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EDITORIAL: Cdc-led Government Has Not Earned The Right To Abolish By-Elections in Liberia

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THE HIGHLIGHT of a retreat involving the Executive and Legislative branches of government at the Farmington Hotel at the weekend was a plea from President George Manneh Weah, requesting the 54th Legislature to consider the approval of eight revised propositions for referendum to amend some provisions of the 1986 Constitution.

THE FACT of the matter is that Liberia remains vulnerable to a lot of political uncertainties. What the President is proposing is wrong because this administration has fallen short of exhibiting the strengths of an inclusive government and cannot be trusted to decide who should fill a seat in the legislature in the event of an unfortunate situation.

A KEY COMPONENT of the President’s plea is a proposition that any vacancy created by death, resignation, expulsions or otherwise of a senator or representative, should be filled by appointment by the “duly elected County Councils” within 90 days from the time the notice of vacancy is announced to the County Council by the presiding officer of the Senate or the House of Representatives.

HERE LIES our problem with the President’s proposal. The ruling Coalition for Democratic Change which has just lost a major election in Montserrado County Senatorial By-elections and facing a rerun in the District No. 15 Representative race is yet to show that it is a government of inclusion.

THE PARTY HAS not hidden the fact that only its partisans should be appointed to positions in government and those from other political parties are constantly being targeted for not belonging to the ruling party and should therefore not be employed in the government. 

LIBERIA’S POST-WAR DEMOCRACY is still fragile and these by-elections offer a chance for political parties to put up candidates against the ruling establishment, especially when those elected to serve continue to take voters for a ride by ignoring the reasons for which they were elected.

ALL THIS OFFER very little of confidence from many Liberians in the government and President’s ability to make appointments based on the most qualified and most experience individuals to help the government achieve its pro-poor agenda.

IF THE PRESIDENT’S sole objective with his proposal is to open avenue for more jobs for partisans of the ruling party then we see no reason why the national legislature should spend its time deliberating on such a partisan proposition.

WHILE WE SUPPORT the proposition by the President to suggesting reduction in the tenures of president and representatives from six years to five years, and the Senators from nine to seven years, the President must not only go a step further in pushing for a reduction from six to four years but also seek reduction of Senators from nine to six years.

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UNER ARTICLE 45 OF THE 1986 CONSTITUTION, the Senate shall composed of Senators elected for a term of nine years by the registered voters in each of the counties, but a Senator elected in a by-election to fill a vacancy created by death, resignation, expulsion or otherwise, shall be so elected to serve only the remainder of the unexpired term of office. Each county shall elect two Senators and each Senator shall have one vote in the Senate. Senators shall be eligible for re-election.

THE DANGER for tweaking the constitution at this moment in time to abolish By-elections is enormous and raises a lot of questions. 

IS THE RULING PARTY and the president suddenly sensing that it no longer has the vote to win future elections and is now resorting to a last-ditch effort to have a presidential-appointed council decide who replaces a member of the Senate in the event of a death or resignation?

LIBERIA’S POST-WAR DEMOCRACY is still fragile and these by-elections offer a chance for political parties to put up candidates against the ruling establishment, especially when those elected to serve continue to take voters for a ride by ignoring the reasons for which they were elected.

WHAT THE PRESIDENT SHOULD instead be pushing for is putting a halt to sitting members of the lower house trying to contest senatorial positions.

IN A FEW MONTHS from now, twenty members of the House of Representatives will reportedly be vying for some 15 senatorial posts up for grabs.

THIS IS INSANE and should require the attention of the Presidency, more urgently than abolishing by-elections in its entirety.

LIBERIA’S BOURGEONING democracy is still fragile and yet so full of promise and potential. While we appreciate the President’s attempts to propose some amendments to the constitution, we prevail on the presidency to do so in the best interest of Liberia – and not in the interest of a party looking to find opportunities for jobs for its partisans. 

IS THE RULING PARTY and the president suddenly sensing that it no longer has the vote to win future elections and is now resorting to a last-ditch effort to have a presidential-appointed council decide who replaces a member of the Senate in the event of a death or resignation?

THE FACT of the matter is that Liberia remains vulnerable to a lot of political uncertainties. What the President is proposing is wrong because this administration has fallen short of exhibiting the strengths of an inclusive government and cannot be trusted to decide who should fill a seat in the legislature in the event of an unfortunate situation.


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Liberia

Weeks, Others Spend Second Night

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…At Central Prison

Former and current Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) officials who were re-arrested Tuesday, August 20, 2019 and jailed have spent their second night at the Monrovia Central Prison.

Defendants Charles E. Sirleaf, Milton A. Weeks, Dorbor Hagba, Richard H. Walker and Joseph G. Dennis were re-arrested Tuesday, after prosecution changed their earlier charges to Money Laundering.

