Thursday, September 24, 2009

Four Forest Management Contracts Ratified

As Legislature Presses for Constitutional Amendments
The National Legislature yesterday ratified four forest management contracts forwarded to parliament by the President of the Republic of Liberia. The contracts, including Atlantic Resource Ltd., Geblo Logging Ltd., Euro Liberia Logging Company and International Consultant Capitol (ICC) were on the 21st day of September 2009 sent to the Legislature from the executive branch of government through the office of the president for consideration.

A report submitted to the office of Speaker J. Alex Tyler by the Committee on Investment and Concession, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Contracts and Monopolies and Judiciary on the four forest management contracts said “In line with legislative traditions and practice, the contracts were referred to the committee on investment and concession, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, contracts and monopolies and judiciary to scrutinize the four draft contracts and appropriately advise plenary for action.”

In the report, the committees further said in furtherance of this mandate, the joint committee convened on the 22nd of September 2009 to begin its scrutiny of the four contracts. At the conclusion of the first session of the joint committee, it was resolved that the joint committee seeks the input of public by inviting stakeholders both from the government and civil society.
Hence, the report said the joint committee conducted a public hearing on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 with eh following persons and institutions appearing and making presentation; Ministry of Finance represented by Assistant Minister Andrew Paygai and the Ministry Justice represented Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs, Sam Russ by; Sustainable Development Initiative represented by Silas K. A. Siakor, Forestry Development Authority represented by its Technical Managing Director one Moses Woabeh , Boakai Sirleaf who is the Deputy Minister of Agriculture representing his Ministry While Loggers Association of Liberia represented by Mulbah Willie , National Investment Commission and the civil society,” the report contained.
It said during the almost three hour public hearing, which was broadcast live, the Executive Branch, represented by National Investment Commission, Forestry Development Authority, Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Finance as well as the Civil Society represented made presentations, requesting the Legislature to ratify the four contracts.
“They justified that the contract were in line with the Poverty Reduction Strategy of government and will purposely jump start the logging section in the forest region the country by providing jobs and contributing revenues to the national budget,” the report said, adding that representations made during the hearing maintained.
Representatives of these institutions furthered that the agreements were negotiated in good faith, and to ensure the welfare of the country particularly taking into consideration the interests and social benefits of the communities hosting the forests.
“On the other hand, the Civil Society organization represented by Sustainable Development Initiative (SDI) made the presentation on diverging fronts. The SDI maintained that the contracts were not accompanied by bidding documents to show various offers and how the winners were selected and that the contracts were not also accompanied by due diligence report to show whether the companies selected during the bidding process have the capacity to manage the portion of the Liberian forest given them under the 25 years contract.
The SDI representative at the hearing, Mr. Siakor, then called on the House of Representative not to ratify the contracts until the four documents are presented to the legislature.
As for some of the loggers associations, they maintained that the bidding process was conducted in free, fair and transparent manner and that document are available and indicated that the companies selected have overwhelming capacity to manage the various forests sector was long overdue and as such was requesting the House of Representative to swiftly ratify the contract so as to revive economic life in the forest region of Liberia.
After a careful and thorough scrutiny of the four forest management contracts and taking into consideration all of the issues raised by the actors, the joint legislative committee established that the revamping the forest sector through logging is belated considering the time interval between the enactment of the Forest Reform Law of 2006 and submission of the second forest contract in September 2009.
According to the findings of the joint committee on the issue of due diligence and bid submission document, Committee held that the bid submission documents clearly established that the amount bided for are exactly the amount stipulated in the contracts, saying that as for due diligence, two key issues were considered in selecting the winners.

The Committee named the two issues as the offer and the financial capacity to execute the offer. “From the documents presented to the committee followed by the joint committee’s evaluation of the all documents, it was established that the four companies selected and awarded the contract met all requirements under the law and have the financial capacity,” the committee said.

