By James Kokulo Fasuekoi, Excelsior, MN-The case “Chris Toe vs. Rodney Sieh-FPA” has been exhaustingly discussed by Liberians from all walks of life including lawyer, social workers, journalists, rights activists, and even government officials. Thanks to informative articles written by the followings: former Auditor General, Mr. John Morlu II, and Mr. Arthur B. Dennis (former Press Director of Ministry of Nation Defense, R.L.), as well as former TRC commissioner, Mr. John H. T. Stewart among many others. This case has become a landmark case in the country such that it requires the input of every citizen contrary to those who think it’s a private case between two “private citizens.” It marks a turning point in the life of post-war Liberia and may decide where Liberians go from here.
Since the case has already been extensively discussed, I would therefore not waste time to go deeply into the merits or demerits of the case. Instead, this attempt will highlight/unearth some glaring basic flaws that characterized the entire proceedings so that an elementary school kid can easily understand what led to many people believing the case’s outcome was no doubt influenced by “vendetta,” “money,” and above all, “power.”
Prior, to “Chris Toe vs. Rodney Sieh-FPA,” Mr. Sieh ran in to problem with members of the Supreme Court of Liberia while responding to a citation from the court a year or two ago. Mr. Sieh had a heated argument with the judges who at the time felt insulted by what they referred to as an act of “arrogance” on Sieh’s part. That was where Mr. Sieh’s trouble began. So when the case involving him and Mr. Toe resumed recently, it seems the Supreme Court bench saw this as a chance to get “even” with publisher Sieh.
It is very easy for one to spot where the trouble came from that eventually resulted into a guilty verdict. For example, the court refused to initially consider one underlying issue which was “jurors’ tampering.” It was reported that at least two jurors confessed receiving bribes to rule against the defendant, Sieh. Another key factor ignored by the Civil Law Court in the alleged “defamation” libel suit is the strange circumstances under which the disgraced former minister was relieved of his position which was also ignored by the courts. Also of great concern was the speed with which editor Rodney Sieh was trialed, followed by his subsequent detention and the closure of his independent paper due to his inability to pay an excessive court fine of U.S.1.5million. Not still satisfy, government authorities are still fighting to shut down the paper’s on-line publications. Isn’t this overkilling the cat?
The Auditor General Report filed with the Liberian Government in April 2011, strongly contests that Mr. Toe is liable for at least over US4.million unaccounted for during a three-year period. The money in question was intended for workers of the Guthrie Rubber Plantation, a private entity co-managed by Toe, and a task force set up by government to fight army-worms that invaded certain parts of Liberia. Instead remaining quiet after his dismissal, the minister went on and sued the FrontPage Africa Newspaper and claimed that the FPA, which reported several stories based on the audit report from the GAC regarding his Toe’s financial transgressions had “maligned” his “good” image.
Instead having Mr. Toe exonerate himself from allegations in the government-audit report against him, the court turned to Mr. Sieh and his paper and demanded they provide proof for stories published by FrontPage. This was completely strange since members of the court may have read the GAC report that was released in 2011. Although the publisher is reported to be in possession of incriminating documents that could prove Toe accountable for the missing millions, however, journalistic creed prohibits a reporter from disclosing news sources. Unfortunately, the corrupt government failed like in many other cases to prosecute Toe for “stealing” or “wrongdoing” based on the audit findings.
But of more interest are disturbing contradictory statements coming from government spokespersons lately particularly regarding the general auditing agency report that found Chris Toe liable for US millions unaccounted for in an apparently effort to cover up “criminal behaviors” the audit report attributed to Toe at the expense of government’s own image. This move has in a short while time brought disgrace to the administration thereby making it to look worthless. Two senior officials at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism had condemned and described as “unreliable,” the GAC report.