The defendants were immediately taken to the Monrovia Central Prison and jailed.

But defendant Sirleaf was released late Tuesday evening on medical ground while the others spent the night there.

Montserrado County Attorney Cllr. Edwin K. Martin told The NEWS Tuesday evening via mobile phone that defendant Sirleaf’s medical bill has since been before the court which indicates that he’s not well.

However, his colleagues remained behind bars, apparently they have not filed valid bond to be released.

On Tuesday, Judge Blamo Dixon of Criminal Court “C” ordered the defendants re-arrested and imprisoned until the right bond is proffered if possible.

The Judge in his ruling on Tuesday, August 20, 2019, said government lawyers should turnover every documentary evidence to the defendants through their lawyers in 72 hours to give the defendants sufficient notice and enable defense team to provide adequate representations.

He also commanded the sheriffs of the court to serve the defendants with the Writ of Arrest along with the indictment so they can be aware of the new crime charged by prosecution.

The defendants were first charged with Economic Sabotage, Criminal Conspiracy, Criminal Facilitation, Criminal Solicitation and Bribery.

The five former and current CBL officials who were re-arrested Tuesday, same being August 20, 2019, were immediately taken to the Monrovia Central Prison for the amended crime of Money Laundering that was imposed on them.

The defendants were re-arrested based upon the indictment prepared against them by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County.

The indictment said the Grand Jurors have taken an oath to find probable cause that the defendants at CBL at the time committed the crime of Money Laundering, a first degree felony in violation of chapter 15, sub-chapter “D”, section 15.2 (a) (b) (c) (d) (f) of the penal law of Liberia.

The crime, money laundering states that, “a person or body corporate or other legal entity commits the offense of money laundering if that person knowingly or having reason to believe that is the proceeds of crime: engages directly or indirectly in any transaction which involves the property; receives, possesses, conceals, disguises, transfers, converts, disposes of removes from or bring the property into Liberia; or participates in, associates with or conspires to commit, attempt to commit, or aids or facilitate the commission of any of the above acts.”

According to the indictment, on April of 2016 up to August of 2018, at their CBL offices, the defendants by virtue of their employments within the CBL deliberately, knowingly and intentionally colluded and conspired with the wicked intent to launder money and sabotage the Liberian economy.

It also revealed that the defendants defrauded the CBL and the government when they unauthorizingly printed excess Liberian dollar banknotes amounting to 2,645,000,000 (Two billion six hundred forty-five million Liberian dollars) to infuse into the Liberian market.


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Liberia

Weah Reiterates Commitment

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… To Protect Women

President Dr. George Manneh Weah has again reiterated his commitment to the promotion and protection of women and girls against sexual gender-based violence and gender inequality, an Executive Mansion release discloses.

The release said President Weah made the pledge Wednesday, August 21, 2019, at his Foreign Affairs Office when he received a petition from women who reportedly represented ten civil society organizations.

The women through their designated speaker, Mmenbeydo Joah-Harell petitioned the President to protect the rights of women, increase the number of women in government and provide security in District 15, Logan Town.

The Liberian leader told the petitioners that his commitment to gender equality and protection of the rights of women, girls and children would not diminish for any reason or by another force.

“I want to assure residents of Montserrado County, particularly voters and candidates of District 15, as well as all Liberians and the world that there would be a free, fair and transparent elections anytime under my administration,” the Liberian Chief Executive averred, adding that he would increase security presence in District #15 if there would be a rerun.

President Weah also reminded the women to take responsibility to preach peace. He urged the women to also prevail on their relatives, mainly youth, to at all times be peaceful and refrain from violence.

He used the occasion to once more call on leaders of political parties to encourage their supporters to be civil and peaceful during election times.

The Liberian Leader also promised a timely and prompt investigation into last Saturday’s violence in District 15.


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Liberia

Culture Of Impunity Must End

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…RWHR Wants War Crimes Court Established

The Regional Watch for Human Rights, Inc. (RWHR) has stressed the need for the Liberian Government to end the culture of impunity that it said has engulfed the Liberian society by the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court.

Addressing a news conference Wednesday, August 21, 2019, in observance of International Justice Day Worldwide which was celebrated on July 17, 2019, Cllr. Thompson Adebayor, Regional Director of RWHR said Liberia failure to establish war crimes court for people to account for their actions is responsible for the recent wave of violence in the country.

He said had people who committed heinous crimes during the country’s civil unrest been prosecuted for their action, it would have served as deterrence for others.

Adebayor told journalists that the establishment of war crimes court would demonstrate the government commitment to fight impunity which he claimed appears to be taking over the country.

