11 December Press Brief

Monday, 11th December 2006
Members of the Press:
  • Welcome once again to another regular weekly Press briefing.
Let me begin this briefing by informing you that the President of this country, Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, will not be drawn into the current exercise involving the arrest and questioning of former officials of the National Transitional government of Liberia, regarding the ECOWAS audit report.

What is pertaining is purely a legal matter which is being handled by the courts of this country. There is no witch-hunting and there will be no with-hunting.  The President has repeatedly said, and we want to reiterate that position, that the rule of law is respected and upheld; and the dignity of individuals involved, upheld, as the government presses its case against individuals accused of corrupt practices in the ECOWAS audit report.
    
The Justice Ministry has made it clear, and the President supports that position, that all those who have been implicated in the ECOWAS report, will have their day in court to exonerate themselves of the charges. The exercise would not be limited to only former officials of the National government. Individuals in the current government, who have been implicated in the ECOWAS audit report, will also have to answer to those charges. The Justice Ministry, as the prosecuting arm of government, decides when and who to call in at any given time. Again, we are only urging that the rule of law is respected and the dignity of those involved respected, with the view that under our laws, any individual charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty.

  • Meanwhile, we like to welcome a statement by 13 opposition political parties supporting the governmentís decision to bring to book all individuals accused of corruption in the ECOWAS audit report. The President wants to assure the parties that the exercise will be carried out in keeping with the laws of this country and without prejudice. We also welcome statements by former Bomi County Representative, Sando Johnson, lauding the government for the progress it is making toward national development and reconstruction. We regard the utterances as constructive as this government under the stewardship of President Johnson-Sirleaf continues its drive toward the Presidentís vision of renewal for this country.

  • As you may know by now, payments have begun for pensioners, following the endorsement by the President to increase by one-thousand Liberian dollars monthly benefits for all persons on the Government of Liberia pension payroll. The President reached the decision based on a recommendation by a Presidential Committee she appointed to look into the pension issue. The Committee reported that the monthly pension payment for civil servants was grossly inadequate to meet their basis needs. The increase is retroactive as of November 1, 2006.

There are questions in some circles as of the sustainability of the increase for pensioners.
Let me make it clear that the Pension payments would be sustained. When the President made the decision to increase the pension payments, authorities at the Ministry of Finance and the budget bureau worked out the numbers, and all indications point to the fact that the payments are not a one shot deal; they will be sustained.

  • I like to inform you that there has been a major setback in the construction and rehabilitation of our roads. The President had said the exercise would begin during this dry season.The Ministry of Public Works and the World Bank will be coming out with a detailed Press statement on the details regarding what the setbacks are. However, in a nutshell, the setback is due to underestimation of the Monrovia-Buchanan and the Monrovia-Ganta Highways.
The cost of the projects were estimated on emergency terms, accordingly, the World Bank provided the funds on that basis. But the road projects would commence. They will not be completed in time for the end of the dry season due to the setback. The President wants to ensure that the road project is undertaken the right way to ensure sustainability. The President has met with officials of the World Bank to discuss the issue. World Bank and Public Works officials are in rural Liberia to make way for the start of the projects.