The policy dialogue is funded by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations (OHCHR-UN).
Speaking at the justice first policy dialogue, Dr. Toga G. Mcintosh, said the people of Liberia have documented four crucial issues that must be addressed by the government of President George Weah, to put Liberia back on the path of recovery.
Dr. Mcintosh, who chaired the recent economic dialogue, indicated that first amongst the issues are the measures to be taken by the government to fix the economy, to address rising inflation, unemployment and building the capacityof the young people.
Dr. Mcintosh said the case of the Liberian economy can be likened to a heavy iron ball that is rolling down a hill at an incredible speed and along its path are splashes of mud, dirt and dangerous objects.
He called on Liberians to wake up and put their hands on deck to stop the ball from rolling down stream. He said when the heavy iron ball is stopped from rolling down stream, the next task will be to roll the iron ball back up stream. He further said that with the economy at a 0.04 growth rate, it could hit negative by 2023 with serious consequences for the citizens and the country as a whole.
The National Economic Dialogue Chairman further called on the Government of Liberia to utilize the existing laws of the country to guide its fiscal and monetary policies.
The one time Foreign Minister of Liberia said for the government to be taken seriously, it must account for funds being generated in the economy and how such funds are expended to benefit the country and its citizens. Dr. Mcintosh explained that government needs to embark on programs to bring about peace, reconciliation and stability.
Against this back drop, the dialogue proposed that there can be no genuine dialogue if people cannot account for war and economic crimes they committed during the civil conflict.
The national economic dialogue further demanded that recent incidents of improprieties by the Weah government arising from the disappearance of L$16 Billion from national treasury and the US$25Million map up exercise must be logically and conclusively addressed to generate the confidence and assistance of development partners, without which it will be quite difficult for the country to recover from the economic downturn.
Regarding the printing of newbank notes, Dr. Mcintosh said while it is not a bad idea for the government to print new money, he said it is not timely because all the requisite mechanisms to clean the entire system has to be in place before any such action is undertaken, as to do so may have undesirable and economically devastating outcomes.
According to him, one of the factors to consider is to have an idea of the total money in circulation in the economy. He told the justice first dialogue that the serial numbers on some of the current bank notes in circulation cannot be traced or are not registered with the Central Bank of Liberia, which means the bank notes were not recorded before being put in circulation contrary to what is required by monetary policy.
Dr. Mcintosh noted that Liberians are concerned about the tendency which shows that the government is not responsibly conducing its affairs.
Also addressing the policy dialogue held at the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) Auditorium was Chief ZanzanKarwor, Chairman of the National Council of Chiefs and Elders of Liberia, who deliberated on the current state of affairs in the country from August 26-31, 2019 and advanced several recommendations to the opposition and to the Government of Liberia. Key amongst the recommendations according to Chief Karwor, is the call for the establishment of war and economic crimes court.
He said Liberia will not forge ahead if individuals who committed heinous crimes continue to enjoy the best from the country’s economic resources and enjoy privileges from the state while the victims continue to suffer neglect and are left unattended.
Chief Karwor said if the citizens will be motivated to pay taxes, they must believe that individuals who steal the taxpayers’ money will be punished and emphasized the need for serious efforts to be made to establish an economic crimes court.
The Chief further called on the government to hold consultations with local stakeholders and international partners to improve the quality of life for all Liberians at home and abroad.
Chief Karwor maintained that the Legislature which ought to be a house of wisdom has now turned to a gladiatorial arena where insults and physical assaults are the order of the day. He said the legislature is not a place to accumulate wealth, saying that it is a waste of resources to use tax payer money to make laws that benefit only themselves and a select few.
On the Judiciary, Chief Karwor recounted that it has strayed from its and become the constables of the Executive. He frowned on the unconstitutional removal of Justice J’aneh which was condoned and facilitated by the Chief Justice, noting that no single Justice should be punished for the decision made by the entire judiciary.
On the Executive, Chief Karwor stressed that there must be accountability. With this, according to him, there will be a hope that corruption will be tackled. With accountability, there will be hope that rehabilitation centers will be set up for disadvantaged youths referred to as ‘ZOGOS’. He said it now appears that love of friends and family now supersedes the general interest of the people who own the government.
Chief Karwor said in the absence of addressing the missing L$16 Billion and unsatisfactory response to the discrepancies with the US$25Million used by government for so-called map up, and tampering with donors’ reserve keot at the Central Bank, there is a huge mistrust with the way the government is handling the affairs of the country. He frowned on a government where it appears that there are so many spokespersons, and called on President Weah that government must have one or two persons to speak on its behalf, suggesting that it should be the Minister of Information Minister and the Press Secretary to speak for the government, he concluded.
Also as part of the policy dialogue, presentations were made on Land governance and procedures in Liberia by Cllr. Tiawan S. Gongloe; Punitive verses Restorative Justice as a means of promoting Human rights the case of the TRC Recommendations by Tom Dadu the OHCHR through a proxy; Follow-up on the first policy dialogue held in Grand Bassa and the LNBA Legal Aid Program by Cllr. Joyce Reeves-Woods; ‘Media as a Tool for Promotion and Protection of Human Rights’ by Cllr. Bobby W. Livingstone; and Liberian Court Today, Success and Challenges by Atty. Darryl Ambrose Nmah. Earlier in the program, welcome remarks were made Cllr. Finley Karngar, Project Coordinator, Justice First Project, the City Mayor of Kakata, Emmanuel Goll and the Superintendent of Margibi County, Mr. Jerry Varney,(who were represented by their respective proxies), amongst other speakers.