The joint legislative committee the submitted its recommendation, taking into consideration that the four forest contracts which also seek to address issues of unemployment, contribute to government revenue generation and build the capacity of local community through the provision of social benefit.

The joint committee having being satisfied with the content of the agreement coupled with the all necessary clarification made, recommended that ratification of the four forest management contracts by the Honorable House of Representative which Plenary endorse.
Meanwhile With the House of Representatives of the Liberian Legislature amending several constitutional articles, the House Committee Chairman on Elections, Representative Gabriel Smith says the amendments made in the Liberian Constitution by the House of Representatives are subject to referendums.

Principal among those provisions amended is Article 83 (b) which by the amendment, states that “all elections of public officers shall be determined by a simple majority of the votes cast except for the president and Vice President” Others constitutional articles amended Tuesday by members of the Lower House of Parliament pending national referendum are Articles 78, 50, 83 (a) and 83 (b) following several weeks of consideration.
The amendments in Article 83 further provided that in the case of the Senate, where applicable, the senatorial candidate who obtains the second highest number of valid votes shall be declared the second winner.

Concerning presidential election in Liberia, the House’s amendment states that if no candidate obtains absolute majority on the first ballot, the two candidates with the highest number of votes on the first ballot shall be designated to participate in a run off.

The House made the amendment on the September 21, 2009. Accordingly, the House’s Committee on Election and Judiciary met in conference with the Senate’s committee on Autonomous agencies with the sole purpose of harmonizing the house’s version of the amendment.

According to the Committee Chairman on Election and Inauguration Representative Gabriel B. Smith, after a length consideration of the following constitution provisions, namely: Article 78, 50, 83 (b). He said the conference is pleased to recommend the following for timely consideration and endorsement by this plenary the attached amended version of the proposals.
Representative Smith noted at the House’s Plenary Tuesday that in keeping with the original version of Article 78, a political party shall be an association of hundred qualified voters in each of at least six counties within the Republic of Liberia, further saying that the article provides that a political party shall be an association with a membership of not less than 10,000 registered voters in a county.
Mr. Smith said Article 83 (a) says voting for the President, Vice President, members of the Senate and Members of the House of Representatives shall be conducted throughout the Republic on the second Tuesday in October of each election year. He said Article 83 (b) all election of public officers shall be determined by an absolute majority of the votes cast.
The Chairman Election and Inauguration Committee noted that if no candidates obtains an absolute majority in the first ballot, a second Tuesday following, the two candidates who received the greatest number of votes on the first ballot shall be designated to participate in the run-off Election. He said the amended version of Article 52 (c) original version say resident in the Republic ten years prior to his election, provided that the President and Vice President shall not come from the same county.
Representative Smith said the Amended version of Article 52 (c) no person shall be eligible to hold the office of the President or Vice President, unless that person is: domiciled in the Republic for ten years immediately prior to his election, provided that the President and Vice President don’t come from the same county.
Mr. Smith noted that the original version which Article (b) which say there shall be election of paramount, clan and town chiefs and mayors by the registered voters in their respective localities, to serve for a term of six years, and they may be re-elected and may be removed only by the President for proved misconduct, and the Legislature shall enact laws to provide for their qualification as may be require.
According to Representative Smith, the amended version states Article 56 (b) there shall be election of paramount, clan and town chiefs and mayors by the registered voters in their respective localities, to serve for a term of six years, and they may be re-elected and may be removed from officer for cause by resolution of two-third majority of members of the council of chiefs and elders at their respective level of office; in keeping with due process of law.
Similarly, Article 56(b), by the amendment, provides that “there shall be elections of paramount, Clan and town Chiefs and mayors by registered voters in their respective localities, to serve for a term of six years. They may be re-elected and may be removed only by the President for proved misconduct. The Legislature shall enact laws to provide for their qualification as may be required.”

