Liberia: Joe Boakai - 'Liberia Nears Disaster'

--Says protest is citizens' constitutional right, calls on Liberians on both sides to exercise restraint

Mr. Joseph Nyuma Boakai, former Vice President and standard bearer of the erstwhile governing Unity Party (UP), has observed that recent events in the country seem to have taken an usual trend, describing the country as "a ship [without control] adrift on a turbulent sea."

He said the pending December 30th protest is an important factor that "aggrieved groups of citizens use as their constitutional right to assemble, and exercise their freedom of expression."

Mr. Boakai's comment was contained in a statement he issued to the public on Thursday, December 5, 2019 as a statesman, reminding his fellow countrymen of where the country has been heading to in recent months.

"Our country seems to be taking on its own momentum, appearing as though it has become a rudderless ship adrift on a turbulent sea hurtling towards disaster," the Boakai's statement said.

He added, "Civil servants, teachers and other professional groups are demanding salary arrears, or they would initiate a go slow action."

As regard the pending December 30 nationwide protest under the aegis of the Council of Patriots (CoP), who have called for a 'Step Down' of President George Weah, Mr. Boakai therefore urged all sides to exercise restraint, and to work within the confines of the Constitution.

He said it is worrisome that the Liberian people, and the world continue to demand full accountability and action regarding the 'missing' L$16 billion, and the US$25 million allocated for 'mopping-up excess liquidity,' "but in the face of that, economic hardship continues to impact lives throughout the country."

The banks, Boakai said are failing their obligations to depositors whereby families are sleeping with hunger, while students are being thrown out of school for non-payment of tuition and fees.

"Overall school enrollment has drastically declined as compared to previous years, while hospitals and healthcare facilities are struggling to attend to the sick, due to lack of basic equipment and supplies; couple with the abrupt closure of businesses," the Boakai's statement said.

Accordingly, he said inflation is running high, while unemployment defies gravity..meaning it has become "unstoppable."

"In the face of this mounting crisis, the people and our partners look up to President George Weah for assurance, but he has failed to address his people; and has instead, deferred to surrogates, who have resorted to inflammatory language to find scapegoats, and to add fuel to the fire."

"The government," he said, "has requested the printing of additional money in the face of structural deficiencies, and governance abnormality highlighted by both the Presidential Investigation Team (PIT) and Kroll Reports, which (both) agreed that there are inconsistencies in the Central Bank System; and that the US$25 million mop-up exercise created opportunities for fraud and money laundering."

Moreover, Boakai said the government has not given convincing reasons, nor has it put in place adequate guarantees for "accountability."

"We are all sitting on a tinderbox [and therefore] I urge all sides to exercise restraint, and to work within the confines of the Constitution," the statement said.

As regards the December 30th protest, the statement said it is important that aggrieved group of citizens exercise their constitutional right of assembly, and freedom of expression.

Henceforth, he said "The government must perform its obligation to provide security and protection all citizens and foreign residents."

On the threat of civil servants "go-slow," the statement said government must meet up with its obligation.

"These patriotic citizens have played their part; they deserve the dignity of their labour, and the right to provide for their families. Therefore, we must not overturn the apple cart," the statement said, cautioning Liberians against disrupting national gains made over the years.

Meanwhile, Mr. Boakai believes that Liberians have demonstrated that they are capable of conducting peaceful protests, "and equally so, Government has proven its ability to provide security, and protection for all. Let each and every Liberian play his or her part to preserve this sacred heritage of ours."

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