Liberia's Peace and Development;
Aware also that since the inception of the CDC-led administration the leaderships of the three (3) Branches of Government have ignored calls, cries and concerns from citizens on all matters of State, and have instead chosen to prioritize their individual and personal interests and/or aspirations above the national interest, as evidenced by but not limited to the following:
Continuous flagrant violation of the Liberian constitution and laws including the recent unconstitutional removal of Associate Justice Kabineh Jan'eh in spite of public outcries and disapproval;
Suppression of press freedom and rights, freedom of speech through threats against the BBC's Jonathan Payleyleh; continual molestation and harassment of Roots FM; denial of basic rights to Isaac W. Jackson, Liberia's Permanent Representative to the IMO; denial of operational license to Punch FM; and the conversion of the Liberia Broadcasting System-owned and operated ELBC into a partisan propaganda organ;
Construction and acquisition of scores of luxury private buildings by the President in the wake of his refusal to publicly declare and publish his assets;
Failure to comprehensively address the issue of Liberia's missing 16 billon Liberian dollars to date and the 25 million United States dollars yet unaccounted for and lack of effective action taken against individuals responsible and the betrayal of the public trust;
According Presidential protection and privilege by announcing a "retirement" plan for Governor Nathaniel Patray and ignoring any responsibility of the TEMT headed by the Minister of Finance, Samuel Tweah, the unlawful injection of billions of over-printed Liberian banknotes without removing legacy banknotes, and also for the unlawful act carried out in the use of some US$25m withdrawn from Liberia's foreign reserve for a dubious mop-up exercise;
Failure and lack of capacity to address the rising inflation and exchange rate thus imposing unbearable hardship on the Liberian People
Flagrant disregard for international law and national reconciliation and disinterest in addressing war and economic crimes as documented in the TRC Report, and general disregard for the rule of law and good governance;
Now therefore We, the Citizens of the Republic of Liberia, acting in one accord under the banner of the Council of Patriots (COP) comprising Patriotic Citizens, Civil Society Groupings, Pressure and Interest Groups, Youth and Student Organizations, marketers, transport operators including motorcyclists, taxi drivers, etc.; teachers and education workers, health workers, farmers and Political Parties;
Do hereby demand from our National Leaders serving through the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches of our Government as follows:
I. Governance, Human Rights and Rule of Law
Electoral Reforms: Urgently proceed with efforts to amend and/or repeal the current Electoral Laws;
Immediately commission an independent investigation into the hasty impeachment of Associate Justice Kabineh Jan'eh, which has undermined the integrity and independence of the Judiciary at a time when Liberians are craving for justice and commence immediately, in collaboration with the Liberian National Bar Association, an overhaul of the Judiciary, including the reconstitution of the Supreme Court Bench;
Launch an immediate independent investigation into the mysterious death of Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Assistant Director Matthew J. Innis which occurred at the same time reports from two forensic audits into the missing billions of newly printed Liberian banknotes were released and extend same to other questionable deaths;
Establish a Court to address Claims, Corruption and strengthen Criminal Court E which is responsible to try Rape cases;
Demonstrate respect for human rights, human dignity and Press Freedom through the comprehensive review of our laws that restrain the exercise of basic freedoms especially the media freedoms;
The immediate disbanding of the Technical Economic Management Team (TEMT) and the criminal prosecution of its members for complicity and involvement in the illegal conduct of the US$25m infusion and mop-up exercise; In this regard, special reference is made to Finance Minister Samuel Tweah and CBL Governor Nathaniel Patray for which they must be dismissed and prosecuted for criminal culpability under their direct charge the bogus mop-up exercise was conducted and missing billions mismanaged;
Immediately demobilize all former fighters re-deployed into various entities/security agencies thus reigniting fear, creating a threat to peace and undercutting the restructuring of our national security sector; and investigate how such a violation of the peace agreement of 2003 have been allowed to occur;
II. National Peace & Reconciliation:
Immediately establish a Task Force with clear mandate to implement the Recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), particularly the recommendation for establishment of a war and an economic crimes court in Liberia without delay (The Government of Liberia should make a request to the United Nations for such a court before July 26, 2019);
Immediately ensure direct budget allocation for the implementation of TRC related recommendations;
Immediately take steps to curb, through public denunciation, reprimand and/or condemnation all anti-peace, fanatical, sectionalistic, tribalistic and divisive utterances by officials, friends, associates, political actors (whether of the CDC or otherwise) which seek to promote division and disunity in violation of the Liberian constitution;
Immediately address the return and re-deployment of ex-fighters and generals into our security apparatus in complete violation of the Accra Peace Agreement, efforts to implement security sector reforms and address the question of impunity;
III. Integrity & Accountability
Immediately implement the comprehensive audit of all government ministries, agencies and parastatals of the period of this Administration and legally address past audits;
Immediately conduct a comprehensive audit of all expenditures on Liberia's Foreign Reserve Account and the National Budget;
Conduct a comprehensive audit of all and any of the dozens of personal infrastructure and/or building projects undertaken by President Weah at several locations in Montserrado County since he assumed office including the purchase of private jet and yacht; (This is a constitutional requirement);
Immediately give account of how more than US$3m of the Ebola Emergency Fund contributed by donors and placed in Government's Consolidated Accounts was withdrawn and expended, for which reason many of Liberia's major international Partners have protested and demanded restitution;
Immediately suspend all negotiations for loans and any new concessions with unrecognized lending organizations until at such time when integrity institutions and systems are restored to operate without interference and within the limits of the law;
Immediately launch an audit of all infrastructural and ongoing road projects;
Immediately give account of all Social Development Funds (SDFs) paid by various concessionaires for the benefit of the counties in which they operate;
Immediately de-ratify both ETON Finance and EBOMAF financing agreements.
