“Elections are not necessary”

Liberia’s Finance, Development Planning Minister Samuel D. Tweh told local journalists here Friday March 16, that elections are not necessary, a statement which has been described as alarming and tantamount to undermining democracy.

Minister Tweh’s comments were in response to a US3.9 million request made by the National Elections Commission or NEC to hold Senatorial by-elections in Montserrado and Bong Counties.

The seats were made vacant by President George Weah and Vice President Jewel H. Taylor upon their elections on December 26, 2017. By law elections to replace the two former senators are expected to be held 90 days after the House of Senate had informed the electoral body of the vacant seats. By calculations, the by elections are expected to be held in May this year.

But addressing journalists at his first major press conference which was intended to explain the country’s recast budget which over US 500 million an amount that should have covered the remaining months of the 2017/2018 fiscal period, Mr. Tweh did not only announced a cut in the NEC’s proposed budget for the by-election from US3.9 million to US1.5 million, but added while explaining his government’s pro-poor agenda that he would rather spend monies on other programs than “elections that are not necessary.”

As to whether the minister had dialogued with officials at NEC over their request before coming up with the cut, is yet to be established. But the Minister further suggested that the NEC can recruit people with election experiences from other sectors and agencies to conduct the election.

However, commenting on development, in what appears to be blame-shifting, he argues that what has actually been stalling development in Liberia is lack of political will of past leaders, who claimed they had vision to rebuild the country after the devastated civil war.

He said President George Manneh Weah has come to the office of the presidency with tremendous political will to develop Liberia, and put it on the right path.
“The key to achieving development is the political will, and that is something that the President of this country has, he has that will to transform the lives of citizens, including solving their problems”, the Finance boss promised last Friday.

He says the greatest contribution of the Weah-led administration is to adequate deliver on its variables rather than focusing on anything that has to do with vision, “because past leaders had visions, and yet we see no impact.”

Tweah maintains that the government doesn’t need vision to develop the country, noting, that there could be all the visions of President Tolbert and Tubman’s that could build Liberia like London or New York, but without implementation, they lack impact.

“We inherited a broken system and what we focus is to stabilize the fiscal space to ensure that the government pays salaries and meets its pro-poor agenda plans, he explains, adding that the focus now is deeply on the public financial management space, and was able to generate US$9 million since it came to power that is in savings.

He wants the government to be applauded for such achievement, saying the money has been reallocated, and President Weah is working with the leadership of the Liberian Legislature to finance his pro-poor priority projects, with focus on those citizens, who are not earning a pay check.

The executive recently submitted a recast budget of over US$500 million for FY 2018 and 2019 to the 54th Legislature for approval.  “We should ensure that resources are not bending in the favor of government officials, but rather finding those resources to benefit the marginalized citizens”, he says and notes that the President had promised that Liberian students would no longer pay WAEC fees under his pro-poor program.

At the same time he wants an end to criticisms against the new government that has been in power for less than three months.

By Lewis Teh-Editing by Jonathan Browne

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Fish farmers brainstorm on productivity

In order to enhance productivity in the fishery sector, the National Fish Farmers Union of Liberia or NAFFUL brainstorms here to enable members overcome challenges confronting the fishing industry.

A one-day forum was held on Friday, 16 March at the YMCA in Monrovia under the theme: “Enhancing conflict prevention and peace consolidation through increased food security in the fishery sector,” with support from the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

The head of NAFFUL, Madam Kona S. Kollie, says the forum was intended to educate Liberians fish farmers on key preservation methods. She notes that the meeting was also aimed at teaching members of the three cooperatives under NAFFUL to manage three storage facilities that were constructed by the organization in Buchanan, New Kru Town and West Point, respectively through the support of UNMIL.

“What we did was to first get those people, who were involved into artisanal fishing, into three separate cooperatives. And after that, we decided to build three storage facilities for members of the various cooperatives. These members now are charged with the responsibilities to ensure that those facilities are properly used and managed. And to do just that, we needed to train them,” Madam Kollie indicates.

According to her, each of the storage facilities contains seven large freezers that can preserve fish for the longest time possible. Madam Kollie, who is also head of the Young Women Organization (WOFIN), discloses that the group has also decided to recruit less fortunate Liberian youth otherwise known as “Zorgos” into the fishery sector by providing training for them.

