House Expresses Fear in US$30M Road Fund Case in Supreme Court

first_imgAssociate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh-Impeachment hangs over Justice Ja’nehOn Tuesday, July 10, during the 44th day sitting, Members of the House of Representatives  expressed profound fear over the US$30m Road Fund Case, which is in the Supreme Court and before his honor Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh.The lawmakers argued that if the Government of Liberia (GoL) loses the case in the Supreme Court, there will be a “budget shortfall.” Also, the GoL will lose US$15 million from the Millennium Challenge Compact (MCC).After about 30 minutes of argument in yesterday’s session, Montserrado County District #5 Representative Thomas Fallah proffered a motion to have the Leadership of the House of Representatives liaise with the Supreme Court ahead of the US$30 million Road Fund hearing.It may be recalled that last year, the  ministries of Finance & Development Planning and Public Works prayed the House of Representatives’ intervention in the unblocking of the National Road Fund in order to allow the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee (IMSC) to function, use and collect US$30 million from petroleum importers to support the 2017/2018 Budget.In order to contribute to the support of the budget, the IMSC set a US$0.25 road user charge on every gallon of petroleum product brought into the country – and the cumulative sum from these charges is projected to be US$30 million for 2017. Conventionally, the IMSC authorized the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) to collect the fees on behalf of the fund.Unfortunately, in an attempt to collect the charges from petroleum importers, Srimex Oil & Gas sought a stay order on the action from the Supreme Court, arguing that the IMSC is acting in contravention of the law.In a communication to the House, the then Acting Finance Minister Alvin. E. Attah, said: “The Justice in Chambers (Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh) granted the petitioner’s request, staying the action and ordering all parties to return to the status quo…”Minister Attah further said: “In view of this, the Road Fund is stalled. We run the possibility of a budget shortfall if this situation persists. It affects our ability to receive the matching fund from the MCC Compact, which would impede on the World Bank’s ability to work with the Liberian government and secure private financing to pave the 215 kilometers road from Ganta to Zwedru as well as the 10km road from Zwedru to Toe Town.”As a way forward, the Acting Finance Minister, at the time, argued that the levels and sources of the road user charges were subject to legislative approval because the Legislature passed the law establishing the National Road Fund on December 12, 2016; and among other things, the law authorized the IMSC to raise money for the fund through road user charges.“It was our assumption that the negotiations and hearings of the budget process between the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and the Joint Finance, Ways, and Means Committee of the Legislature in determining US$30 million as contribution from the Road Fund to the National Budget satisfied the requirement of the law regarding approval from the Legislature,” Minister Attah wrote.“In view of the above, I am writing to request communication to the following effect: that the leadership recognizes the Ministry of Finance as the IMSC member which shall consult with the leadership of the Legislature. That the budget negotiation process will satisfy the condition of consultation with and approval from the National Legislature and that the Joint Ways, Means, and Finance Committee in setting and agreeing on projections from the Road Fund to the National Budget would convey the Legislature’s approval. This action would allow us to remove the stay order and make the National Road Fund functional and viable.”Furthermore, for his part, Gyude Moore, then Public Works Minister,  also wrote the House of Representatives, saying the IMSC had agreed that of the US$0.50 previously collected as storage fee by the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), US$0.25 was set aside as a “road user charge.”Besides Srimex Oil & Gas, Aminata had also challenged the US$0.25 charge from every gallon to support the National Budget.“I am therefore requesting a communication from you [then Speaker J. Emmanuel Nuquay] acknowledging that there was a procedural lapse, that the IMSC should have formally sought approval for the US$0.25 levy and that nevertheless, this action was anticipated and accounted for in the budgeting process. Any future levy, increase or decrease in the existing levy will have to be formally approved before going into effect,” said Minister Moore.