He said the establishment of war crimes court is in the best interest of the government and its people.

At the same time, Cllr. Adebayor said his group is troubled and concerned about the wave of violence and insecurity in the country.

He called on the government to probe the recent electoral violence in District#15, Montserrado County to ensure perpetrators are brought to book.

The RWHR boss said Liberia has come a long way relative to the maintenance of peace and stability, something it cannot afford to jeopardize.

He called on every political party to jealously guide the peace that the country currently enjoys.


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Liberia

“False Assets Declaration”

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…Rep. Gray Descends On Dillon

By A. Omaska Jallah

Montserrado County District #8 Representative Acarous Gray has described as ‘false asset declaration’ the recent declaration of assets by Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County, terming it as a violation to Section 10.3 of the Code of Conduct.

He said Senator Dillon declared his assets at the Liberian Senate without knowing and indicating his net salary on the assets declaration form provided to him by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).

While taking over at the Liberian Senate, Senator Dillon presented all documents regarding his assets, but his gross and net salary as senator was not indicated, something he told journalists in a recent press conference that he has not being informed about his salary by the Senate; as such, he could not indicate it,

But Rep. Gray said this contradicts his understanding of assets declaration.

According to Section 10.3 of the Code of Conduct under sub topic ‘Sanctions for False Declaration’ “every Public Official and Employee of Government shall declare and affirm that his or her declaration is accurate to the best of his or her knowledge. Any statement in such declaration found to be false upon verification shall lead to summary dismissal and other measures provided by law.”

But speaking to Legislative reporters on Tuesday, August 20, 2019, the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Montserrado County District #8 lawmaker said Senator Dillon lied under oath, according to the mentioned section of the Code of Conduct; and as such, it is punishable under the same law.

He claimed that Senator Dillon violated the Code of Conduct relative to asset declaration; as such, he should be punished for misleading the public, noting that the senator undeclared his assets.

Rep. Gray maintained that Senator Dillon has betrayed historical comments made by him several months ago before coming to the senate.

Before his election, the Montserrado County Senator, in several public forums, stated that he will declare his assets if elected as senator and front for the reduction of salaries by senators at the Liberian Senate, something Gray described as political rhetoric that is yet to come to reality.

At the same time, Rep. Gray has disclosed that the CDC has filed a bill of exception to the National Elections Commission (NEC) which, according to him, is expected to be heard today.

According to him, the NEC haring officer that heard the complaints filed by the candidate of the collaborating party in the just ended Montserrado County District #15 by-election, Telia Urey, was in a contradiction.

The NEC hearing officer called for a rerun in the six quarantined precincts within the district, specifically Logan Town.

Rep. Gray said the hearing officer told the hearing that there was no fraud, yet he called for rerun.

This, the Montserrado County lawmaker said, is a complete contradiction by Hearing Officer.

Meanwhile, Rep. Gray has condemned the serious wave of violent perpetrated by both supporters of Telia Urey and Abu Kamara.

He called on supporters of candidates Urey and Kamara to remain calm.


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Abu Kamara Reveals ‘Untold Story’

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…In Latest Electoral Violence

LINA

“It was the first time ever I saw my family shivering from fear and trauma caused by the sounds and cracks from stones thrown at our house. Cars parked in and around my compound owned by family and friends were also vandalized,” Abu Kamara, candidate of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) in District #15, Montserrado County, narrates his ordeal.

The statement on his social media platform followed the counter-throwing of projectiles by his supporters spurred by initial attacks by those loyal to his key opponent, Telia Urey of the All Liberian Party.

Supporters on both sides were injured in the process which happened in the lead-up to a re-run at six precincts in the district under the county’s combined Senatorial and Representative By-elections.

The car belonging to candidate Urey was also attacked, one account stated.

In his statement, though, Kamara said: “We witnessed another episode of an act of electoral violence within our District. I am ultimately concerned about the escalating tension and violence erupting fears into residents of our district and contaminating the peace we enjoy.”

“We must stop the fears and electoral violence by all means possible and free our people from this political servitude,” he added.

Furthermore, Kamara urged his partisans, supporters to detach and avoid any act of violence and remain calm as they progress to the re-run poll, adding that episodes of violence are fast approaching a point where they can cause division amongst the people and land their fate into a doom of anarchy. “Liberia stands beyond us.”

Meanwhile, Kamara says he stretches hand to meet rival Urey and her team of managers, the district governing council, religious leaders, and all stakeholders in the by-election of the district for a reconciliation meeting in a secluded environment to mend relation, mitigate future violence and put the interest of the people above their political egos.

“I caution all involved, especially my supporters, to remain steadfast to peace and remain calm by avoiding all forms of violence to enjoy our fragile peace,” said Kamara.


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