“What we aim to realize under this very program is to buttress government’s pro-poor agenda by getting those youth off the streets to provide employment opportunity for them,” she explains.

one of the participants, Patricia Jordiah, lauds Madam Kollie and the NAFFUL leadership for the forum. Patricia, a fish seller at the Duala Market and residence of Popo Beach Community on Bushrod Island, Monrovia says the knowledge acquired will enable them to make headways in the fishery sector.

-Editing by Jonathan Browne

MCSSTA denies meeting President Weah

The Monrovia Consolidated School System Teachers Association or MCSSTA describes as a bloody lie, recent reports that the Association had met with President George Manneh Weah and discussed the fate of the institution.

MCSSTA says such information circulating in the public is malicious, and has the ability to undermine the Association, and bring its leadership to public criticism. Addressing a news conference over the weekend at the Charles D.B. King Elementary School compound on Warrant Street in Monrovia, the president of the Association Mr. Veto V. Garway notes that as the result of the Presidential Press Secretary’s post on social media on February 12, 2018 that President George M. Weah met with both the National Teachers Association of Liberia, and the MCSSTA, the post has been widely discussed by employees of the MCSS, blaming the leadership of MCSSTA of failure to inform them on the outcome of the meeting held with the President, so they were troubled by the situation.

“Henceforth, the MCSSTA leadership wants to make it clear to all employees, and the public that at no time did we held any meeting with the president as mentioned by the Presidential Press Secretary, Mr. Sam Manneh in his post”, Mr. Garway clarifies.

He says the leadership of MCSSTA has written an official letter to the Office of the President, seeking n audience with him to share the plight of teachers. He maintains that the MCSS is the biggest urban government school system, which is in a better position to share with President George Weah the real issues confronting the educational sector of Liberia.

He adds that any individual or group of people that attended said meeting in the name of MCSSTA Leadership, impersonated, something he describes as diabolical, wicked and dubious in nature.

By Lewis S. Teh-Editing by Jonathan Browne

Chinese rubber wood furniture company meets Weah

A Chinese delegation from the Shangyou Wood Industries has met with Liberia’s President George Manneh Weah in Monrovia, seeking to explore the possibility for the construction of a rubber wood furniture plant in Liberia.

An Executive Mansion release says the visit took place on 16 March at Mr. Weah’s Foreign Ministry Office. The Chinese delegation was led by its Chairman Liu Hong.

When successful, the plant will produce close to 1,200 jobs for Liberians within the first phase of the project, the release discloses. President Weah welcomed the Chinese delegation and commended them for their interest in investing in Liberia, expressing hope that such investment would create jobs for Liberians and serve as a catalyst to his pro-poor agenda.

He informed the Chinese delegation that while his government remains opened to foreign investments, the well-being of Liberians and the need for fair labor practice remain cardinal to his pro-poor initiatives.

Mr. Weah climaxed the meeting by informing the Chinese delegation to work with the necessary government entities to ensure that their investment proposal becomes fruitful.
The head of the Chinese delegation Liu Hong said after thorough assessment, they believe rubber wood could play an active role in promoting economic and trade cooperation between China and Liberia.

The Chinese delegation is from Nankang City, Jiangxi Province which is also China’s largest rubber wood consumer market.

The delegation intimated that their preliminary assessment shows that while Liberia has rich rubber wood resources, it lacks financing, processing equipment, and modern technology.

As such, the delegation says the rubber resources are not effectively used here.
The Nankang City, Jiangxi Province-based company reveals that it has a strong financial strength, advanced processing equipment, technology, scientific and a realistic business plan.

The visiting Chinese delegation was accompanied by Liberia’s Ambassador to China, McKinley Thomas.--Press releas

ECOWAS study group visits ICC

An ECOWAS study group of Ambassadors, Special Representatives, and Officials have visited the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, the Liberian Mission in Abuja, Nigeria says.

A dispatch from the Liberian Mission notes that visit on 13 March at the The Hague is part of a regional capacity building program on negotiation and mediation as instruments for conflict resolution at the Clingendael Institute of International Relations.

It says at the ICC, the relevant authorities made presentations on the history, structure, mandate of the court, the trust fund for victims, the registry, and the work of the office of the prosecutor.

