House fines Farmington Hotel

The House of Representatives on Tuesday, fined privately run Farmington Hotel the amount of $499.99 following a row over bad labor issues complained by local staffs, but dropped a contempt charge against the hotel.

During hearing on Tuesday, 13 March, the House ordered that the fine be paid with immediate effect the same day. Earlier on Thursday of last week, the House of Representatives charged the Farmington Hotel with contempt for not appearing in honor of a communication seeking the hotel’s response to complaints of bad labor practice against local staff at the Farmington Hotel in Margibi County.

In addition to the Hotel’s failure to appearing on the day it was scheduled by the House, it had written a communication to the House that contained no contact or name for the signatory, thus provoking the lawmakers further.

But Farmington Hotel General Manager Richard Robaix informed the House on Tuesday, 13 March that the hotel’s Financial Manager forgot to put his name on the letter, saying he was very sorry for that.

After being quizzed by some Representatives, Mr. Robaix admitted to the lawmakers that he fled the country because he was afraid after receiving lawmakers’ communication ordering him to appear at the House. But he says he returned based on his lawyer’s advice.

The Hotel’s chief security officer Alvin S. Tapeh also wrote a letter of apology to the House for what transpired at the Farmington Hotel on the 23 February when he interrupted conversation between Rep. Ivan Jones and employees at the hotel.

After Mr. Robaix’s apology to the House for his failure to honor their call, Montserrado County District #8 Rep. Acarous Gray told his colleagues to drop the contempt charge against the hotel and go into the bad labor practice issue since the General Manager had apologized to them.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ivan Jones who took the complain to his colleagues against the hotel has thank the House of Representatives for looking into the plight of his people.

By Bridgett Milton--Edited by Winston W. Parley

UN to expand support here

Photo caption: DSG Amina Mohammed speaks as H.E. Ambassador Olof Skoog, Permanent Representative of Sweden and Chair of the Liberia Configuration looks on.

United Nations Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed has announced that the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund is ready to expand its support to Liberia as the country transitions from peacekeeping to peacebuilding.

Speaking Tuesday at an informal meeting of Liberia's Peacebuilding Configuration in New York, DSG Mohammed said " the Peace Building Fund has been a committed partner to Liberia, lending a support of 10 million dollars in 2017 and is ready to expand its support". She however said much more is needed from development partners to realize Liberia's ambitions.

A dispatch from Liberia's Permanent Mission to the UN quotes Madam Mohammed as saying that a UN Country team headed by a strengthened Regional Coordinator will take over from the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) to ensure a more supportive and responsive presence in the country.

Noting that "peace can only be sustained with sustainable development", DSG Mohammed said the principle funding mechanism for the UN engagement with Liberia will be the Multi Partner Trust Fund, to be managed at the Country level with the Government as Co-Chair. "It's part of ongoing reforms at the UN and such collaboration will reduce the fragmentation and duplication of development assistance and ensure the achievement of the 2030 agenda and sustain peace in Liberia" she stressed.

The Deputy Secretary General disclosed that Liberia's new plan for national development 2018-2024 will bring together all Liberia's peacebuilding priorities and efforts to achieve the SDGs, making it much easier to produce a core for investment. "Strengthened multilateralism for us means there is much better environment for bilateral arrangements to support government in what they want to do and also bringing in business and ensuring Civil Society and other key actors play their parts" she asserted.

In response, Liberia's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Israel Davies thanked the United Nations and other partners including the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and the European Union, for the support over the years.

Mr. Davies welcomed plans for the tripartite engagement involving Liberia, the United Nations and the Peacebuilding Commission as part of Liberia’s New Development Plan for mutual accountability and hailed the establishment of the Multi-partner Trust Fund as a pragmatic way to go.

The meeting of Liberia's peacebuilding configuration precedes the "Liberia Moment" a series of high-level events marking the end of UNMIL's peacekeeping mandate in Liberia later this month.

Plans announced to make LINA autonomous

Immediate past Liberia News Agency (LINA) Director General Rep. J. Nagbe Sloh says the first bill he will introduce at the Legislature next week is the LINA Autonomy Bill that pushes for an autonomous status for the nation’s news agency.

Mr. Sloh who is now a representative for Sinoe County was turning office over to his successor, newly appointed LINA Director General Mr. Kwame Weeks when he made the pledge Tuesday, 13 March at the Ministry of Information.

Mr. Sloh observes that internationally, Liberia and Burkina Faso’s news agencies look bad, vowing that he will work to ensure that Liberia’s news agency gets the support it needs to succeed.

“... Right now, Liberia and Burkina Faso are the only countries on the planet earth whose national news agencies are so attached to the Ministries of Information,” he says, adding that internationally Liberia looks bad and Burkina Faso looks ugly.

He also promises that while he is at the House of Representatives, the crumbling walls of state broadcaster ELBC will be drastically improved and LINA will reflect a true national news agency.