Divided CDC Foams Over Flooded Bi-election

The CDC's flagbearer and first partisan George George Weah

NEC Warns Against Pre-Election Campaign

By: Bill K. Jarkloh

In the face of a flooded race to fill in the Montserrado County Senatorial vacancy left behind by the demise of Senator Hannah Brent, the main opposition party of football legend George Weah, the Congress for Democratic Change (DCD) is falling apart over who should represent the party in the race.

With the death of Senator Brent reducing the number female representation in the Senate to four, political commentators imbued with this gender advocacy think a female candidate would be ideal to occupy the slot. At present, Senior Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor of National Patriotic Party representing Bong County, Maryland County’s Gloria Musu Scott of the ruling Unity Party, Margibi County’s Senior Senator Clarice Jah of the Liberty Party and Montserrado County’s Joyce Musu Freeman-Sumo of the Congress for Democratic Change are the remaining female Senators in the Legislature.

However, names of several potential men have spouted. Some of the names that have spouted on the crowded field include Professor. Alhaji Kromah, two times presidential candidate of the All Liberian Coalition Party (ALCOP); Clemencea Urey who won Saturday’s UP’s primaries as the party’s candidate and Darius Dillion of the Liberty Party;

Others are Acarius Gray; Geraldine Doe-Sheriff and Eugene Nagbe all from the CDC , Professor and former Finance Minister Wilson Tarpeh, Daniel Johnson who heads the Monrovia City Council and Edwin Snowe, former speaker of the current House of Representatives and a Montserrado County representative whose intention remains unconfirmed and an array of female candidates.

When it was announced that vacancy occurred at the Upper Chamber of the National Legislature, moves that were made in political domains reflected what was reminiscent a split in the one time mutual cooperation that have bind the CDC’s political activism and positions amongst members.

Instead of standing together, the Chairman of the Party, Geraldine Doe-Sheriff hastily announced her interest to the opposition to the dislike of party godfather and standard-bearer Weah who did not bite4 his tongue in registering support to Lenn Eugene Nagbe, the Secretary General of the party who too was eyeing the vacancy to contest it.

Apparently, the CDC executives wanted to out-smart each other since constitutionally, the National Elections Commission is required to conduction a bi-election to fill whatever vacancy that is created in the National Legislature within 90 days, as such may be occasioned by death or resignation of a member(s).

In words of Weah who spoke in the media from the United States, Nagbe was the choice of the party and not Party Chairman Geraldine Doe-Sheriff, but Madam Sheriff, with some party stalwarts standing behind her decisively implied the fact that CDC is no personal property of Mr. Weah but a political institution that should be patterned in a democratic manner. She said Weah was not saying the truth and that a party convention would decide who should be supported by the party.

On the other hand, loquacious Acarius Gray stepped in, registering his interest to contest for the vacancy on CDC’s ticket.

In the meridiem of time, however, CDC has held party congress in New Krutown where partisans preferred Madam Geraldine Doe-Sheriff for the Seat for Montserrado in the Senate, but Acarius Gray considered the congress’ result faulty and unacceptable.

Notwithstanding the fact that Weah who supported Nagbe as the Secretary General for the Senatorial vacancy hasn’t reacted to the DCD’s congress that has elected Madam Doe-Sheriff for the position, Mr. Eugene Nagbe himself pledged support to the congress’ choice of party Chairman sheriff to contest the by-election.

Mr. Nagbe said the CDC has spoken and that he stands by the decision of the CDC, while the CDC’s Assistant Secretary Acarious Gray resented the congress and its choice of party chairman Doe-Sheriff.

Eugene Nagbe, Acarius Gray, and Geraldine Doe-Sheriff are all top executive members of George Weah’s CDC, serving currently as secretary-general, assistant secretary-general and chairman respectively.

The disagreement amongst at the party’s hierarchy potentially could squander the CDC’s chances of victory since others who may not be interest in the controversial choice of the party may commit their loyalty at the polls to some others who may in fact be outside the party as the race is indeed flooded.

