26 March Press Brief

Monday, 26th March 2007

Members of the Press:

The March 21 storm in Ganta, Nimba County and its environs has claimed the attention of the office of the President. The President deeply regrets the disaster in Nimba which has left more than 424 structures and villages damaged, displacing more than a thousand of our citizens in the area.
Prelimary estimates from local authorities put the cost of damage at approximately US$250-thousand dollars. The Office of the President has been in touch with the
the Ministry of Internal Affairs on the situation. The Ministry has informed us that it is in contact with local authorities in Nimba to help bring relief to the people of the area.

A delegation from the Ministry, headed by the Deputy Minister for Operations, Mrs. Yah Kialian is headed for Ganta this week to assess the situation. A Representative from the National Disaster Relief Commission, Mr. Alfred Tarlue will also be visiting Ganta this week on an assessment tour of the area and the surrounding villages affected by the storm. It is our hope that other relief and humanitarian organizations would come to the aid of the people of Ganta by providing the much needed assistance to the victims of this natural disaster.

The President, as you may have already heard left the country last night for a two day State visit to Canada.  The main focus of the Presidentís Canadian visit is to seek Canadaís support towards current initiatives to waive Liberiaís multilateral debt. Canadaís support for Liberiaís debt relief is critical, as a member of the G-8.

Several meetings and activities are planned for the President during her short visit to Canada.
The President will be meeting with Senior Canadian government officials, including the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. Madam Johnson Sirleaf is also scheduled to meet with the President of the Canadian International Development Agency, Mr. Robert Greenhill; the Minister of International Cooperation, the Honorable Josee Verner; the President of the Canada Ė Africa Business Group, Mr. Lucien Bradet and Governor of Canada the Honorable Michaelle Jean., as well the Special Advisor to the African Development Bank, the Rt. Honorable Paul Martin.

The President also has speaking engagements at the University of Toronto as well as a Canada 2020 Conference under the theme, ďCrossing Boundaries.Ē The Chief Executive will also meet with the Liberian Community in Canada.
President Johnson Sirleaf returns to the country on April 1, following a stop over in the United States, where she will take a short two-day break.

Last week, we informed you that the World Association of Newspapers wrote the President expressing concern over government reaction to the recent publication by the Independent newspaper of pornographic materials. The Association alleged in their letter that in addition to harassment against the Independent newspaper, the publisher of the paper was in hiding because his life was in danger. During the Presidentís meeting last week with officials of the Press Union of Liberia and Media Executives, the issue was discussed at length and we all have agreed to find a way forward in the interest of our country.

However, by way of information, let me inform you that we have now responded to the Associationís letter.

The report, the Association has been informed, is grossly exaggerated and far from the truth, because Mr. Deanís life is not in danger, neither is he a wanted man or being harassed by any person in the Republic. He moves around freely pursuing his normal activities.  A full text of our response is available for your respective news outlets.

I will now take your questions.