Statement Delivered By PUL Secretary General, D Kaihenneh Sengbeh, at programs marking the International Anti-Corruption Day 2014, organized by the Liberian Youth Natural Resource Governance Forum
YMCA Conference Hall
December 9, 2014
I bring you professional greetings from the leadership and members of the Press Union of Liberia on whose authorities I stand before you.
The Press Union of Liberian is pleased to be invited to form part of this international observance against a terrible menace that has the propensity to stagnate the growth and development of any country and its people. I am speaking about corruption. Corruption is no stranger to Liberia. It is entrenched in our culture, in our homes, in the churches and mosques, in the schools, in our hospitals, in our bedrooms and in the blood veins of many of us. It is systemic, it is serious! Yes, even in the media, too.
It is even rampant among the politicians leading our country, the security sector including the immigration and the police. For example, between last Friday and Sunday, I saw acts that appeared to be corruption many times at the various police and immigration checkpoints along the Monrovia-Ganta Highway. Before passing through, commercial drivers are asked to “Drop the Gate”, when they are not the ones who mounted those gates. You know what I mean by drop the gate! Those gatekeepers (our security men and women) are demanding monies from the commercial vehicles. Those who adhere swiftly by giving cash (about L$100) are allowed to go smoothly. Those who resist will have to pull off the road and angrily argue or wait for several minutes if not hours before being let go. No wonder the transport fares and prices of goods from up country are so high as if they are imported.
This is dangerous for our country and people. It puts the lives of the people and country at risk. Highway checkpoints and police patrols are good and universal. However, check points mounted by our law enforcement officers along the highways must not be meant to extort money from passengers and drivers. This is criminal! Rather, it should be meant to protect them and the country at large. No, we can’t accept this!
If our security forces will continue to engage into these unwholesome acts of extortion, they will be harming the state; they will not detect who is the dangerous person or enemy passing through our checkpoints; they will not be vigilant about who’s traveling with drugs to damage our young boys and girls—like many of you sitting in here.
That’s why we feel that the media, which I represent here, has got to double up its efforts to continue reporting on issues of corruption, exposing shady oil deals and other agreements signed with the influence of white or brown envelopes—whatever you call it.
Yes, the media has been playing its part, exposing these deals that have had detrimental effects of the public, but those responsible to take action have never found sufficient evidence to prosecute—even though these glaring activities are happening right under their noses—in their offices.
This makes most of the anti-corruption institutions we have here immaterial and exist as toothless bull dogs. I am talking about the Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, General Auditing Commission, Procurement Concession Commission, the Whistleblower Act, Public Financial Management Law and the Code of Conduct for Public officials, and many others.
We (all of us in here, in our own limited capacity) must act now to deal with corruption or never. And if we fail to do so as we seem to be doing, our country is doomed: poverty will continue to eat us up, our health system will never to built and equipped to respond to diseases like Ebola, our educational system will remain a big mess as the President has since said and our young people will continue to flunk national and university exams, our roads and bridges will never get better. Yes, we will continue to have an unstable “small light today” and the big one tomorrow will never come. This is because our resources are missing the national coffers and entering the wrong pockets of greedy and selfish individuals.
In the last few years, though we claim to be fighting corruption as a government and people, this virus seems to have grown stronger and planted its roots deep into the sandy-muddy soils of Providence Island, where our fore father first landed. To me, we are yet too far from making the progress we should have made by now. Corruption seems now to be our best friend instead of our Number One Enemy. Shame on us!
Once more, the PUL is happy to be part of this occasion and wish all of us the best as we celebrate this anticorruption day. As an integrity institution, championing the cause of press freedom, free speech and social justice, the PUL will never weaver calling a spade and spade.
We thank all our journalists for not giving up reporting corruption, but we challenge them to themselves defy unprofessionalism, go even deeper to expose these corruption. Posterity will judge our work as journalists and the disappointment in those who fail to prosecute this grudging evil. Corruption!
I thank you for inviting the PUL at these occasions, I applaud you for listening to the PUL, and I extol you for your actions against corruption hereafter as the struggle for social justice continues.