James Biyogar (February 3rd 2005)
"... Is Cllr. Sherman silent because of his relationship, both personal and professional, with Bryant? Is that relationship more important than the interest of the people of Liberia? Cllr. Sherman and Bryant defenders are fond of saying that you cannot blame Bryant because the NTGL is a factional government. In my commentary, I have deliberately stayed away from acts committed by others for which Bryant could be blameless (in spite of the fact that Bryant’s recent dismissal of Charles Bennie shows him to be more in control than he cares to admit)..."
On the website of "Sherman for President", the campaign team of Cllr. Varney Sherman stated, “The Presidential Campaign of Cllr. Varney Sherman will be based on the idea of establishing an administration of good governance in Liberia. The principles of good governance will be standard options at all levels of a Sherman administration. The fight against corruption, establishing rule of law, bringing equal opportunities to all Liberians, ensuring complete security throughout the country, will be the guiding principles for the Sherman administration from day one”. (See Good Governance at the official website of Sherman for president).
The campaign team portrays Cllr. Sherman as a public figure who has always been a voice of the people. The problem here is, either Cllr. Sherman has a stealth voice that no one can hear, or Cllr. Sherman is a closet politician who only seems to speak out when it is politically, personally and financially safe for him to do so. In fact, on very major controversial issue, Cllr. Sherman seems to be against the interest of the Liberian people which is paradoxical to the principles his campaign claims he stands for. Let’s consider recent evidence.
Corruption in the NTGL
Many in the international community and political commentators are fast coming to the conclusion that the NTGL is the most corrupt government in Liberian history. How this government could capture that prize from the Taylor government boggles the mind. They are able to do this even under the watchful eyes of the international community. In addition to the recent purchase of two vehicles for over $300,000, there has been evidence of secret security payments, expensive vehicles purchases (which were first denied by Harry Greaves until they showed up in Monrovia), the renovation of Bryant’s sister’s house of a reported cost of $150,000 (despite the obvious conflict of interest), the unexplained fluctuation in the price of rice with accusations that Bryant and Commerce Minister Wlue are profiting at the expense of the poor Liberian masses, expensive foreign travels and gross mismanagement of the Liberian state.
The question is: Where is Varney? At least two candidates have been vocal on the issues to my knowledge. Madam Ellen Sirleaf, Chairperson of the Government Reform Commission, has decried massive corruption, lack of transparency, and numerous off budgeted expenses. Cllr. Charles Brumskine has detailed numerous violations of the CPA, rampart corruption, criminal conspiracy of price gouging and human right abuses. Both of these political stalwarts laid much of the blame at Bryant’s doorstep. If Cllr. Sherman has spoken about Bryant’s corruption, ineptitude, or gross mismanagement, then his camp needs to point us to the public record now, not after the elections or when the controversies subside.
The LAC Issue
Recently Cllr. Brumskine brought the issue of land dispute between LAC and the people of Bassa to the public square. Since then the issue has escalated to the point where the Bryant government arrested scores of Liberians and treated them as “sardines in a can,” much to the dismay of the United Nations Civilian Police Force. LAC is claiming that it had an agreement with President Tubman for the land it now wants to harvest. The people of Bassa are claiming citizenship and ownership rights to the land. It is alleged that Cllr. Sherman is LAC’s lawyer. Can the Sherman camp please address whether or not Cllr. Sherman or his firm represents LAC? Does Cllr. Sherman have a view on this major land dispute issue of our time which is developing? Even if he has a conflict of interest by his representation of LAC, then the Liberian people will understand. But a man running for the highest office of the land should at least say something.
“Varney and Bryant marriage”
This brings us to the central issue of my commentary. Is Cllr. Sherman silent because of his relationship, both personal and professional, with Bryant? Is that relationship more important than the interest of the people of Liberia? Cllr. Sherman and Bryant defenders are fond of saying that you cannot blame Bryant because the NTGL is a factional government. In my commentary, I have deliberately stayed away from acts committed by others for which Bryant could be blameless (in spite of the fact that Bryant’s recent dismissal of Charles Bennie shows him to be more in control than he cares to admit). The warlords did not renovate Bryant’s sister’s house. Neither did they purchase his vehicles or entered into an illegal conspiracy to increase the price of rice alone. I would like for Cllr. Sherman to go on the record to say whether or not Bryant is doing a good job and that he would continue Bryant’s management practices as a model if he is elected.
Before Bryant’s ascendancy to power, LAP’s headquarter was located in Bryant’s private residence. Most of its senior partisans were working for Taylor, doing business with him or benefiting from the politico-economic atmosphere he created. In less than one year, LAP has offices all over the country equivalent to “white elephants” and numerous vehicles. Where did LAP get all this generous contribution all of a sudden? How much of it did Cllr. Sherman himself contribute? How much did Bryant contribute? How much did other partisans who are now influential members of the NTGL such as Harry Greaves, Willie Belleh, Wheatonia Dixon, Cletus Wortoson and Fred Cherue contributed?
Of course, if Cllr. Sherman continues to be silent on Bryant’s corruption, how can one trust a Sherman government to honestly investigate Bryant? It is no question that the Sherman candidacy is a referendum on Bryant. It would be helpful were Cllr. Sherman to specifically condemn Bryant’s practices and distance himself from them. He must risk losing the friendship for the sake of the principle. If Sherman is not drinking from the well, then he must expose its poison. No one wants to see Gyude Bryant influence or control Liberian government again. Neither would we want to see those who advised or closely worked with Bryant ascend to power. This is the Moses Blah principle: the advisor or close associate of a disgraced leader cannot succeed him. The days are gone where an elite group rob the masses blind and then use the wealth flamboyantly to make the people forget. My prediction is that “as go Bryant, so goes Sherman”. If I were Sherman, I would be putting my own house in order to protect myself when the Bryant government is investigated, because Sherman will not be President to cover it up. We will need a neutral person. LAP and Sherman have had their time. That is why they are running a stealth campaign.