Ellen assures army of government support

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has paid a working visit at the 23rd Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of Liberia at the Edward Beyan Kesselly Military Barracks in Schefflin, Margibi County.

An Executive Mansion release says the visit on Friday, 16 June at the 23rd Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) was intended to console Fatumatta Sheriff, widow of the late Corporal Ousman Sheriff who was killed by a rocket fire on a United Nations camp in Timbuktu, Mali. The Mansion says Mrs. Sirleaf who is also Commander - in - Chief of the Armed Forces, identified with six other wounded personnel of the AFL during the working visit at the EBK Barracks.

The six wounded Soldiers include Col. Dweh Marriam, PFC. Sampson Abraham, CPl. Sarah Harris, PFC. Patrick John, PFC Lahai Titus, and PFC Beyan Gboloson. Col. Dweh Marriam and PFC Sampson Abraham were among the wounded soldiers that were admitted at a military facility in Senegal but returned home.She assured members of the AFL of government’s continued support, noting that “The Government is behind you”.

“As Commander-in-Chief, I am fully behind the Minister of Defense and the Chief of Staff,” Mrs. Sirleaf said According to the president, she normally goes to the EBK to extol the soldiers, to tell them how much the nation appreciates them. “I have come to say to you how well you are doing and how pleased we are. Today, is a different mission; This is a mission dedicated to the sadness that you all have been through. It is about one person who gave the ultimate price, life, service to his country and ECOWAS,”
President Sirleaf lamented.

She had been received at the EBK Barracks by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Ziankhan, Acting Minister of Defense Joseph Johnson and other senior officers of the AFL.
Mrs. Sirleaf recalled that when Liberia was in turmoil as a result of the 14 years of conflict which led to the deaths of over hundreds of thousands of people, some were amputated while millions were displaced in and out of the country.

Coupled with dire consequences for the Liberian economy, she said the armed conflict took Liberia’s immediate and extended neighbors including Mali, who came here to save Liberia from such turmoil. Mrs. Sirleaf said it was for that reason when conflict started in Mali started, Liberia was under every obligation to go and contribute in
exchange for what Mali and other Member States of ECOWAS did here.

She then assured the six wounded AFL soldiers and Madam Fatumatta Sheriff that every benefit and solution required to tackle such future predicament for personnel of the AFL would be put into place to address such challenges. She acknowledged concerns of lack of some basic social services including electricity, pipe-borne water and accommodations to address congestion in the barracks.

Mrs. Sirleaf informed soldiers of the AFL that the issue of water shortage in the barracks, which was also brought to the attention of  authorities of the Liberia Water & Sewer Corporation (LWSC) is being addressed through the drilling of wells to alleviate problem faced.

On electricity, she appealed the army to exercise patience while the Liberia Electricity Corporation commences the transmission and distribution process for lines along the Monrovia to Roberts International Airport corridor soon. Speaking earlier, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Gen. Daniel Ziankhan informed the gathering that every time the leadership of the AFL and the Ministry of National Defense have the opportunity to meet with President Sirleaf, the focus is about upholding the morale and improving the wellbeing of personnel of the Army.

Gen. Ziankhan assured the six wounded soldiers and widow Fatumatta Sheriff that their plight will also be taken up with the United Nations Mission in Mali in a bid to pay keen attention to the wellbeing of the wounded soldiers and family members of the deceased
soldier. --Press release

US general’s killer rearrested

Authorities at the Liberia National Police (LNP) say they have “rearrested” one of four suspects who allegedly murdered a retired US general John Humphrey in 2004 at Mamba Point Hotel in Monrovia.

After re-arresting suspect Jeff Williams on the night of Wednesday, 14 June at an entertainment center in Monrovia, the police told journalists on Thursday the suspect was among four men that allegedly murdered a US security general about 13 years ago.

Having previously made alleged confession to a police investigation that followed the murder incident and sent to court in 2004, police authorities say suspect Williams was undergoing trial when he and other inmates broke jail a year later and absconded prison.

