16 April Press Brief

Monday, 16th April 2007
Members of the Press:

Welcome once again to another session of Executive Mansion Press Briefing.
It has been an exciting and rewarding week on the road as the President toured the South-eastern parts of the country. The visit which began on Wednesday, April 11, took the President and Ministers as well as other senior government officials to Nimba, Grand Gedeh, Rivergee, Maryland, Grand Kru and Sinoe.

The visit to the South-east was indeed a success.  It afforded the President and her officials the opportunity to see and feel first hand, the plight of the people of rural Liberia.

From one county to another, the overriding concern of the people centered on roads.
Most of the remote parts of the country are not connected by roads, and in areas where there is road connectivity, the roads are impassable. The Ministry of Public Works, the citizens were informed, has brought into the country some equipment to help rehabilitate and maintain the roads. Some of the equipment will be stationed in the South-east region to respond to the high demand for road maintenance. The Public Works Ministry, with support from the World Bank, has already begun the rehabilitation of major roads throughout the country, including roads in the South-east.

The fact that the President and delegation could travel by road to the South-east is a testimony that the Ministry of Public works has responded to the President’s challenge to tackle head on the bad road network in the South-east.

The road between Rivergee and Maryland; Tappita, in Nimba and Toe and Zleh Towns in Grand Gedeh, are usually a nightmare, especially during the rainy season. The Ministry of Public works, in collaboration with UNMIL engineering battalions, especially the Chinese contingent, has been working assiduously to improve the road; and their hard work has paid off.

One of the issues facing the people of the South-east is the challenges of Neglect. Citizens thanked the President for ensuring that their salaries are received on time. Some however complained that due to the inaccessibility of District headquarters where pay teams usually visit to disburse checks, it was difficult to collect those checks on time.
The Minister of Education informed the citizens that efforts were being exerted to address the situation.

The President while in the South-east, inspected a number of schools including the Zwedru Multi-lateral High School; the ruined campus of the William V.S. Tubman Teachers College. The renovation of schools in the South-east has inspired renewed hope, with calls by the Youth of Grand Gedeh that the Zwedru Multi-lateral High School be raised to a Jr. College. The People of Maryland County for their part have appealed to the President to resuscitate the Technical College.

The President informed the Marylanders that government is working with UNDP to restore the physical structure of the school. A project proposal is presently before the Cabinet for consideration.

In Grand Gedeh, the President also inspected a modern Correctional facility which is nearing completion. The Ministry of Justice and UNIMIL are collaborating in the implementation of the project which is being funded by the government of the United States. This project represents yet another commitment by the President to temper justice with mercy; to ensure that inviduals who have been convicted and sentenced are sent to a correctional facility that falls within acceptable international standards.

Another turning point of the President’s visit to the South-east was the opportunity given to the locals to share their concerns. One issue that was raised is the lack of communication between some of the superintendents and their citizens. Local chiefs in particular also appealed to the President to provide for them transportation. The President promised to consider their request.

In Rivergee County, the President appealed to the citizens to stop illegal mining which is taking place in their area. She urged the citizens to stop the practice because it undermines government’s efforts to have the sanctions lifted.

The issue of administering sassy wood is also a concern to the President. She told the citizens to stop administering sassy wood. The practice, the President said, belongs to the old ways of doing things. She said the country now has rules that all citizens must follow, reminding them that this is why court houses are being built.

The President has also urged the citizens of Rivergee to make available public land to be used for public housing, once discussions are concluded for the construction of public housing.

I also like to inform you that the President has received the supplementary budget which was recently approved by the National Legislature. The budget was presented today to the President by Senator Gloria Scott and Representative Kettehkumuehn Murray, Chairmen on Executive of the Senate and House of Representatives respectively.

The President also received bills on the Broadway and Toronto Oil Contracts, reached between those companies and the National Oil Company. The bills were recently passed by the Legislature. The President is studying them after which they will be signed into law, once they meet her approval. The Oil contracts seek to explore for oil off the coast of Liberia. This will no doubt provide employment opportunities for our people.

Finally, let me add how moved the President has been over the reception accorded her by the people in every area she visited. In Grand Gedeh, where the delegation arrived at night due to the various stops along the way, there was a huge turnout of citizens from all walks of life. A formal program at the city hall the following day was even more attractive, as the President thanked the people of Grand Gedeh for the warm reception. Reflecting on the events of April 12, 27-years, the President said “Our visit is purposeful; our visit is meaningful, our visit is about peace, it is about reconciliation and a message of hope; a hope for national renewal and for the development of our people.”  In separate statements, the people of Grand Gedeh thanked the President for her many development initiatives and promised their support toward the development programs of government. “We will never support any act of rebellion against your government and the state and will remain law abiding,” the Youth of Grand Gedeh said in a statement.

Along the route to Maryland, villagers line the routes, waving palm branches and singing songs of praise, as the President stopped along the way to greet and thanked villagers for their support. For instance, in Karloken city, the citizens defied the heavy downpour of rain, standing for hours to await the arrival of the President and party. There, the President broke grounds for the construction of a new administrative building, accompanied by Maryland County Senator Gloria Scott, who hails from the areas.

There were a lot of other issues which came out of the Cabinet meeting, details of which will be made available to your institutions subsequently.

I will now stop this far and take your questions.