From the look of things, the fight against corruption is in for a long haul – and if authorities are not careful how they go about handling this whole Global Witness saga, the good intentions of the corruption crusade could be misconstrued as purely political witch-hunt.
The zest with which the police moved Monday at the residence and law firm of Senator Varney Sherman – the man fingered in the Global Witness “The Deceiver” report as the bearer of bribes, left little doubt that the government meant business in getting to the bottom of the damning allegations. With Monrovia on edge as to whether or not the Fonati Koffa committee would have arrested Cllr. Senator, and as stalwarts of the ruling Unity Party chanted battle cries against Sherman’s supposed arrest, the whole event later turned from noisy grandstanding to more uncertainty, as the police left Sherman’s residence and law firm with their tails between their legs. Throughout the episode, Varney Sherman remained bolted inside his fence. In the midst of the standoff, the Fonati Committee, established by Executive mandate, organized a hastily arranged conference at the Ministry of Information where Cllr. Koffa and LACC Chair Jerome Verdier informed the nation about happenings. The two men talked a lot but in the end they failed to really state why the state could not implement a search of Cllr. Sherman’s residence and law firm. Against the backdrop of the Sherman-Fonati Committee standoff, the National Legislature held a lightning bolt joint session yesterday, following which a press statement was issued under the signatures of Speaker Alex Tyler (an accused in the Global Witness report) and Senate Pro Tempore Armah Jallah. In that statement, the Legislature announced the constitution of a Joint Committee of the House and the Senate to “thoroughly investigate” the Global Witness allegation. “It has also come to the attention of the Legislature as alleged in the Global Witness report that laws were changed in 2010 to give Sable Mining favorable treatment to enable it secure Wologizi outside of competitive bidding. The Joint Committee of the Legislature will investigate this allegation as the Legislature is the branch of Government constitutionally charged to make laws,” the Legislative Joint Session press statement said. Continuing, the statement read: “There are several other issues which warrant the attention of the Legislature which will be exhaustively covered during the public hearing and the Legislative debate. The Legislature therefore calls on the President to instruct the Special Task Force to cease attacking the person and property of any present or former member of the Legislature while the Joint Committee carries out the investigation.” While we totally agree the pressing necessity for the Honorable National Legislature to take keen interest in the Global Witness; while we absolutely concur the sagacity of constituting a Legislative probe into the harrowing GW report, we urge our Honorable men and women of the House and the Senate to do so without reproach and partiality. Speaker Alex Tyler is one of those alleged to have received bribes from Sable Mining through Senator Varney Sherman. Speaker Tyler co-presided over the Joint Legislative Session yesterday. Speaker Tyler might have played a pivotal role in the selection of the Joint Committee members who will be investigating allegations of bribery in the Global Witness report. We wonder whether during the conduct of the investigations Speaker Tyler will continue to preside over the House in his official function, or whether he will step aside temporarily to give the Committee more leverage and independence in executing their assignment? For us at the Capitol Times, we feel all is not yet lost. As the Liberian parlance says “every disappointment is a blessing”, the Fonati Committee-Sherman standoff could offer another opportunity for the Executive and Legislative branches to better coordinate their affairs, whether its national budget setting or investigating allegations of corruption that cut across both branches. The Monday show of sham was uncalled for. The Liberian people deserve better.