Liberia’s Information Minister Eugene Nagbe expressed confidence in the new LINA Boss Mr. Weeks, saying he had absolutely no hesitation that Mr. Weeks is competent.

Mr. Nagbe describes LINA as a critical component in the national media team, and pledges his ministry’s preparedness to work with Mr. Weeks.

Responding, Mr. Weeks says his goal at LINA is to make his president look good. He told LINA staff that if they make the news agency look better, the President and the Information Minister will shine. He promises that under his administration, information coming out of LINA is one that is going to be robust.

By Winston W. Parley

Weah pays tribute to fallen Liberian heroes

President George Manneh Weah has paid tribute to fallen Liberian heroes, heroines and beloved ones on the occasion of National Decoration Day.An Executive Mansion release issued in Monrovia says President Weah, paid tribute to fallen Liberians when he visited grave sites and cemeteries on Wednesday, 14 March.

The Executive Mansion says Mr. Weah visited the grave site of the late President William V.S. Tubman and his loved ones including some prominent members of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).

He commenced the observance of Decoration Day with a visit at the Thinkers Village Cemetery where he paid homage to a friend indeed.

Mr. Weah later paid visisted the Duport Road Massacre Monument and paid respect to those that lost their lives as a result of a war time massacre there.

He also visited the grave of the late Kladee Nagbe, the late wife of Information Minister Eugene Lenn Nagbe and laid wreath and offered prayers on behalf of the departed souls.

President Weah also made a stopover at Voka Mission Cemetery where he honored his late Mother and Grandmother Anna Quaye-Weah and Emman Klon-Jlaleh Brown as well as his aunt.

He visited the grave sites of two fallen partisans of the CDC, the late Papie Solo and Col. Blackie at the Barnesville Estate, and then climaxed the day by visiting the Centennial Pavilion where he offered prayers and laid wreaths over the grave of late President William V.S. Tubman.

Meanwhile, President Weah has on behalf of the Government of Liberia extended his deepest sympathy to all those that lost their beloved ones and friends throughout the years, and has called on Liberians to observe the day with peace and harmony. --Press release

Freemuse releases first annual report on State of Artistic Freedom

In a first-of-its-kind report assessing the global state of artistic freedom, Freemuse warns of the emergence of a new global culture of silencing others, where artistic expression is being shut down in every corner of the globe, including in the traditionally democratic West.

In 2017, 48 artists were serving combined sentences of more than 188 years in prison. Spain imprisoned 13 rappers – more musicians than any other country. On average, one artist per week in 2017 was prosecuted for expressing themselves. Egypt, Russia and Israel accounted for one-third of violations against LGBT artists and audiences. Seventy per cent of violations against women artists and audiences were on the grounds of indecency, a rationale used in 15 countries across Europe, North America, Asia and Africa. And artists from minority groups suffered violations of their artistic freedom in a near 50/50 split between countries in the global North and South.

“The nationalist politics in the US and Europe has created a new legitimacy to dismiss perspectives and artistic expression of ‘others’. Together with traditional repressive regimes, the new global culture of silencing others has taken freedom of artistic expression to a new low,” Freemuse Executive Director Dr Srirak Plipat said. “Our research and analysis show that those in power anywhere share a will to silence those with whom they disagree, dislike, fear or simply see as different.”

Freemuse will launch its report at 9:00 CET on Thursday 15 March 2018 online and at an event in Stockholm, Sweden, in partnership with PEN Sweden.

“The consequences of these violations against art and artists are incalculable. Artists challenge authorities by their creativity and by their power to convey sharp observations and ideas that many people share. When authorities silence artists, it affects a wide group of readers, listeners and audiences,” Anna Livion Ingvarsson, Secretary General of Swedish PEN, said.

The State of Artistic Freedom 2018 report documents and examines 553 cases of artistic freedom violations in 78 countries, exploring the rationales and mechanisms in place that allow for these violations to take place.

Through this comprehensive analysis we have identified 18 countries, including China, Cuba, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, Poland, Spain, Turkey and the US, that have exhibited alarming developments in how they treat artists and their freedom of artistic expression, and are ones to keep a watch on throughout 2018.

This report is part of Freemuse’s research and advocacy initiative to promote and defend freedom of artistic expression. Freemuse is supported by Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation AgencySida, the cultural section of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Fritt Ord Norway.-Press release

SOS Liberia receives 19 children

The Monrovia Alternative Care facility of SOS Children’s Villages Liberia has received 19 more children, recommended by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.

In September, 2017, SOS Liberia together with the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection reunified children that were living in the Monrovia Children’s Village with their biological parents, following an assessment which proved that the children were ready to be reunified and reunited with their respective biological families.