The President of the Court, Justice Chile Eboe-Osuji, welcomed the group briefly and expressed how happy he was about the visit of the distinguished group of ECOWAS Delegates to the ICC.

Also welcoming the Group, Special Prosecutor Madame Fatou Bensouda, and a National of ECOWAS told the Delegates she was very pleased about their visit because it fitted her office’s current outreach on information of the court to relevant stakeholders.

She implored the ECOWAS Delegates to serve as advocates for the justice mission of the Court.“The pushback against the court is due to the negative perception about what the court does. We welcome debates, which must be devoid of political posturing,” she stressed.

The Delegates, including Liberia’s Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Prof. Al-Hassan Conteh and Madame Vabah Gayflor, the Special Representative of the ECOWAS President to The Gambia, discussed various strategies and proposals on how to get the word out about the mission and vision of the ICC.

Other Members of the Delegates were Sierra Leone’s Ambassador Afsatu Olayinka Kabba, Togolese Ambassador Lene Dimban, Nigerian Permanent Representative to ECOWAS Babatunde Nurudeen Ayinla, Babacar Carlos Mbaye, ECOWAS Resident Representative in Cote d’Ivoire, Lilian Alapini, ECOWAS Resident Representatives in Guinea.

The Delegates equally included Dr. Brown Odigie, Program Officer on Capacity Building and Mediation at the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Serigne Ka, Program Officer on Good Governance, Mr. John Elachi Agada of the Institute of Chattered Mediators and Conciliators, Ms Liliam Sowah, of the Ghana High Commission in Abuja, and Mr. Musa Kabiru, Counselor at the Nigerian Mission in The Hague.

The Delegates were participants in the Seminar on “Negotiation and Mediation as an Instrument for Conflict Resolution” at the Clingendael Institute, The Hague, Netherlands, from 12 to 16 March 2018.

Cligendael is a leading global think-tank and academy on international affairs that conducts policy oriented analysis and research on strategic international issues. Clingendael and the ECOWAS Commission sponsored the seminar, the release concludes.--Press release

Weah demolishes 9th Street residence

The original home of then soccer star, now President George M. Weah is being demolished for the construction of a new structure befitting of a president nearly two months into his presidency.

Mr. Weah who currently resides at his rehab resident, also had a new building erected in his compound just before his inauguration. There were speculations that the rehab project which was constructed under less than two months was put up by some close Lebanese merchants, others said it was state money. But the office of the president or the president is yet to comment on these swirling allegations.

President Weah has yet to grant interview to the local media who are itching for answers on several issues confronting the nation. The demolition of his 9th street resident has again sparked another debate, with some social media comments suggesting that the president may be using state money to fund his private project, while others have suggested otherwise.

The president is yet to declare his assets and there are calls that with his latest development, there is a need that he does so now. The state is responsible to provide housing for the President. Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf upgraded her private residence where she stayed for her two terms. Her Vice President Joseph Boakai also stayed at his private resident, which was also upgraded.

Mr. Weah’s Vice President Mrs. Jewel H. Taylor renovated her private resident just after inauguration at the cost of US300, 000 state money.

Govt. welcomes strong opposition

Liberia’s Minister for State and Presidential Affairs says government welcomes a strong opposition bloc that will help to highlight challenges of the regime.

Speaking to the NewDawn on Thursday, March 15, Minister Nathaniel McGill notes that the Weah-led administration believes a stronger opposition could be a reliable contributing factor to the rebuilding of a country that had suffered 14 years of civil crisis and hit by the deadly Ebola Virus Disease.

He adds that it is not the dream of government to paralyze the opposition community by battling them and creating narrow corridors for their scope of operations.

“We pray for stronger opposition bloc during our term of office because we believe that oppositions’ criticism can help to move the democracy forward, and where there is no opposition, that government may not know its shortcomings. We don’t need praise singers. Trust me on this, we support freedom of the press 200 percent and freedom of expression,” vows the former Coalition Chairman, who until about three months ago, was in the opposition himself.

According to him, the government supports freedom of the press and will always respect the media even the ones that want to fight unnecessarily. Minister McGill continues that the primary focus of the George Manneh Weah-led administration is how to achieve its pro-poor agenda and bring governance to the people thru a participatory process.

