Monrovia - A former government official and a confidant of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Blamo Nelson has condemned Executive Order 84, which reduced Liberia’s Inshore Exclusion Zone (IEZ) from six Nautical Miles to three Nautical Miles for the purpose of revitalizing commercial and semi-industrial fishing in Liberia.
Mr. Nelson, a former Senator of Grand Kru County and ex- Internal Affairs Minister under President Sirleaf said the President’s action has the propensity to reduce the territorial fishing right of Liberia.
Mr. Nelson, speaking on a local radio station in Monrovia on Tuesday, May 23 said the President’s Executive Order will affect the local fishing community and open avenues for foreigners to exploit the fishing industry in Liberia.
“This kind of behavior on the part of government is mind boggling. Why do you want to reduce the territorial fishing right of Liberia? Why are you not extending it?” Mr. Nelson asked rhetorically.
“Other countries are extending their territorial fishing right, but Liberia is reducing hers to invite the foreign investor to come and fish in our waters,” he said.
In his radio interview, he claimed that the action taken by the government violates the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) international fishing code of Conduct, something he said the government could expect to receive harsh criticism on from its major partners such as the European, FAO among others.
The former Grand Kru County Senator’s statements followed a rebuttal by the Government of Liberia that the Executive Order will in no way cause a drop in fish supply to the local market.
The GoL claimed that the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) misinterpreted the Executive order; adding that the economic benefits from the domestic harvesting of fish rather than importing of fish will help the country’s balance of payment and the foreign exchange situation.
This benefit, the Government believes, will help the entire country including artisanal fishermen.
“Consistent with the Executive Order, before the Bureau of National Fisheries--now being supervised by the Liberia Maritime Authority - issues any fishing license under the Executive Order, the proper regulations, and guidelines that will ensure that all of the goals are achieved, will be promulgated and issued.
The LMA promises all of Liberia’s partners and artisanal fishing communities that due care will be taken to ensure that their interests and those of other Liberians, many of whom do not live along the coast, are protected within the context of protecting and promoting the national interests,” the GoL said.
But the veteran Liberian Politician said by devolving the Bureau of National Fisheries from the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) to the Liberia Maritime Authority undermines the Constitution of Liberia.
“To do an Executive Order to restructure the Ministry within one year doesn’t make sense. Why the urgency?
To take the Fishery Bureau to Maritime is unlawful. You have to amend the Act creating the Ministry of Agriculture. You can’t do that with an Executive Order,” Mr. Nelson averred.
Meanwhile, Mr. Nelson has insinuated that former Agriculture Minister Moses Zinnah was sacked because of disagreement over the change at MOA.
Speaking further he described President Sirleaf as the most imperial President Liberia has ever had; despite her pledge to curb the tendency of the imperial presidency during her maiden inaugural address in 2006.
Mr. Nelson, who served as Senator of Grand Kru County in the 52nd Legislature asserted that because of the imperial power the President has, the Legislature has fallen short of performing its constitutional duty to the fullest.
I am saying the Legislature has become impotent. The President has neutralized the Legislature; so it cannot effectively play its role of oversight.
“I am not blaming the president because, in the dynamic of the political interplay between these branches, the president has every right to influence, to lobby, to cajole the making of law. Presidents do that all the time.
But when you do that to a certain level, then you are intruding; and the president has gone to such an extent with our Legislature that it has now turned into a toothless bulldog,” the former lawmaker averred.
When quizzed by the presenter on why he did not speak out while in government, Mr. Nelson said he was speaking out but was often ignored.
He blamed the Constitution of Liberia for creating such a powerful political figure.
According to Mr. Nelson, the Constitution of Liberia, which is the organic law of the country, provides that appointed officials work at the will and pleasure of the President, and as such, the President will continue to have absolute power if these local officials are not elected.