Senate, Journalists Clash -As Sergeant-at-Arms Bites Prime FM Reporter

Grand Bassa County Senator and Chairman on  Rules, Order and Administration at the Liberian Senate,  Nyonblee Karngar Lawrence, on Wednesday, January 31, 2018, during the confirmation hearing of Justice Minister-designate, Charles H. Gibson, reportedly ordered Legislative reporters flogged when they tried entering the main chambers of the Senate floor to gather news.

Senator Lawrence who was recently elected as Chairman on Rules, Order and Administration, was heard ordering the Sergeant-at-Arms and her personal securities to physically push reporters out of the Senate chambers, thus leading to the Sergeant-at-Arms, Toe Chelley Toe and Senator Lawrence personal security physically assaulting journalists who were trying to make their way in the chambers to do their work.

The situation led to journalist Austin Kawah of Prime FM finger being bitten by the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Senate while Journalist Abraham Kolleh Morris of the In Profile Daily was brutally thrown out of the Senate chambers, accordingly leading to serious scuffle among legislative reporters and the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms and Senator Lawrence’s personal securities.

When journalists under the auspices of the Legislative Press Pool (LEGISPOL) brought such embarrassing situation and impeding of their work to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Senator Albert Chie, they (LEGISPOL’s) leadership were seconded to the Secretary of the Senate for formal complaint because the Pro Tempore had guest, but when legislative reporters arrived in the offices of the Senate Secretariat, the Secretary of the Senate was said to be busy so the Assistant Secretary of the Senate granted the journalist body audience and promised to relay the information to her boss for the way forward.

The scuffle leading to journalists Kawah and Morris being manhandled upon the order of Senator Lawrence by the Sergeant-at-Arms and Senator Lawrence securities was as a result of the Senate’s reported deliberate refusal to repair the public address system (PA system) that was donated to the Legislature by the United States Aid for International Development (USAID).

 

The equipment (PA system) which allows journalists to collect proceedings or discussions from the floor of the Senate during plenary’s public or confirmation hearings has been destroyed or spoilt since March 13, 2016 during the appearance of the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia.

The leadership of LEGISPOL has on several occasions written; met and discussed such embarrassing situation with the past leadership of the Senate, but no effort has been exerted to remedy the situation.

The situation led reporters covering the Senate to run from one Senator desk to another in order to get a clearer recording or information from members of the Senate during deliberations.

Unlike the House of Senate, journalists are restricted to their press gallery during deliberations on the floor of the House of Representatives owing to the fact that the PA system there is fully functional and working.

Meanwhile, the leadership of LEGISPOL has called for an immediate emergency meeting so as to discuss these unforeseen circumstances confronting journalists and bring such negative situation to bed.

 

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Rep. Smith Heads National Defense Committee

The Speaker of the 54th National Legislature, Dr. Bhofal Chambers has named Representative Jimmy W. Smith of District #2,  Monsterrado County, as Chairman on the National Defense Committee in the Lower House.

The new Defense Committee Chairman is a staunch executive member of the Coalition for Democratic Congress (CDC) of President George Manneh Weah.

House Speaker Chambers said individuals appointed to various committees in the Lower House  possess high degree of good moral conduct and he has confidence in their integrity to steer the affairs of their respective committees as Chairpersons and the memberships.

As a statutory committee within the leadership of the Lower House,  the Defense Committee has a constructional mandate to amongst other things help to strategize appropriate mechanisms working with relevant authorities and security institution of government to train, recruit and supervise the activities of the country’s defense system in terms of protecting lives and properties within the territorial confines of Liberia.

It has an oversight responsibility to liaise with and collaborate with appropriate national defense actors to assist in designing strategies for the training of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Coast Guard to protest the nation’s coastal lines from any security threats.

Speaking briefly to reporters following his appointment, Rep. Smith assured members of the Lower House of his readiness to chair such a strategic committee, noting, “With the cooperation of my committee’s members, we will make a difference for our people.”

Rep. Smith comes to the position with a wealth of experience backed by his academic and professional expertise and credentials. He holds a degree in security science and did much study in policing in both United States and Liberia.

‘MLS Study Abroad’ Launched -As 63 African Students Benefit

By Mafanta Kromah

The Mohammed Lassana Sanoe (MLS) Study Abroad has launched its company in Liberia after helping over 63 African students go China for study in various fields at 23 different universities.

Speaking at the launching program on Wednesday January 31, 2018 at the YMCA conference hall on Crown Hill Monrovia, the CEO of the company Mohammed L. Sanoe noted that his idea came after he got the opportunity to study and decided to give back to his country and the continent through the MLS Study Abroad program.