He stresses that gone are those days when people criticized government and they were hunted and brought in government, adding that the Weah’s administration will encourage constructive criticism from anybody.

“They are free to express themselves whether they are speaking the facts or not. But we will not hunt people for what they say or writ; neither will we reward people with government’s jobs for criticism. We pledge our support to exchange of ideas and stronger criticisms,” he maintains.

Meanwhile, the State Minister discloses that President George Weah will break grounds on 26 March for the construction of the first ever Military Hospital in Liberia.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Jonathan Browne


By-elections risk postponement

It appears that the senatorial by-elections for Bong and Montserrado Counties risk postponement as the National Elections Commission continues to cry for lack of funding.

At a news conference in Monrovia on Tuesday, March 13, NEC Chairman Jerome George Korkoya reveals that the commission is faced with serious financial crisis that has a propensity to undermining the electoral date as created by the electoral house.

He laments that candidates’ nomination which should have commenced this week is now proposed to a later date. The commission has since issued warrant for the holding of the two by-elections for Montserrado and Bong Counties.

Cllr. Korkoya says NEC needs about US$3.9 million for conduct of the by- elections for the two counties, which comes about as a result of Senators George Manneh Weah and Jewel Howard Taylor emerging winners of the 2017 Presidential elections, creating a void at the Liberian Senate to be filled within 90 days.

The 1986 Constitution of Liberia Article 37 states: In the event of a vacancy in the Legislature caused by death, resignation, and expulsion or otherwise, the presiding officer shall within 30 days notify the Elections Commission thereof. The Elections Commission shall not later than 90 days thereafter cause a by-election to be held; provided that where such vacancy occurs within 90 days prior to the holding of general elections, the filling of the vacancy shall await the holding of such general elections.”

“Aware of the limited timeframe within these by-elections must be completed, the steering committee commenced work almost immediately and has developed a budget for the delivery of these elections, amounting to US$3.9 million together with a clear electoral contender,” Mr. Korkoya indicates.

Giving statistics of the two counties, the NEC boss explains that Bong and Montserrado Counties have a total of 2,292 polling places with 1,970 of these in Montserrado County along and Bong County accounting for 502.

“This represents a total of 43 percent of the total number of 5390 polling places in Liberia. An estimated of 12,000 temporary field staff, including poll workers, gender mobilizers, civic educators and election supervisors will be required for the two by-elections.”

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Jonathan Browne

Civil servants face massive dismissals

A local non-governmental organization called People Action Network (PAN Liberia) is claiming that President George Manneh Weah’s administration has dismissed hundred civil servants here.

In a news release issued Tuesday, 13 March, the group alleged a massive dismissal of civil servants and others in the Weah - led administration. The release signed by PAN Liberia Executive Director Amb. Rufus D. Neufville claims that most presidential appointees of President Weah’s administration have taken unto themselves the authority to put down other Liberians who have served their country with honesty and distinction for many years.

The group says if government is no longer interested in the services of those employees, they should be justly compensated. PANL Liberia says government should retire the civil servants in accordance with the Civil Service Agency (CSA) Act, while those who worked for government and received general and special allowances be jointly compensated to amicably end the existing contract between them and the government.

According to PAN Liberia, the action of presidential appointees to dismiss civil servants runs contrary to Legislative statutes protecting workers and contravenes the many Supreme Court opinions on decency of labour and respect for contractual relation that is both expressed and implied.

“In the wake of abundant evidence of wrongful dismissal in nearly all government ministries and agencies, newly appointed officials continue to argue that workers affected are not duly accounted for by the Civil Service Agency of Liberia,” PAN Liberia claims.

It says it strongly believes that the defense is weak and without justification, adding that even if some of those employees were not civil servants, the law imputes contractual protection for people once they served an institution for a protracted period as employees.

The group notes that the Supreme Court of Liberia has held every contractual obligation needs not to be in writing, arguing that it may be oral and can be ascertained from a course of dealing between the parties.

Meanwhile PAN Liberia is calling on President Weah to reverse the administrative actions of those appointees in the interest of fairness, and respect for the sacrifice rendered by the affected employees.

By Lewis S. Teh--Edited by Winston W. Parley

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