“This would resolve the legal question around the fund and make it functional. It will also allow us to complete our negotiation with the World Bank for the private sector to invest up to US$200 million in our road sector and bring much-needed relief to our people. It will also allow the MCC to match our road fund up to US$15 million as part of the compact.”ImpeachmentEarlier, members of the House of Representative on Tuesday, July 10, threatened to draw-out an impeachment bill against Supreme Court Justice Kabineh Ja’neh if the Government of Liberia loses the Road Fund Case.Montserrado County District #16 Representative Dixon Seboe indicated that losing the Road Fund Case means the country will not benefit through the Budget and the MCC.It may be recalled Montserrado County District #8 Representative Acarous Moses Gray said  his colleagues in the 54th Legislature are soliciting signatures for an impeachment bill against Supreme Court Justice Kabineh Ja’neh. Rep. Gray is a staunch member of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).LACC Not A Political InstitutionAlso during the interview, Representative Gray cautioned the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) to remain apolitical and professional. He promised that officials of the Executive and Legislature will make asset declaration before the deadline.UP Reacts To Impeachment NewsMeanwhile, the  Unity Party (UP) has reacted to news that some members of the House of Representatives are preparing an impeachment bill against Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh.“The Unity Party is very seriously troubled by calls emanating from within the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) for the impeachment and subsequent removal of Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh. In his statement on Okay FM calling for the impeachment of Associate Justice Ja’neh, CDC Representative Acarous M. Gray did not give or suggest any reason(s) but would rather vaguely told the journalist that the call for impeachment is based on integrity issues,” UP said through its National Assistant Secretary General for Press, Publicity and Outreach, Mohammed Ali.Ali and the UP blame President George Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor of also being behind the plot; adding: “If this impeachment and removal were to ever be done, it will put the entire Supreme Court Bench at the mercy of the Executive and will mean a total collapse of our democracy as the independence of the Judiciary will be inevitably compromised. This will be at the taste and satisfaction of the President.”“Second, the call is made because Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh was the only one on the Supreme Court Bench that voted for the nullification of the October 10, 2017 Presidential Election,” Ali also emphasized.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

The Big Myth

first_imgFrom its ambivalent portrayal of gay characters on screen to an almost incredulous approach toward alternate sexuality, Bollywood often belittles the cause of sexual equality. Biographies in India, especially of the high and mighty of Bollywood, brew more than passing public interest. Little surprise therefore when the biggest beholder of tinsel towns’ secrets and stories, Karan Johar came out with his biography, that it created more than just a storm in the tea (or ‘Koffee,’ if you please) cup. A compelling point of intrigue amongst his countless engaging stories involving superstars was whether Johar would put an end to speculations about his own sexuality. While Johar did so in a way, but not without opening another can of worms — on how Indian society views homosexuality in the most abaft manner.In his biography, An Unsuitable Boy, Johar writes: “Everybody knows what my sexual orientation is. I don’t need to scream it out. If I need to spell it out, I won’t only because I live in a country where I could possibly be jailed for saying this.” Almost expressing his helplessness to tackle the issue head-on he adds: “The reason I don’t say it out aloud is simply that I don’t want to be dealing with the FIRs. I’m very sorry. I have a job, I have a commitment to my company, to my people who work for me; there are over a hundred people that I’m answerable to. I’m not going to sit in the courts because of ridiculous, completely bigoted individuals who have no education, no intelligence.”While this may sound very plausible, even endearing, what this not-so-self-proclaimed poster boy of homosexuality in India is missing is a vital truth — that his own monumental podium of telling both real and escapist stories, Bollywood, has for ages shown a rather inverted attitude toward alternate sexual identities. It’s a shame that the world’s largest movie producer has yet to build a body of work that shows the reality of homosexuality in a truthful and sensitive manner.Save for precious exceptions, such as Deepa Mehta’s Fire, which tried to tackle an even trickier subject of lesbianism in 1998, to emotional portrayals by Onir (Anirbar Dhar) in I Am and My Brother Nikhil, Bollywood prefers to keep LGBT communities in the closet. When it comes to mainstream blockbusters, it would be no exaggeration to say that Bollywood harbors an almost Victorian prudishness toward homosexuality.Johar has