Before he started sending people, Sanoe said there was issue of trust and he decided to use his mother stand for him so people will believe what he is saying and that his dream to help young African could be achieved

The CEO also said his own mother did not believe him during the start until when he helped send two young Liberians to China for studies.

“That was when my mother decided to take the bon and because of that we have helped 63 African students go China for further education, 80 percent of whom are Liberians,” he indicated.

He explained that his company was only registered in China but decided to legalize it in his own home Liberia, saying, “Today marks the official and grand launch of our company.”

Sanoe said their major challenge was getting people to trust someone they don’t see or know but said they manage to overcome that challenge and today they are at the point where there are some that have gotten their admission, some visa and others waiting on the results.

He said the process of getting the scholarship is merit based which requires a person to be an “A” or a “B” student. “We are working with 23 universities in China both government and private universities, these universities have scholarship slots for students and our company engaged them and students buy these slots and go for their studies but the scholarship also includes benefit such as allowance per month, accommodations and other scholarship benefits,” he said.

He maintained that the higher a person paid for the scholarship is US$4,500 for the 4 years of studies, which he said include visa, flight, slot and other fees within that time.

However, Sanoe explained that on many occasions his company has tried to get the government of Liberia through the Ministry of Education to intervene and see how they all help the young people get a better and quality education, stressing that they were not able to get their intervention.

He narrated that his company is not in the position now to help students go free on the scholarship but hopes with time his company will get the necessary funding to help smart students further their education abroad and get the knowledge and experience required and give back to their society.

He concluded that the benefit of his company in the process is that his company is awarded the last person slot money upon bringing in several persons. “For example if we brought 10 persons in one university, the one making it 11 is ours and it is left with us to take the money or give that to one smart student.”

Meanwhile, parents are being encouraged to send their kids abroad for studies as they too at first did not believe.

Among parents was Michael Sammie, father of one of the students studying in China who requested other parents and leaders to give their kids the opportunity to further their studies in a new environment where they will understand the world and when giving back to the society will be in international standards.

 

Petition Underway -To Detach Culture & Tourism From Information Ministry

By Teacee Gbeway

A group under the banner Reclaiming the Liberia Beaches and Waterways Project is expected to petition the 54th National Legislature to create and establish the Center for National Culture & Tourism as an entity detached from the Ministry of Information.

The center, when created, shall be called National Agency for Culture and Tourism. The agency shall be clothed with authority to reclaim, protect, manage, monitor and supervise, maintain and control beaches and waterways along the coastal belts and wetland of Liberia.

According to the petition, the idea is geared towards protecting beaches and waterways from waste and chemical pollutions; improving Liberia’s beaches for tourism and the waterways to support agriculture programs.

The project has enormous positive impacts on communities where it is executed. Accordingly, clean environments are safe environments; clean communities reduce the incidences of outbreaks of diseases and sicknesses like malaria; diarrhea, cholera, et.

The project employed 1, 800 underprivileged Liberians including 20 percent old-age, 40 percent girls, 20 percent people with disabilities, 20 percent boys aimed at ensuring that underprivileged Liberians are directly empowered economically; this has reduced their exposure to rape and exploitation.

The cleaning of beaches and waterways over the period infused cash into the economy through wages paid to workers and other project staff. The project has also infused monies in beneficiaries’ pockets as a means of economic empowerment through which they have increased their power to purchase goods from petty traders and small businesses over a period of time.

This also empowered residents to provide basic social services for their families. It is expected that the cleaning of beaches will also attract investors who are interested in transforming the beaches to resorts, which will create long- term jobs for residents who have skills in service management, housekeeping, among other things.

The project has helped in reducing government spending on outbreak of water and air bone diseases as well as running stomach and diarrheal in slum communities.

It has afforded some workers opportunities to engage into business, which enhances the country’s economy.

The project is also meant to reduce death rate during the Ebola crisis in Liberia.

Since September 2011, the leadership has successfully implemented the first phase, with the Liberia Maritime Authority, the second phase with the MFPD and the third phase with the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

Initially, the Liberia Maritime Authority as one of the stakeholders whose activities are coastal and waterways- related, funded and managed the first phase of the project before it was officially launched, considering the fact that 80% of the beneficiaries (workforce) were youths between ages 18 to 35.

The Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) turned over the management of the project to the leadership to the Ministry of Youth and Sports which has the statutory responsibility to develop and implement youth’s empowerment programs and projects.