But according to former Liberia Auditor General, John Morlu, the GAC report on the Chris Toe case, is one of many “prepared with the technical assistance and expertise of European Union (EU), World Bank, USAID, Auditor Generals of Ghana, Zambia, South Africa and other international partners.” Mr. Morlu, in a recent newspaper article which dissected the Chris Toe-GAC report to elementary level, maintained it was similar report by the GAC that the GOL submitted to the World Bank, IMF and the international community in order to secure a “4.9 billion in debt relief.” It is also the same GAC’s work, he continued, the GOL used in the prosecution of “Mr. Musa Bility for tax evasion, and former LTA chairman Albert Bropleh” among many others and wondered how is it that government’s spokespersons could now come out to disqualify such report after two consecutive years. Mr. Morlu went on to suggest that it is either him, or the government of the Republic of Liberia that Chris Toe or any other individual offended by his findings should sue and not Mr. Rodney Sieh and his paper.
It is unlikely that the court authorities, Chris Toe, and government officials, seemingly bent on staging vengeance against the editor would ever adhere to Mr. John Morlu’s plea. Meantime, I wish to provide the following Bible verses to Mr. Toe (providing he’s a devout Christian) as guidance in future endeavors. Proverbs 25: 8; “Do not go hastily to court for what you will do in the end, when your neighbor has put you to shame?” The same Proverbs 25 verse 9 goes on: “Debate your case with your neighbor….” Proverbs 6:16-19, “These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.”
Just as recently as July, Liberians watched what happened to Finance Minister Amara Konneh in connection to an alleged missing “U.S.13.million” donated by European Union countries earmarked for the improvement of Liberia’s health sector. Before Min. Konneh would face most of his accusers in the state of Minnesota where he was expected to keynote the OLM July 26th Independence celebrations, he had been indicted in the court of public opinion. It didn’t end there; Min. Konneh was belittled, “name calling” by demonstrators comprising Liberians in the presence of U.S. Government officials. When Konneh met fellow Liberians the next day at a town hall gathering, he managed to clear every suspicion surrounding the 13 million. Read my news reports titled: “Liberia’s 166th Independence Celebrated amid Protests” & “I don’t want to bepresident-Konneh,” published by FPA and other news networks.
Minister Konneh, too being a Liberian had every right to sue those who judged him guilty of alleged financial malpractices even before he had a chance to clear the air. But why did he not run to the courts to seek redress like Mr. Chris Toe did? Perhaps Mr. Konneh, like most Liberians think there are just cases that clearly need to be treated the way he handled the 13milliom issue seeing himself as a gateway person to state’s financial management amid gross financial abuses. Many expected Chris Toe to follow the “AMARA KONNEH REMEDY” or follow journalistic protocols and first send a rebuttal to the FrontPage management for publication. If that couldn’t work, he could still host a news conference like he did to tell his “side of the story” in order to dispel suspicions of corrupt allegations against him.
As for Minister Amara Konneh, he now feels free from any suspicion concerning the 13million. But can people say the same of Mr. Toe? Did the court ruling in anyway help or dismiss mountain suspicions/allegations against him that he squandered over US4 million while he served as boss at the agricultural bureau? I don’t think so. The best Mr. Toe could have done for himself is be MAN ENOUGH to face his numerous accusers in a public forum style like a “KONNEH” and not bolt into cowardice by running to a corrupt judicial system (that doesn’t enjoy the trust of Pres. Sirleaf) for protection. What a shame!
As I write, there is a new wave of mass awareness campaign being led by Liberians across America with aims to expose and press for the prosecution of perpetrators of genocides, plus people whose criminal activities such as financial malpractices seem to undermine Liberia’s tranquility. There is the Coalition for Justice in Liberia (CJL) based in California and led by Miss. Lovetta Tugbeh which for the most part has succeeded in getting the attention of the U.S. States Department and international human rights groups in its bid to get Liberia war criminals to face trial for their alleged crimes. In Minnesota too, there is a corruption watchdog-group, the newly formed Movement of Liberians Against Corruption (MOLAC) headed by political activist Kirkpatrick Weah, the group that confronted the Amara Konneh delegation in July.
The two groups are gradually succeeding in getting U.S. officials’ attention to shun Liberia and cut down on their moral, and possibly, financial supports for the country if things continue as usual. The granting of protests permits to MOLAC and other new Liberian groups during Min. Konneh’s visit plus the pending New York, United Nations demonstration awaiting Pres. Johnson-Sirleaf and her delegation this September should serve as proof of US’ acquiescence. With such sweeping changes going on in the U.S., some wonder what someone like Chris Toe will do if he ever lands on US soil.