At least one of those involved in the killing of Gen. Humphrey has died, according to police, though they did not speak to cause of death. The key suspect in the case named “Bai T. Moore” remains on the run.

“No one in this country will commit crime and go with impunity”, police spokesman Sam Collins told journalists at the Police Headquarters on Capitol Hill in Monrovia Thursday.
The police spokesman recalls that in 2004, Liberians woke up to the news of the murder of the late American retired general John Humphrey.

Besides being allegedly murdered, he says investigators also established that retired general Humphrey’s laptop and other important documents were taken by robbers.During the time of the investigation back in 2004, Mr. Collins says the now rearrested suspect Williams was arrested along with one Michael who is currently in jail, Bai T. Moore who is still on the run and another person called Charles, who died at the Monrovia Central prison where he was serving his sentence.

The police say since 2004, they have been doing all they could along with INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization) to make sure that the perpetrator of Gen. Humphrey’s murder be brought to book. Suspect Williams got arrested here on Wednesday night after police intelligence received information and moved to a local entertainment center.

He made mention to you that he was released from the Monrovia Central Prison; we categorically dismiss this. If you can recall there was a jail break at the Monrovia Central Prison and he was one of those that escaped from the Monrovia Central Prison”, Mr. Collins says. He adds that suspect Williams and others took advantage of a riot staged at the prison compound by inmates and police have been hunting for him since then.

By Winston W. Parley-Othello B. Garblah

Supreme Court overturns decision in GW case

In a 68-page ruling, Justice - in - Chambers Philip A. Z. Banks has ruled that the decision of Judge Yammie Quiqui Gbeisay was an error to have placed a temporary mark on emails, spreadsheets and Global Witness report presented by the State to be admitted into evidence while presiding over Criminal Court “C”.

The ruling from the Chamber Justice came Thursday, 15 June after arguments have been heard at the Supreme Court upon the filing of a writ of certiorari by prosecutors in the ongoing US$950,000 economic sabotage trial against several past and present Liberian officials and U.K.-based Sable Mining officials.

The government was seeking the issuance of a pre-emptory writ of certiorari, after Judge Gbeisay placed temporary mark on emails and spreadsheets submitted by the state, and demanded the appearance of Sable Mining’s Heines van Niekerk in court here before a permanent mark could be placed on the instrument.

“As to whether the Judge erred when he ruled on the objections of the respondent by placing temporary marks on the contested documents, we have held that there was error”, Justice Banks says.

He adds that the writ of certiorari will lie to correct the ruling of Judge Gbeissay, ordering the clerk of the Supreme Court to send a mandate at Court “C” below, directing the judge presiding there to resume jurisdiction and proceed with the matter.

The specific instruction from the Supreme Court is that the motion to rescind is granted and the ruling of March 20, 2017 that placed temporary marks on the contested documents is reversed.

The Chamber Justice says permanent marking will be ordered placed on the documents so that their credibility can be determined at the proper time by the court.He says a judge can only refuse to mark a particular piece of evidence identified and testified to on the basis of its “being irrelevant or mark same on the basis of its relevancy” and submit it to the jury for the evaluation of its weight.

“Applying the principles of law to the case at bar, Judge Gbeissay’s primary duty at that particular stage of the trial was to determine whether the contested documents were relevant and if he found in the affirmative, he was under obligation to mark same and admit it into evidence to decide upon its weight at the disposition of the case on the merits”, he concludes.

GoL fires at Liberty Party!

The Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism on Capitol Hill has reacted sharply to the opposition Liberty Party’s criticism about President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s latest appointments.

Addressing reporters on Thursday, 15 June during the Ministry’s regular press briefing, Deputy Information Minister for Technical Services, Ricks W. Barsi-giah, says the Information Ministry will not allow people or institutions to make negative statements against the Presidency.

“We officials of this Ministry under the leadership of Minister Nagbe we will not sit and watch people, who misapply their status of education and intellects to make good for nothing comments about the appointment of qualified people”, says Minister Barsi-giah.

Though he did not directly state to whom he was referring, quite recently, the opposition Liberty Party protested against President Sirleaf’s recent appointments of persons to tenured positions when her government has less than six months to be in office, thereby calling on the Liberian Senate not to confirm individuals being appointed to tenured positions.

“The President in her capacity as head of the country has the full right to appoint people whom she thinks are qualified to help in leading the country on the right path of development, and no one can question her about such thing,” says Minister Barsi-giah. In a very angry tone, the Deputy Information Minister notes that it is unfortunate for people who claim to be politicians to question the appointment of qualified Liberian citizens, saying all of us are Liberians.

He says the President has the authority to appoint whoever is best suited to perform in specific position, which is unchallengeable, adding “So we have come to make this clarity, because what we have observed people misapply their educational status and intellect and carry on damning words and unnecessary challenges; this is no time for that, no matter we will not take distraction from the corner; we thought to make this clarity since we are in the position to do so.

According to him, when some people speak out of ignorance, they must be educated, because it part of the ministry’s job, saying we will do our best to protect the sanity of this country, and make sure that the destiny will no longer go back to where it came from.”

The Deputy Minister says government welcomes criticism, but it should be seen as a benchmark, but if individuals embark on negative comments, “we will make sure to teach you the running of the Presidency.”

The opposition Liberty Party (LP) of Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine Wednesday, 14 June issued a press statement, calling on the Liberian Senate not to confirm any appointments by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to tenure positions.

The LP in a release also admonishes the government to begin a culture of Presidential courtesy during transitions, specifically calling on President Sirleaf to take the first step by working with others to continue to develop the country’s democratic pattern.

By Lewis S. Teh-Editing by Jonathan Browne

2017 elections a defining moment for Liberia

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has described the 2017 elections as a defining moment for Liberia, which will set the stage for Liberia to continue on the path of democracy; thus enabling the country to remain on the road to peace.

“We are looking forward to free, fair and transparent elections,” a press release issued by the Executive Mansion quotes President Sirleaf to have said, adding that these crucial elections would enable the next government to build upon the gains that have been achieved so far, “to which we have all contributed to the maintenance of peace.”

President Sirleaf made the statement on Thursday, 15 June when she received in audience here, Mr. Olof Skoog, the Chair of UN Peace Building Commission.Speaking further, President Sirleaf among other things expressed optimism that instruments before the National Legislature such as the Land Rights Bill, as well as the Domestic Violent Bill will be passed to further enhance Liberia’s democracy. She emphasizes that she is very pleased with the level of improvement taking place in various sectors of the country.

The Liberian leader applauded the United Nations Peace Building Programme for the critical support it has provided to build and strengthen Liberia’s democratic systems. She made specific mention of UN support to Liberia during the 2011 elections, which was the first following the devastating civil war in the country.

She pointed out that Liberia will be on a path that will not only ensure sustained peace but “growth, development and prosperity that we all want for our citizens.”

For his part, Mr. Olof Skoog, of the UN Peace Building Commission, Liberia extolled President Sirleaf for her leadership in handling the political impasse in The Gambia adding: “I am impressed with your leadership in The Gambia crises; Thank you for such preventive active diplomacy.”

The UN Envoy congratulated President Sirleaf for the effective manner in which she chaired the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government. Mr. Skoog also toured Peace Building initiatives and interacted with top government officials, political parties, civil society and local community leaders engaged in the peace building projects here.

He however praised the Farmington River Declaration signed by political parties. “Am impressed with the Farmington River Declaration; There are lot of positive things to build on,” he emphasizes.

Mr. Skoog’s visit is geared toward gaining firsthand knowledge of peace building priorities in Liberia in the wake of the planned elections - as the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Liberia scales down its security presence.

The PBC is an Inter-governmental Advisory body that supports peace efforts in countries emerging from conflicts, mobilizing relevant actors and resources and proposing strategies for post-conflict recovery and peace-building, according to the press release.

Gen. Broh ordered to rescue Vital Statistics

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has ordered General Services Agency (GSA) Director General Mary Broh to temporarily take charge of the Bureau of Vital Statistics at the Ministry of Health to restore order, cleanliness and systems there.

An Executive Mansion release issued in Monrovia Thursday, 15 June says the directive comes after Mrs. Sirleaf paid a surprise visit to the Bureau on Thursday and discovered unprecedented filth at the exterior and interior of the entity.

Mrs. Sirleaf has ordered the Director of the Bureau of Vital Statistics at the Ministry of Health Mr. Solomon Barton to report himself to his boss, Health Minister Dr. Bernice Dahn for administrative review.

The Executive Mansion speaks of garbage and litter strewn all over the offices at the Bureau of Vital Statistics. It says President also observed that important documents were haphazardly scattered on the floor with no proper filing system.

She has therefore urged the general public to exercise patience and understanding as the Bureau will remain temporarily closed for a short period while Madam Broh and her team work to restore cleanliness and order.

The government is to initiate the automation of the records and data at the bureau during the period of closure to the public, the Executive Mansion says. Already, a team from the GSA under the supervision of Madam Broh has begun work aimed at giving a facelift to the facilities of the Bureau. The GSA is statutorily responsible for the maintenance of all public buildings and assets. --Press release

Fire Service decries low budgetary support

The Director General of the Liberia National Fire Service or NFS, G Warsuwah Barvoul, Sr., is calling on government to increase budgetary allotments for the Fire Service to help enhance its operations.

He recalls that the LNFS was established to safeguard lives and property of all citizens across the country, including provision of efficient fire services. Addressing reporters on Thursday, 15 June at the Ministry of Information on Capitol Hill, the NFS Director General narrates that to get people attention on the prevention of fire comes with lot of awareness, and at such the Bureau does not have the budget to do so.

He says in order to be effective in fighting fire, there is a need for national government to increase the budget giving to the agency, adding that the NFS normally looks at its statistics to direct fire awareness campaign.

“But what we notice is that people in the leeward counties are sensitive enough to prevent their houses, farm from catching up fire then people who are believed to be civilized people living here in the capitol and this is bad, people need to understand that to fight fire is a process, because there are lot of things involved.

The best way to fight fire is to prevent it from breaking out, and in order to be adequately prepared to fight fire is to get more resources. He narrates that the LNFS has four basic areas of services, including Inspection, Firefighting, and Investigation, among others.

By Lewis S. Teh -Editing by Jonathan Browne

Liberty Party protests Ellen’s appointments

The opposition Liberty Party (LP) of Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine is calling on the Liberian Senate not to confirm any appointments by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to tenure positions.

The LP in a release issued 14 June also admonishes the government to begin a culture of Presidential courtesy during transitions, specifically calling on President Sirleaf to take the first step by working with others to continue to develop the country’s democratic pattern.

The party seriously protests appointments to tenured positions being hurriedly made by President Sirleaf at the time the country is in transition.It says such appointments are coming at the time the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf administration has only three months of active duty and six months before official handover to the next government.

The LP emphasizes that it would be good if Madam Sirleafwould rely on the strength of her 12-year work as President of Liberia to seal her legacy rather than last minute appointments of officials who will survive her.

The Liberty Party says it does not believe that the Constitution of Liberia intends that the Legislature creates so many tenured positions, and that the President is acting in good faith when she saddles the incoming administration with so many appointments at the last minute.

The party concludes that out of deference to the incoming administration, it calls on President JohnsonSirleaf to refrain from making these appointments.

-Editing by Jonathan Browne

LRA tax collectors guilty

Two tax collectors from the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) defendants Joseph Weeks and Linda Sumowood have been convicted in a trial for collecting US$500 bribe from ex-U.S. Soldier Abraham Sanayoko to waive a false bill of US$2,352.91 that they claimed he owed government.

Prior to the jury verdict on Wednesday afternoon, 14 June, prosecutors insisted that broker Varney Johnson who received the US$500 from Sanayoko and allegedly hand delivered it to convict Weeks would face a separate trial, in an effort to convince jurors that government is not being partial over Johnson’s absence.

The prosecution says defendant Johnson absconded after he had been arrested, taken to Court and had his [bond] signed, thus leaving the State to have requested and granted separate trial against him.

The prosecution recalls that witness Sanayoko testified how prior to his encounter with convicts Weeks and Sumowood, the LRA had to dismiss another person who he claimed had tried to cheat him when he brought his goods and tried to get them out of the Freeport of Monrovia.

He testified that Weeks and Sumowood also got arrested after he alerted LRA about the second incident of bribe solicitation. The government lawyers have argued that convict Sumowood’s role amounted to criminal facilitation, when she collected and shield an alleged paper that convict Weeks dropped in a box at her desk when Officer Albert Peters of the Liberia National Police had called him surrounding the bribery claims.

After allegedly collecting the paper dropped by Weeks, the State says Sumowood did not report it until they played the CCTV and saw that she took it. Despite allegedly admitting to the incident in a statement allegedly signed by her lawyer during police investigation, prosecution argues that convict Sumowood yet went to court and denied the allegation.

Government says it would have been fair enough had convict Sumowood gone to Court and testified that she took the money, but she gave it to the police, rather than trying “to help the man to lie”.

The defense team unsuccessfully appealed to the jury panel to acquit the indictees, saying they should consider the evidence holistically and decide based on their conscience. The convicts have been on trial for over a month for bribery, economic sabotage and criminal facilitation.

By Winston W. Parley

Police cite serious constraints

Authorities at the Liberia National Police say the force faces very serious constraints when it comes to the smooth running of the organization, compelling them to minimize activities that they shouldcarry out just to be able to make their presence felt by the people, whether supported by budget or not.

“When it comes to the smooth running of the police, we’re seriously constrained. Very, very seriously constrained till we have to minimize the activities that we should carry out to enable us respond adequately in other parts of the country”, Col. Coleman told a NewDawn interview on Tuesday, 13 June.

The Police Chief further noted that by the UNMIL drawdown plan, the LNP force should be up 8,000 by now, but the force has not reached that target because they did not conduct any training during the Ebola crisis.

Regarding low police deployment in some rural areas, he argues that this is due in part to the lack of housing facilities for the men and women. He said the police have no barracks around the country, something which poses a serious impediment to police deployment.

In addition, Col. Coleman says the deployment of officers across the country requires a lot of funding which the police don’t have right now. According to him, once officers are not settled in a barracks, it’s like they are on assignment, and therefore they would have to get Daily Sustenance Allowance or DSA. That notwithstanding, he said plans are underway to erect police barracks across the country.

“I told you earlier, you can work around the logistics, but there are certain things you can’t just bypass. Like for instance, there will always be problems. You have to deploy officers from one area to
another. There is a law on this Daily Sustenance Allowance. It should be paid. You cannot expect us to have police responding to situations almost on a daily basis and you do not even have that for them.” Col. Coleman said.

He said due to the lack of such funding money that the police supposed to use to do operations, like special operations will be used to do everything else. He has further suggested that if one takes a look at the police budget for the gone year, zero dollar is on those lines.

The police chief says one of the most important things that the administration has stressed on regarding community policing is the family development component. He says those are things that they are working on that have increased the motivation of officers to get the level of performance that is seen out there.

“And guess what, the people aren’t even thinking whether you got the budgetary support or not, all they want is they got to see you. So, you got to show up. So how you do it? So that’s where the issue of competing priorities comes in”, he says.

He went on to praise senior officers on the team of leadership at the LPN, saying everyone on the team has had the same experience especially, people who are positioned along the line to be able to carry out key functions.

“So in communicating with any of them down here is not difficult”, he says, noting further that: “Humility brought me here, humility will keep me here”.

By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah


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