The program aims at increasing employment opportunities for youths of school going age, in and out of these vulnerable communities as well as vulnerable adults. It also targets vulnerable youths with minimum quota of at least 20% old-age, 40% women, 20% people living with disabilities and 20% men.

This will help improve the sanitation and hygiene condition of the beaches and waterways systems in Liberia; thereby preventing erosion and reduce death rate of mostly children from drowning.

When enacted and turned into handbill, it will further prevent, minimize and discourage illegal sand mining and stop the misuse of waterways in various communities.

The project is in line with the agenda of transformation of the government, impacting the lives of underprivileged Liberians by empowering them through the social economic sector of Liberia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long Awaited… Young Folks In; Old Folks Out

By: Lewis K. Glay 0886469835/lglay.inprofile@gmail.com

 

The second and largest batch of nominees in the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)-led government seems to unveil President George Manneh Weah’s determination to get the young folks of Liberia actively involved in the governance system of the country.

At ministries, agencies and public corporations, President Weah, as demonstrated by the latest nominations of Liberians, has exhibited the launch of a promise he made to the young people that they would work in the government once he was elected.

Unprecedentedly, before commencing the formation of the CDC-led government, President Weah ordered previous officials of the Unity Party-led government to leave offices, thereby passing caretaking authority over to Human Resource Managers of ministries, agencies and public corporations to take charge until new officials are appointed to run the day-to-day affairs of those entities.

This move, seasoned administrators observed, caught unaware many former officials who thought they would hold on until fresh appointments were made by the President before relinquishing offices.

Though critics say most of the young people being nominated are inexperienced with some reportedly having no first degrees, gender equality is said to be considered and that many of those nominated are people who, over the years, criticized past administrations for doing little or nothing to improve the lives of Liberians.

“Thank God President Weah has not paid deaf ears to their quest as he forthwith began nominating some of them to serve in government. This is a testament that young people are included in the initial stage of the formation of the CDC-led government. All they need to do is to be capable in performing the duties and functions of their respective positions,” a former Assistant Minister of the UP-led government told the In Profile Daily in Monrovia.

The former government official argued that it is different to be advocate and criticize government than serving as official and at the same time playing advocacy role, adding, “sooner than later, the young people in government will get to know the difference between campus politics and national politics.”

However, other Liberians remain sceptical to see how well the regime will sail in the midst of challenging economic constraints, joblessness and abject poverty which have greeted the new regime.

Yet, on the average, Liberians are optimistic that President Weah is likely to succeed because his initial approach signals inclusiveness and ownership of a regime that wants to see Liberians united for growth and development.

Recalled during the 2017 presidential and legislative  elections , ‘ generational change’ overwhelmed the campaign message of the Coalition for Democratic Change, thus indicating that the young people of Liberia

who had decried marginalization by aging politicians  were on the move to  take state power, once the CDC gets elected.

Weah Accused?

Few weeks after President George Weah began nominations of individuals to serve in the Coalition for Democratic Change-led government, a group of Cedecians under the banner: ‘Cedecians United for the Protection of Democracy in Liberia’ has expressed disappointment over the manner in which President Weah is nominating people to positions of public trust.

Addressing journalists over the weekend in Monrovia, the Chief Spokesman of the group, Timothy Tweh, said they are seriously frustrated over what he claimed  indicates that President Weah has been  manipulated by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf when it comes to appointing individuals to serve in the new government.

Mr. Tweh, a resident of Clara Town who was flanked by his Secretary General, Matthew Quaye from New Kru Town and a member, Thomas Nimely from West Point, told reporters that they  worked very hard for the Coalition for Democratic Change during the campaign period to ensure the victory of Ambassador Weah during the 2017 elections.

Unfortunately, he claimed that President Weah  is being seen as dancing to the drum of former President Sirleaf in appointing people, particularly former government officials who are the interests of the ex-President to positions of trust.

Mr. Tweh named Foreign Minister Gbehzongar Findley, Labor Minister-designate Moses Kollie; Varney Sirleaf, Internal Affairs Minister-designate, among others, as close confidants of Madam Sirleaf who are being nominated by President Weah while qualified members of the Coalition for Democratic Change are on a waiting list.

This claim suggests an early disgruntlement within certain segment of the support based of the CDC, even as the formation of the government has not reach its climaxed.

 

 

 

Media Executives On Weah’s Press Freedom

By: Precious  Gaye 

Some media executives have welcomed President George Weah’s recent statement on a favourable working environment for journalists within the country, as it relates to freedom of expression, hoping the statement becomes tangible.