This action created space in the Monrovia Children’s Village and since then, SOS Liberia set out to work with the Ministry and all other relevant stakeholders, including community persons to replace the children that have left the Monrovia Village. An independent verification team embarked on a very elaborate and thorough exercise to ensure that only children that qualify for alternative care get admitted into the homes. This is in line with social protection policy of the Republic of Liberia, as well as the United Nations guidelines on Alternative Care, both of which state that Alternative Care should be a matter of last resort.

Presenting the 19 children to the SOS Children’s Village on behalf of Deputy Minister, Madam Lydia Mai Sherman, the Director of the Social Assistance Division, Mrs. Alfreda Jacobs said, the Ministry of Gender is pleased with the partnership with SOS Liberia.

Speaking recently in Monrovia at the presentation ceremony, Madam Jacobs noted that protection of Liberian children is important for the progress of the country, adding that the children were taken mainly from the VOA Community in Brewerville, a community that was highly affected by the Ebola crisis, with several deaths reported.

She noted that SOS has shouldered the responsibility for several of the kids whose parents lost their lives during the deadly Ebola crisis of 2014. “Today, I am honored to present nineteen children from the VOA Community to SOS Liberia, Madam Jacobs said. She then pledged her Ministry’s commitment to continue to work with SOS Liberia for the care and protection of vulnerable children, particularly those who have lost parental care or are at the risk of losing parental care.

Receiving the children on behalf of SOS Children’s Villages Liberia, National Director, Mr. Augustine A. Allieu said that the day was a very important one in the lives of the children.

Mr. Allieu explained, “UNICEF reports that there are about 220 million children without parental care or at risk of losing it who live in extremely disadvantaged circumstances worldwide. Also related to that is the fact that 1 in 10 children live without parental care worldwide. Here in Liberia, according to LDHS, only 49% of children under 15 live with both parents”.

He stresses that it is therefore quite imperative that, in line with the social protection provisions of the Republic of Liberia, organizations such as SOS Liberia comes in to support these category of vulnerable children in order to ensure that they can experience the joys and fulfilments of a loving home, while realizing their full potentials in life – like any other child.

SOS Chlddren’s Villages Liberia currently operates out of two main locations –Monrovia (Montserrado County) and Juah Town (Grand Bassa County). The organization supports mainly children that have lost parental care or are at the risk of losing parental care.

-Editing by Jonathan Browne

Israeli experts train fish farmers in Bong County

Agricultural experts from Israel in partnership with the Aquaculture fish farmers here have conducted a two-day intensive training in Gbarnga, Bong County.

Speaking to the NewDawn at the start of the training recently, the production manager Mr. Tamir Ezer, said the training was meant to educate fish farmers in Liberia how to grow fish in their respective communities and to test suitable areas for fish farming, amongst others.

Mr. Ezer explained that he will exert all efforts in enhancing skills of fish farmers across Bong County, stressing the need for fish farmers to take the soil as theirs.
The technical director for aquaculture in Liberia, Mr, Zaza Kpadeh lauded the Israeli experts for building the skills of fish farmers in Bong County.

According to him, the aquaculture program was established to teach young people how to grow fish and create job opportunity for themselves. Mr. Kpadeh explained that the organization basically focuses on how fish farmers could acquire skills to manage fish pumps in the County.

He urged participants to make use of the knowledge acquired especially, in their respective communities. Speaking at the end of the two days event, some fish farmers who attended the training thanked the agriculture experts for imparting knowledge in them, terming it as an eye opener.

They believe the training will greatly help in producing fish in their respective communities.“We are really happy about the training and we can assure you that what we have learnt will be implemented to the fullest”, the trainees promised.

By Joseph Titus Yekeryan, Bong County-Editing by Jonathan Browne

SRC engages community residents

The Management of Salala Rubber Corporation or SRC in Margibi County District Five engages community residents mainly beneficiaries of its operation through meetings.

The engagement is a normal routine as part of the company’s social corporate responsibility, usually held with local authorities, towns and villages that are found within the operational areas of the SRC.

Commissioners, paramount and clan chiefs, general town chiefs, town chiefs, management, workers union and citizens from about 50 towns and villages recently convened at the SRC Central School in Camp #4.

Speaking to reporters following the meeting, SRC Public Relations Manager Lewis Shilling, explains that the purpose of the meeting is to acquaint with the citizens and make them understand that both company and residents need each other.

He says when there are issues; the best way to solve them is to dialogue with the people, adding that this is also the rationale behind the meeting. Mr. Lewis Shilling: “The purpose of this gathering is for us to know our people, let them know us because there have been a lot going on around here and we want them to feel that as a company, we need them, they need us. When there are issues the best way for us to solve [them] is for us to sit and discuss so these are some of the issues actually we thought it wise to have this meeting, to educate them on. We’ve been doing it, it is not something new, it is our social corporate responsibility; we’ve been doing it to the letter, but it appears as if there are other new people coming into the community who don’t know the genesis of all these things”, he notes.

