30 August Press Briefing Notes

Monday, 30th August 2010

Media Colleagues:

• The President views as unacceptable a recent action by Maryland County Representative Bhofal Chambers of the Pleebo-Sodoken District to disrupt activities of a private entity, SIFCA in the County. As a representative of his people, Representative Chambers has every right to ensure that the interests of his constituents are protected, a principle that this Government, of which the Representative is a part, is committed to upholding.

Nevertheless, there are processes and procedures in addressing issues which affect the welfare of our people. Representative Chambers has unhindered access to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at all times, and could have taken advantage of the channels available to him other than the course he is reported to have taken by arbitrarily disrupting  the activities of a potential investor. Such action is certainly not one that is in the interest of this country. It sends a bad image of the Government and drives investors away.  Maryland, and the entire southeast region of our country, needs all the investment it can attract to address the unemployment problem. Currently, there are about 600,000 (six hundred thousand) employable citizens in that part of the country, with only 2,000 (two thousand) jobs being provided by Cavalla Rubber Plantations.

All SIFCA was doing was to ease unemployment in the county by providing some jobs through clearing of the area and starting a nursery program. The company is not engaged in any operation.   A concession agreement has not yet been reached between the Government and SIFCA.  It is now scheduled for early next month.  In the meantime, SIFCA was only trying to ease the unemployment situation by utilizing US$5.5 million which it had offered the Liberian Government, since it is the same company that operates in Cavalla.

We wish to reiterate that President Johnson Sirleaf is unwavering in ensuring that this Government remains responsive to the needs of the Liberian people and that the people reap maximum benefit from all concession agreements in their areas.

• The President over the weekend submitted to the National Legislature a quarterly report on the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  The report covers actions the President has taken regarding the report since she last reported to the Legislature a few months ago. It would be inappropriate to disclose the specifics of the President’s report before the lawmakers have a chance to review it.

• On Sunday, September 5, the President will cut the ribbon on the arrival of the first direct flight between the United States and Liberia for 20 years. The President views the coming of Delta Air Lines as another milestone in the progress of our country and this Government.  It means that after a terrible conflict, the thread connecting Liberia with its oldest partner has been repaired. Liberians have more freedom to travel to the U.S., and our friends have more freedom to come here.  This will bring benefits to everyone, as people, goods and ideas can flow more freely.

• Liberia’s former Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Nathaniel Barnes, arrived in the country last week for consultations with the President. President Johnson Sirleaf is scheduled to meet with Ambassador Barnes later on Monday.

• The President again welcomes an agreement with the American oil giant, Chevron, for oil exploration in Liberia’s offshore area. The President is delighted to welcome Chevron as a partner for Liberia to explore our oil and gas assets. Energy is one of the President’s top priorities, and with Chevron’s technical skills, we will be able to build our own capacity in the sector, making meaningful contribution to economic growth and job creation.

The agreement is a result of a meeting the President held with Chevron during her visit, in May, to the United States concerning oil exploration off Liberia’s shores. The President wants to make it clear that if oil is found, the Government will use transparency and fairness to avoid the “resource curse” and will invest the proceeds for future generations.