March 2 Press Briefing

Monday, 2nd March 2009

Members of the Press:

Let me welcome you this briefing session.

• As you may have heard by now, our President, Madam Ellen Johnson, will on March 7th & 8th co-convene the International Colloquium on Women’s Empowerment., Leadership Development, Peace and Security at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville.  More than 400 international guests as well as an additional 500 local participants will be converging in Monrovia for this historic event.

The President will also host the President of Rwanda, Mr. Paul Kagame, Senegalese President, Mr. Abdoulaye Wade, and the President of Finland, Madam Tarja Halonen, who arrives in Monrovia on Friday at the start of a state visit. President Halonen, who is co-convening the Colloquium with President Johnson Sirleaf, will be received in audience by the President at the Foreign Ministry for talks. Delegations of the two countries will also hold bilateral discussions.

During the state visit, President Halonen will also address a Joint Session of the National Legislature, followed by an Investiture later in the afternoon to be followed by a State Dinner hosted by President Johnson Sirleaf.

The President is excited about the prospects of the Colloquium and urges all within our borders, including members of the press, to join in and make the event a success.

• The President, you may have heard, visited Bong County on Sunday to get a first-hand account of the effects of the caterpillar invasion on that part of the country. Her Excellency visited several areas including Pelele, Naama and Shankpala towns located in Zota District.  She was not satisfied with Government’s response regarding the restoration of social services to the people of the area, and apologized to them for the slow pace of the response.  The President assured residents of Zota District that she will get personally involved in addressing the shortcoming, especially the restoration of running water, which the cited as the core problem following the caterpillar invasion.

During her visit to Bong County, the Liberian President also extended sympathy to the family of a motorcyclist who was allegedly killed last week in Gbarnga, Bong County, under questionable circumstances. The President has called for an investigation into the incident, and has requested the Motorcyclist Union to assist the investigating team.

The President condemned setting ablaze of the county’s magisterial court allegedly by angry youth who were protesting the death of their colleague. She also condemned the burning of the Liberian flag, describing the action as a flagrant disregard for the national colors and disrespect to the country.
President Johnson Sirleaf then directed the Ministry of Transport to put in place regulations which will protect motorcyclists. The Ministry has been directed to place some urgency in the drafting of the guidelines.

• Regarding developments at the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), the President has directed that accounts of the Authority be frozen until further notice. The decision by the President is predicated on reports about excessive spending at the LTA under a budget which has yet to be approved by the President. The decision ordering the freezing of the accounts at LTA is one of a number of measures the President has undertaken to address the situation at the Authority.

• The President has been meeting with media executives in an effort to discuss issues of mutual interests. One of the issues that has emerged during the meetings is the need for Government to help strengthen the capacity of local media. Some of the media institutions complained that they are being left out of Government advertisement placements because they are being perceived as critical or anti-Government. The President assured the media executives that Government has no policy excluding media houses from receiving advertisements or announcements.

The President has accordingly directed all heads of ministries and agencies to deal with media institutions and stop being selective in the placement of advertisements. She again reiterated her call on ministries and agencies to settle media bills since most of the institutions are facing financial difficulties and rely on these payments to help sustain their businesses. 

I thank you.  I will now take your questions, if any.