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Special Statement By The Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism

Republic of Liberia

April 20, 2015

The Government of Liberia is grateful to the World Bank Group and its partners for the conduct of a successful donors meeting on the margins of the Spring Meetings leading to the announcement, on Friday, of the provision of US$650 million during the next 12 to 18 months to help Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone recover from the impact of the Ebola crisis, and to advance their longer-term development needs. Additional commitments, also announced on Friday, included US$300 million from the African Development Bank, US$80 million from GAVI, and US$387 million from the Global Fund through 2017.

These commitments are in addition to committed funding to the EVD response and recovery efforts from the United States, the United Kingdom, and many other development partners, and represent a substantial investment/down payment in support of the national plans of the three worst-affected countries.

The priority areas of the US$650 million will be strengthening health systems and frontline care, agriculture, education, cash transfers and other social protection programs, as well as lifesaving infrastructure such as electricity, water, sanitation, and roads. The new funds will also be used to develop a regional disease surveillance system across West Africa to help prevent or contain future pandemics.

The Liberian delegation led by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and development partners emphasized the immediate importance of “getting to zero” and staying at zero so as to facilitate the early recovery before the rainy season; the establishment of a set of cross cutting priorities including infection prevention and control in all facilities, as well as surveillance and integrated data management and communications systems; the reestablishment of essential services, especially service that facilitate the response such as maternal and child health/family planning, routine immunization and HIV/TB/malaria services; and creating an ongoing research agenda to address new and emerging risks in Ebola.

Importantly also, development partners have committed to align their support around agreed country plans and priorities under the leadership of national governments with concrete mechanisms for coordination at the country level. As such, the Liberian government will continue to prioritize the building of a resilient health system which will depend crucially on increasing the availability and strengthening of pre-service and in-service training, deployment and safety of frontline health workers, particularly in rural areas, as well as investing in reforms that expand the role of community health workers and community-owned and trusted health services especially in under-served communities.

My fellow Liberians:

On Thursday of last week, Liberians were alarmed by the death, in Zubah Town, Paynesville, of Mr. Alfred Tarnue, Jr., a motorcycle rider, which is said to have led to a rampage in Paynesville and its environs and culminated into the burning down of a police depot. Five other depots were vandalized, records and equipment destroyed, law enforcement officers injured and or subjected to various forms of indignities, and detainees forcibly released.

The Ministry of Justice has constituted an independent investigative committee to comprehensively probe these unfortunate events with an urgent view to bring all violators of the law to justice. As always, we assure all of our citizens and foreign residents that all such breakers of the law will answer to the law. For the Liberian government and people, this remains the surest path to consolidating our democratic achievements and our peace. 

And because we have continued along this assured path of deepening adherence to the rule of law, the United Nations Mission is Liberia is growing in confidence to draw down its military forces in the country. This responsible drawdown of the UNMIL is not because the Liberian Government has imported more tanks and armaments, or that unlike every governments of the world, Liberia is now positioned to stop the commission of all crimes in the country. 

Quite simply, the continuing drawdown is necessitated in large measures by overwhelming evidence of Liberia’s demonstrated commitment to govern under the rule of law by which we remain resolute in punishing all crimes justly and fairly, and by so doing, continue to strengthen the firmer foundations of our enduring peace and enhanced security.

In this regard, we have heard expressed concerns that the unfortunate incidents of the rampage ought to suggest that Liberia is “still not safe” and that UNMIL “should discontinue its drawdown”. Evidently, a safe country is never the absence of the will of a few to abuse the law. A safe country, which Liberia is and continues to be, is the omnipresent will to bring all abusers of the law to answer to the law. This is the enduring measure, and by this and other measures including the measure of crime, Liberia proudly boasts of a society that is growing stronger and safer.

Consistent with this settled course of action in the ongoing transformation of the country by which we bring violators of the law to book within the confines of the law, from the unfortunate incidents at the Tokadee Mines in Nimba County to this incident in Montserrado, we assure all of our citizens and foreign residents that the rule of law will be scrupulous observed and followed, and that all violators will answer for their transgressions. 

Finally, we feel compelled to draw attention to a matter with which the courts are seized. Without commenting on the substantive issues before the court, and limiting ourselves to the public record, we draw attention to a ruling by His Honor Peter W. Gbenewelleh in the case Clamenceau B. Urey, Sr., movant, versus the Republic of Liberia by and thru the Ministry of Justice, respondents, which grows out of the case Republic of Liberia, plaintiff versus Clemenceau B. Urey, Sr., et al, for the commission of the crimes of economic sabotage, bribery and criminal conspiracy.  

Sadly, of recent, the public space has been inundated with wholly false and imaginary claims presented in defense of these charges especially by Mr. Urey that the President directed his action, and as such, acting as an agent, he should not be liable. According to the public records, the courts have not just disagreed; it has found this defense to be “contradictory”.

 Said the ruling:

“The court also observes that the plea of the Movant is contradictory. On the one hand the Movant advances the argument that he is immune because he acted on instructions and on the other hand he argues that it was the Board’s decision but he did not vote.”

The court proceeds further that Messrs Urey and Kromah are seeking to set a “precarious precedent” stating: 

“The court agrees with Prosecution’s argument that Co-Defendants Urey and Kromah seek to set a precarious precedent in this case. That is to say, all that an indicted official or former official of Government needs to produce before a court when indicted is an affidavit executed by himself/herself that it was the President who instructed him to commit a crime without more, and he/she would expect the court to set him apart from other Co-Defendants merely because of this allegation without any showing of the instruction said to have been given.”

The judgment concludes by sustaining the resistance of the Ministry of Justice to the motion.

We draw attention to this to confirm two important facts. Firstly, that our legal system is alive and functioning. Secondly, by this easily readable judgment, we categorically debunk media reports of so-called “backroom deals” between the Ministry of Justice and the defendants to interfere with and hijack the ongoing litigation “because the President has been mentioned”. 

This administration of the Liberian government is proud of the growing independence of the Liberian Judiciary and will continue to do nothing to undermine the growing public confidence in the processes and judgments of the courts. Accordingly, these media reports are wrong, malicious and are unsuccessful attempts to assign a character to the current administration of the Liberian government that is wholly unsupported either by any previous actions of the administration involving matters that are cognizable before the courts, matters with which the courts are seized, or the unfolding proceedings of this ongoing trial. Once again, we urge media practitioners to report the truth.    

May God continue to bless our Republic.

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