attempted to bring the veiled reality on the big screen, but only tepidly. He may have broken new ground with his recent production Kapoor & Sons, showcasing one of the lead characters as gay. The fact that the role, played by Fawad Khan, was reportedly rejected by six of Indian cinemas’ big stars, is reflection of the extent of the homophobia in Bollywood. Johar himself was quoted as saying that he thought of changing the storyline until Pakistani actor Fawad Khan agreed to the role.While some may argue that the gay character in the film is not the lead, the fact that Johar moved ahead with a raunchy comedy like Dostana in 2008 to bring the gay relationship in focus for a more mature version is still welcome relief.Produced by Johar in 2008, Dostana tells the story of two men played by John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan pretending to be gay. The fact that the protagonists are not gay, but “real men” in actuality, seemed like an unsure, half baked attempt to test the waters on whether a gay hero would work in Bollywood. The movie with its crude, slapstick jokes mocking gay men and the lead actors cringing at the thought of being actually gay, in a way affirmed that being gay is not a desirable trait in contemporary India.The bitter truth remains that while Johar’s Archie comics’ style love stories of the late 1990s, his clichéd family dramas of the noughties, to the somewhat sappy, Gen Y targeted college romances, stirred an entire generation to feel the pulse of emotions he portrays; but his less than finely etched out gay characters did little to bring the same attention toward alternate sexuality. If in 2013 he brought the topic of sexuality with some seriousness in Bombay Talkies, where two closet gay men are encouraged to come out in open, his 2014 movie, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya, showed actor Sidharth Shukla play a masculine looking gay man. Although the character was not stereotypically effeminate yet gay, the character had no major role to play or portray in the story line. It will be some time before Bollywood is ready to present us with a character who is gay, has substance and forms the crucial (lead preferably) part of a storyline.While the portrayal of alternate sexuality in Bollywood has made an occasional recurrent appearance, the treatment has usually been stereotypical. In Madhur Bhandarkar’s Fashion (2008) gay characters were critical to the plot, but it had caricaturist representation of a gay man gesturing more with his hands than his dialogues, while another gay designer in the movie enters into a contract marriage to garb his sexual identity. Sad truths, but told without an attempt to break the taboos. In Mastizaade, Suresh Menon plays a badly executed, poorly performed and hugely exaggerated gay character.Often filmmakers add gay characters to the movie for cheap thrills. But then in a country where the most viewed comic shows on TV have men dressed as women to induce funniness, what can one expect. Most mainstream movies have steered clear of gay characters with dimensional roles. Movies, such as Kal Ho Na Ho, even use the gay connection as a comic relief to the plot.Filmmakers have opted to be pragmatic, in deference to the box office. But the confused confrontation of sexuality extends from the reel to the real. Johar’s very own chi-chi circle of friends may be doing a lot more disservice to his “alternate” individuality than he deserves. In the so-called progressive sections of Indian society, if coming as guests dressed in everything from Guccis to Puccis on Karan’s popular talk show and passing suggestive snide remarks on his sexuality, while giggling like high schoolers on their smart aleck comments, is how we handle such serious issues, then well, we may have lost the battle even before we began.While Karan and his ilk may cry hoarse about the need to build sensitivity, when those that confused youth look to answers for their “deviations” reduce the issue to jocular tomfoolery, the situation looks more grim than gay (ok, bad pun).When actress turned author Twinkle Khanna almost nonchalantly remarked on a Koffee With Karan episode that Karan may have to go to the jail for 377 days or when choreographer Farah Khan almost casually blurted that Karan couldn’t be the sister she always wanted, the wisecracks may be funny, but certainly not humorous.The tone and the modality of the guests with suggestive comments on Karan’s sexual status in a wit-warped manner, are licenses to laugh or mock someone who is gay or different.While almost certainly this was not the motive of any of the guests, the fact that they are clueless on how to confront sexuality makes a gender sensitive society seems a distant possibility.But then there may be some hope with movies such as Aligarh released last year starring Manoj Bajpayee in an well-etched out role of a gay professor, played with such finesse that it received a standing ovation at international film festivals. It is truths such as these that need to be told. Related Itemslast_img read more