He added that they are going to be robust and will be reaching out to the communities on a monthly basis to ensure that they do more of what they have been doing for the people.

However, Mr. Shilling adds that though there are some constraints, but there are still rooms in their budget to do more for the locals. The SRC Public Relations Manager continues that there are some issues mainly with land that dates as far back as the 1950s which some people are still bringing back to the company.

According to him, there are records on people who were paid for the land and their photos attached to documents of agreement with the company.Some of the people making complaints personally want money to be paid to them, he notes but adds that they have always told the people that they are interested in working with them to bring development.

Also speaking during the meeting, the General Manager of the SRC Alupay Shinid, says the objective of the meeting is to allow the locals know the company and make them understand that SRC is not their enemies.

The MD calls on the residents to collaborate with the company to bring about mutual understanding in their relationship. He says SRC will work very hard as a company to cover all towns and villages that have concerns and would work with them to understand their needs and priorities as well as implement projects that are required.

Meanwhile, some of the villagers who made remarks during the meeting thank the SRC management for its activities but express concerns about alleged excesses by the company.

By Ramsey N. Singbeh, Jr. in Margibi-Editing by Jonathan Browne

Employ based on competence

President George Manneh Weah has urged Cabinet Ministers to employ based on competence and not along party lines. An Executive Mansion release issued in Monrovia says President Weah made the call when he spoke on Sunday, 11 March during the 53rd birth anniversary of his wife, First Lady Clar Marie Weah at the Winner Chapel in Oldest Congo Town.

He the release says Mr. Weah reminded his Cabinet to ensure employment is based on competence and not on party line since the government aims to bring change and not to continue on the old path.

President Weah described the First Lady’s birthday as a special day in his life and a blessing, especially celebrating with his wife on her natal day in a church.

He says although he is not perfect, he however promises to do his best to be a people-centered President. Mr. Weah assured Liberians that he will prioritize the less fortunate in society and the wayward children known as “Zogos” to become useful citizens after a prolonged civil war in Liberia.

He furthered that his wife was able to mentor him during the civil war by challenging him to reach out to the Liberians who were languishing in refugee camps across the sub-region by helping to bring relief to their shattered lives.

President Weah says, like his grand-mom and mom, the First Lady is an inspiration to him.
Speaking, Madam Clar M. Weah thanked President George Manneh Weah for the opportunity afforded her to serve the Liberian people and promised to reach out to all in her power, by the grace of the Almighty.

Madam Weah also applauded the people of Liberia for electing her husband and promised to work with him to bring Liberia to its pre-war status. Earlier, Pastor Chidiebere Mibuko of Winner’s Chapel cautioned President Weah to be steadfast in administering the affairs of the nation.

Pastor Mibuko challenges President Weah not to be distracted but remain focused. Press release

Working with fishing communities to manage sharks and rays

A community science project to manage sharks and rays in Liberia is building on its success to expand from Monrovia and Robertsport to new locations in Buchanan, Harper and Marshall.

The project, collaboration between the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA), will train local people to gather key information on Liberia's shark and ray populations, and give citizens the opportunity to feed into plans to improve fisheries sustainability.

Sharks and rays play a vital role in the health of many marine habitats. Loss of sharks, for instance, can lead to dramatic imbalances in the ecosystem that can cause the degradation of coral reefs and destruction of seagrass beds, both of which provide important nursery habitats for young fish. This is particularly important in Liberia, where 33,000 people rely on the fishing industry for their livelihoods, and 65% of all animal protein eaten comes from seafood.

Unfortunately, sharks and rays are particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they tend to grow slowly, reach sexual maturity late and have low rates of reproduction. In Liberia, although routinely fished, they currently lack any form of legal protection. This could have real implications for the coastal communities that rely on healthy marine ecosystems to provide food.

Amdeep Sanghera, EJF's coordinator for the project, says: "We do not know if sharks and rays in Liberia are in trouble. There is very little information on how their populations are doing, and in some cases none at all. There is an urgent need to gather the crucial data that can support sustainable management. This is why we are excited to work with the Liberian government's NaFAA and fishing communities in trying to secure a brighter future for sharks and rays."

Since 2013, EJF has been working to identify and measure the sharks and rays being landed at West Point and in Robertsport. Building on that success, the project is being expanded to new locations Buchanan, Harper and Marshall.

Emma M. Glassco, Director General of NaFAA, says: "Sharks and rays are important for the health of the marine ecosystems that support local fishing communities. With a new government in place in Liberia we have the chance to make a fresh start, taking an ecosystem approach that provides the best possible solution for both local people and marine wildlife."

This is a long-term, participatory project, where citizens will have the opportunity to feed into management measures to ensure they reflect their needs as well as the needs of sharks and rays. –Press release

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