Weah, during his inaugural address on January 22, 2018, affirmed commitment to support freedom of expression during his tenure, in continuation of the gains made by his predecessor, Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,

In his words, “We could not have arrived at this day without our voices being heard loudly, and all our views, no matter how critical, being freely expressed in an atmosphere void of intimidation and arrest. This was only made possible by the tolerance of my predecessor, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who protected the rights to freedom of speech as enshrined in our Constitution. Now, in my turn, I will go further to encourage and reinforce not only freedom of speech, but also freedom of political assembly.”

Mr. Malcom Joseph, Executive Director of the Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP), acknowledged that the President’s comment is laudable and it signifies his commitment to press freedom in Liberia.

Joseph urged the President to demonstrate such promise into tangibles, with the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law, which has before lawmakers.  He added that, if Weah can exercise his executive lobbyist power to pass the act to decriminalize Libel, being used against the media that will signal that he is committed to press freedom in Liberia.

Joseph noted that although it is still too early to judge the current regime as it relates to press freedom, he is hopeful that Liberia will transcend from the level of being a partly free in terms of press freedom to a free country, according to the latest index from  Freedom House. a non-governmental and government funded organization that advocates for political freedom, democracy and human rights based in the United States of America.

Joseph highlighted prospects in reference to other media related laws to engage the 54th Legislature, including an act to transform the Liberia Broadcasting System into a Public Broadcaster, an Independent Broadcast Regulator Act, and Community Radio Sustainability Act.

Press Union of Liberia (PUL) president, Charles Coffey, also lauded the President comment in this regard and hopes that such pronouncement will be put into practical acts.

Coffey suggested that Weah include the media in his pro-poor agenda as outlined in other prospects besides the ‘Liberianization’ policy with regards to removing tariff on media related equipment imported into the country, which would allow Liberians to venture into the importation process.

For his part, the publisher for the IN PROFILE DAILY, Mr. Carlton Boah, is of the opinion that Liberians should allow the new government to work in the excesses of the past government as the Weah has promised.

“I will give him the chance, he said he would do everything to improve what the Madam Sirleaf left out, so it is incumbent upon us Also speaking, PUL’s for president, Peter Quaqua, said Weah probably needs some briefings on the importance of this bill in his desire to strengthen press freedom and political assembly.

Quaqua acknowledged his excitement over the president’s initial thoughts about press freedom. He added that going forward, Weah administration needs to appreciate that the decriminalization of defamation and speech is indispensable to sustaining our democracy.

It can be recalled on that July 20, 2017, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf submitted to the legislature a bill to decriminalize  press offences, particularly Libel.

The bill is titled “An Act to Amend the Liberian Codes Revised Penal Law of 1978”. It delayed two years and half after a promise made by the former president.

Reports show that Liberia is signatory to the Table Mountain Declaration issued by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and World Editors Forum (WEF) signed in South Africa in 2012, which calls for an end to Criminal Libel. Liberia has passed the right to information laws in 2010.

 

PWI Conducts Training For WASSEC Trial Test

Praise Word Incorporated (PWI) is conducting its weekly series of invigilator’s training for the upcoming trial test in partnership with the National Association of Liberia School Principals (NALSP), aimed at minimizing mass failures in the pending public examination scheduled for April, 2018.

The PWI is a business company founded December 16, 2014 with the vision to minimize mass failures in public tests in Liberia.

The training which is being conducted at the offices of Praise Word Incorporated behind the SKD Sports Complex in Paynesville is intended to provide trainees with the basic technical knowledge on how to properly invigilate public examinations.

The training has been on-going since July 12, 2017 up to present. Over one hundred twenty -five persons who were participants of the past training session are now benefiting from the PWI on a periodic contractual employment.

The PWI is encouraging more females to take advantage of the training opportunities. The company is calling on more college students and qualified trade technicians to join the training session. In order to be part of the training, interested individuals must be  competent high school graduates; they  should not be  classroom teachers.

Serving as  Senior Administrator during the opening session of the Fifth Class of trainees, the Chief Executive Officer, James Henry Hall, disclosed that the mission of Praise Word Incorporated is not only to reduce mass failures in public tests, but  to create a system that will introduce evaluation answered booklets for examination candidates;  ensure full evaluation of public test candidates; supply an up to date laboratory equipment; provide teachers’ loans; manufacture copybooks; textbooks; and locally made school attires.

Speaking after the training session, Trainee Stanley E. Sackie said an invigilator is a person charged with the responsibilities of conducting a particular examination session in the presence of the candidates, while the role of an invigilator is to ensure that all candidates have equal opportunities to show their abilities and to prevent examination mal practices.

In another development, the company is calling on all high schools in Liberia to introduce Praise Word Incorporated system of Invigilation during their periodic test to enable students overcome fear factors during public examinations.

Chief Coordinator Officer T. Edweader Toliver made the call to the Liberian Educational Council as well as WASSEC to embrace the company’s system and include PWI in their testing and evaluation programs.

 

WASSCE Candidates Celebrate Government’s Gesture

By Mafanta Kromah

Senior students in many schools are celebrating after President George M. Weah announced during his first state of the nation address that fees for the 2018 West Africa Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE) will be waived for both private and public senior students.

According to student Mayamu Kromah of the St. Francis High School in Paynesville, outside Monrovia, the president has done a huge favour for them for taking on the initiative to pay their WSSCE fees.

“I was not ready to go to school until my father found a way to pay my exam fees but the God, President Weah has taken the initiative to assist our parents in their struggle of giving us education,” she noted.

Mayamu said, on Monday she could not go to school because she was asked to pay her exam fees of US$60 and was finding means to raise the money when she heard that the president announced his commitment made during the campaign that he will pay their fees.

Leela Johnson of the Calvary Temple AG Mission School in Paynesville also expressed the excitement when she overheard people taking about the president’s statement on the exam fees.

“You don’t know how happy I am to have heard that our new leader will really stick to his promises, all I felt when the promise was made during campaign was just intended to get us and our parents votes,” she said.

It can be recalled that during the campaign, for more than a week students were seen moving around at the Coalition for Democratic Change Headquarters that president Weah by then the standard bearer of the CDC needed the number of students in various schools to pay their exam fees.

Addressing the nation, the Liberian leader noted that “The improvement of our education is and shall remain a constant and major priority during my administration.”

He continue that “For example, I made a promise that my government will absorb the WAEC fees for 12th graders, and I remain committed to that promise, my government has already started to disburse these fees by committing an initial among of two hundred thousand US dollars .”

At the same time, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), in consultation with the Ministry of Education,  has extended the deadline for registration for the 2018 exam.

A press release says that the final deadline is February 13, 2018 and that any school failing to register before the final deadline will be responsible for paying the exam fees for those students.

The institution called on all schools administration and principal to register their students the institution online portal and that schools will be about t register their student without making any payment.

WAEC assures schools that have already paid their fees to expect refund once the government fulfils its remaining financial obligation to the institution.

Meanwhile, the the Education Ministry is urging all schools that have not yet registered their students to desist from collecting fees from students.

 

 

LRA Assures Modern Customs Administration -As It Observes International Customs Day

The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) on Friday January 26, 2018 joined the world over to celebrate International World Customs Day.

The celebration was a global event intended to recognize the role of customs officials and agencies in maintaining border security with a focus on the working conditions and challenges facing customs officers in their respective lines of duties.

LRA Commissioner General Elfrieda Stewart Tamba, speaking during the celebration at the Monrovia City Hall, disclosed that the transformation of customs operations to a modern state remains a core vison of the Authority.

She said LRA envisages to ensure a modern and standardized customs operations with the aim to enhance trade facilitation and revenue collection.

“Our vision is to have a transformed and a modern customs with stronger integrity more fully automated in adherence to international customs including regulatory and service performance standards,” CG Tamba asserted.

CG Tamba said the integration of technology in customs operations is very essential to ensuring an increase revenue collection.

She said there are several earmarked transformational projects underway including the upgrading to a new version of the Automated System for customs Data (ASYCUDA).

The LRA Commissioner General noted that the web-based system will be assessable via the Internet and is expected to get customers graduate from calling for declaration to using paperless technology to declare their goods.

She emphasized that customs officers and brokers have a national responsibility to ensure that trade across the national border legal and that goods leaving and coming in the country’s customs territories, through the international supply chains, are lawful and safe.

CG Tamba called on all stakeholders including government and international partners to render the LRA the needed support that will enhance the modern technology needed nowadays at Customs in ensuring transparency and integrity in carrying out cross-border businesses.

Delivering the keynoted address at this year’s celebration of International Customs Day, Liberian businessman Amin Modad praised the LRA for leading the change in promoting the collection of lawful revenue.

“If you understand just how much the functioning of the Liberian Government depends on customs receipts, you will join me in recognizing that the LRA has become an example to follow,” Mr. Modad declared.

He described the role of customs officers and brokers as very vital to the development and sustainability of the Liberian economy.

The celebration which was under the theme “A secure business environment for economic development” brought together LRA customs and officers of other Liberian paramilitary apparatus connected with revenue collection.