14 December Press Briefing Notes

Monday, 14th December 2009
Members of the Press:

Let me welcome you to another briefing session of the Executive Mansion, intended to highlight some of the activities of the President during the week and address other issues of national importance.

The President, you may know, traveled to Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County, over the weekend to participate in a trade fair, featuring a variety of products made in Liberia. The occasion was also attended by Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, and United States Ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Also present was this year’s University of Liberia Commencement Speaker, Mr. David A. Straz, who serves as Liberia’s Honorary Consul to Tampa, Florida. He is providing about US$1 million of his personal funds for the construction of a polytechnic college in Sinje, to serve as an extension of the University of Liberia’s science college. The President’s delegation, which also included the Chinese Ambassador, toured the construction site.

As part of Her Excellency’s activities during this week, the President will, on Tuesday, meet with members of the Land Commission to discuss interim measures that body has adopted on public land sale.

On Wednesday, the President, who is the Visitor of the University of Liberia, will witness the school’s 88th Commencement Convocation at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex. Also on Wednesday, the President will attend the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, at the Executive Mansion Grounds. On Thursday, she will participate in a program featuring rural women, under the theme of “Rural Women – Agents of Change.”  At that event, the Ministry of Gender and Development will launch the National Gender Policy of Liberia.

As you may have noticed, renovation work on the principal streets of Monrovia has begun. However, it has been brought to the attention of the Office of the President that street sellers and commuters alike are not observing road signs posted at construction sites, thereby impeding or obstructing renovation work. The President is appealing to all concerned to stop the obstruction by adhering to the orders of the police. We understand the numerous activities that come with the holidays, but urge pedestrians to exercise patience as CICO carries out its work to improve the streets of Monrovia.

On the issue involving the publisher of the Plain Truth newspaper, we wish to inform you that Mr. Syrennius Cephas is now under investigation at the National Security Agency. Mr. Cephas will be providing more details on a story he published last week, accusing the Government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of providing arms to dissidents in Guinea to overthrow that Government. Not only is this a reckless lie, but it also fails to take into account the fragility of the situation in Guinea, as well as the fact that whatever happens in that country will greatly affect us.  The manager of Semarco Printing Press, Mr. Micheal Makinde, has been arrested by the NSA and is being investigation as well by the Agency. He was picked up on Saturday. Again, as you may know, this Government, and especially this President who has been victimized by the suppression of free speech, will never do anything to curtail freedom of the press. However, we must all be mindful of our responsibility when providing news to our people.

President Johnson Sirleaf has been engaging the Guinean Government since the beginning of the transition and has been working with her colleagues in ECOWAS to find a peaceful resolution of issues in that country. She will never allow Liberia to destabilize any country, and much less Guinea. We want people to feel free to speak up, but they must also carry the burden of that freedom.

I thank you.