Immediately halt the unlawful awarding of contracts to businesses with close ties to the President and senior members of his administration;
Reconstitute through independent vetting all integrity institutions to ensure independence;
For the purpose of transparency, President George Weah and his officials should immediately make public (publish) "assets" they are reported to have "declared" to the General Auditing Commission (GAC) and Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and ensure that they are verified;
Immediately establish a special court to try all corruption cases in Liberia so that indictments cannot linger indefinitely and so that justice can truly be served to those accused;
Beginning effective fiscal 2019/2020 reallocate to health institutions all appropriations for medical check-ups and benefits for public officials serving in the three (3) branches to improving the country's health system (Less attention is paid to Liberia's health sector because most officials can travel abroad not for cases referred by hospitals but also for as simple a process as seeking a medical check-up, which is why priority consideration is not given to the country's health sector);
Legally expel all individuals previously convicted for crimes in their countries who are now operating in Liberia;
Immediately provide explanation as to which individuals within the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) or the Government of Liberia received or approved the injection of the new Liberian banknotes into the economy without effectively removing from circulation the equivalent quantity and/or value of legacy banknotes (This is a recommendation and/or request from Kroll's Associates); and address the role of the TEMT Chaired by the Minister of Finance, Samuel Tweah, as well as its culpability;
Immediately stop funding activities of the First Lady. There is no such office legally created under our Constitution;
Immediately conduct a comprehensive audit of the National Legislature;
Develop, design and implement an economic reform plan to revive our declining economy and address financial and fiscal reforms; comply fully with the Budget and Public Financial Management (PFM) Laws by stopping the habit of off-budget spending;
Restore integrity to our Forestry sector by taking urgent steps to maintain the current monitoring system as the contract with SGS will soon end;
Immediately desist from withdrawing funds from Liberia's foreign reserve;
Immediately cease any and all actions, intentions, desire and attempts to reduce civil servants' salaries at any time in the short-, medium- and long terms;
Immediately give a full status report of Liberia's foreign reserve and henceforth stop its unlawful use and state why the national reserve is being depleted despite there being no national emergency on hand;
Immediately place a moratorium on hiring to include State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) until at such a time when a comprehensive report on the status of these SOEs has been prepared, submitted and considered by the Legislature without prejudice to their continuous viability;
Immediately remove all additional procedures and cost-adding steps and simplify all import and export procedures;
Immediately remove the precondition of obtaining Container Tracking Numbers (CTNs) before loading any containers destined for Liberia; and,
Immediately addressed the run-away exchange rate and high prices of goods and services.
VI. Education, Health & Agriculture
Develop and implement a comprehensive program to properly fund the Education, Health, Agriculture Sectors as a matter of priority;
Immediately remove duties on all agricultural inputs and implements in order to support local food and cash crop production.
Immediately review the continual selective appropriations to privately-owned and operated educational and health institutions without regard for long-standing institutions that have been rendering invaluable services in these sectors for decades.
Immediately implement the free tuition policy for public universities and communities as announced by the President.
VII. Basic Rights
Halt or refuse to sign into law the New Rape Law that makes rape offenses bailable.
Unconditionally pass the Domestic Violence Bill and increase funding (beginning with the current budget) for Criminal Court E for cases relating to women and other rights issues.
Review and provide adequate budget support to gender equality in necessary areas of integrating law enforcement, funding systemic programs such as creation of safe homes for victims, provision of counseling programs and the development of specific policies ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.
Unconditionally Release the report on "More than Me' rape and sexual violent case and prosecute those deemed culpable for the offenses.
Immediately remove the suspension on Punch FM License and stop the jamming of Roots FM as a means of enhancing access to public information.
Petition made on this 9th Day of June A. D. 2019 in the City of Monrovia, Republic of Liberia by the Council of Patriots (COP), a conglomeration of Patriotic Citizens, Civil Society Groupings, Pressure and Interest Groups, Youth, Workers and Student Organizations, and major Political Parties
THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN!