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Miss Liberia Contestants Demand Compensation

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Contestants of the ill-fated 2012 Miss Liberia Beauty Pageant are demanding compensation from the Government of Liberia in line with recommendation by a probe committee. The contestants in a 2-page letter addressed to Gender and Development Minister Julia Duncan Cassell, and Information Minister Lewis Brown reminded the government of its obligation.

Copies of the letter were circulated to civil society organizations, including the Center for the Protection of Human Rights, Women NGO Secretariat and Association of Female Lawyers. Eleven young ladies, who affixed their signatures to the document, blamed the government for paying deaf ears to their concerns.

In the aftermath of the 2012 controversial pageant, the government set-up a probe committee to look into circumstances that characterized the process that led to the exercise, which was marred by disagreement between the judges and organizers of the pageant CT.COM.

In its findings after several weeks of probe, the committee blamed the Ministry of Information and CT.COM for the poor planning and results. The committee accused the ministry for failing to collect and ensure periodic reporting as stated in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) reached with CT.COM. The report further noted that MICAT also failed to account for US$35,000.00 allotted by the government for the beauty pageant.

“Despite budgetary allotment of US$35,000.00, the contestants informed the committee that they did not receive a cent from the Ministry of Information or CT.COM in their preparation for the contest,” the reported pointed out. It said the ministry failed to provide adequate oversight and effective leadership during the process, which produced a winner rejected by the judges.

CT.COM CEO Christopher Onanuga was also blamed for poor planning and hosting the event. The Committee said it finds no procedures between the organizers and judges that outlined set criteria for the selection of the judges.

“CTCOM was unable to show how the judges were selected. The organizers could not show trend through which contestants were selected from various counties,” the report stated.

It indicated that nearly all of the contestants were reported to have been physically abused and molested by Chris Onanuga, a Nigerian. It documented all of the abuses against the contestants and submitted same to Information Minister Lewis G. Brown.

CT.COM boss Onanuga has been told to apologize to the government, contestants and people of Liberia for poorly handling of the 2012 Beauty Pageant which exposed the country to both local and international disrepute, and left the government with no alternative but to withdraw from the prestigious Miss World Beauty Pageant.

The committee has called on President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to graciously meet the 11 contestants, who participated in the pageant, which she attended. The committee’s final report dated October 17, 2012, recommended for the result of the pageant to be cancelled, and that Liberia should make no representation to the Miss World Beauty Pageant.

It also recommended that Chris Onanuga and his entity (CT.COM) be banned from hosting Miss Liberia contest in the next five years. It said the contestants should be compensated US$3,000.00 each, while the grand prize (vehicle) should be sold and proceeds shared among the contestants.

“The Gender Ministry should participate in the selection process of future organizers of Ms. Liberia Pageant. The Nigerian, Onanuga should be investigated for charges of alleged abuses and molestation made against the contestants (Ms. Liberia 2012 Beauty Pageant),” the committee’s report read.

Members of the committee setup by the government included former Miss Liberia Ollie White, chairperson; Mrs. Onike Gooding- Freeman, Secretary; Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence and Roseline Sherman. Others were Estelle Liberty, Monjay George Pratt, Pearine Davis-Parkinson, Emmanuel Bowier and Jacob Kabakollie.

Last year April Liberia hosted its annual national beauty contest dubbed “The Revolution” at the Executive Pavilion, but it ended in controversy with two of the participants declared winners.

The organizers announced Lofa County contestant Miss Leeda Knowlden as winner, while the judges favored Miss Brigitte Rouhana of Montserrado County.

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