Others whose names have surfaced include University of Liberia Economics and Banking Professor Wilson Tarpeh of who has entered the race for the second time after his defeat by the CDC’s iron-lady Senator Joyce Musu Freeman-Sumo during the 2005 senatorial election.

Like Tarpeh who was defeat when to Senator Freeman-Sumo, the Unity, the Unity Party’s Clemenceau Urey, also fell to the gallant CDC female in the senatorial Montserrado County race also was elected to contest the ensuing senatorial by-election

It is also speculated that dethroned Speaker Edwin Melvin Snowe, a Representative for Montserrado County may likely take advantage of the vacancy to bid for the Upper House, although this intention by Snowe has not been made official. Snowe, a one time stalwart of the former ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) of Charles Taylor contested the Montserrado slot he occupies at the Lower House in Parliament as independent candidate after the NPP apparently denied him to use party ticket.

Similarly, women seem to be overcrowding the race for the Montserrado County seat at the Senate, according to an online report. Already, the National Elections Commission (NEC) has reported the official registration of nine independent candidates, pending the holdings of primaries of various political parties, who are expected to field their candidates before the Commission’s set deadline of September 26, 2009.

Evidently declaration of interests ahead of party primaries or the submission of self arranged or genuine petitions to personalities which has usually characterized Liberian politics has been the order of the day. So far, the females have all decided to go independent despite whatever current political affiliations they might be having at the moment.

One of such women who contemplate contesting the vacancy is Jacqueline Capehart, a long-time business executive, saying that her desire to contest the bi-election borders on the lapses that have occasioned present legislative works on Capitol Hill. “I’m really disappointed by the level of work being done by our lawmakers. Our representatives are not liaising with us, who they claim to represent. There must be palaver-hut kinds of discussion”, Jacqueline told a reporter.

Previously a member of the opposition CDC, Capehart said her ambition for the senatorial position is also based on her desire to contribute to the task of re-building the war ravaged nation, irrespective of which profession one finds him or herself into.

Says Capehart: “It has reached the point in this country now where we ought to contribute our quota to nation building, regardless of where you find yourself”. Looking from the political horizon, it is evident that she might go as an independent candidate since the Unity Party she is member of has already voted Mr. Clemenceau Urey.

It was Urey, George Kailondo and Ms. Capehart despite who desired the contest on party ticket but were defeated at party primaries; she still desires to run while Kilando, a businessman, bowed graciously to Mr. Urey and accepted his defeat. UP’s Urey got an easy ride over George Kailondo during Saturday’s primary after the latter conceded defeat, prior to the primary election.

Further, it is also speculated Mr. Darius Dillion of the Liberty Party, who now serves as senior senatorial aid in Bong County Senator Jewel Taylor’s office, has expressed interest. Dillon is noted for his critical advocacy and stance against basic decisions that he considered inappropriate

Another female candidate, Grace McGill Kpan, President of the Dock Workers Union of Liberia desire the race as well. Kpan says she believes in the quest for workers to be represented at the highest level. McGill Kpan, who is also known for her unwavering advocacy as a labor leader sounded confident in a race that promises to produce other political giants, already testing the waters for the ensuing 2011 Elections.

“I’m a servant-leader who has worked as a labor leader”, she added. McGill Kpan then added the obvious voice as would be expected from any female candidate. “It’s good for another female to take that seat, because the number of females in the House is already minute”.

Meanwhile, the National Elections Commission (NEC) which spoke of the formal registration of some nine nominees warned against pre-election campaign, saying that anyone engaging in pre-election campaign would be disqualified.

With the list of contestants expected to grow, the NEC put nomination period between September 12 - 26, to be followed by a period for objection and claim, if there will be any. The Commission further said political campaign will take place from October 14 to November 8 followed by the replacement of voters’ identification cards from October 20-31 and the arrival of paper ballots on November 1, 2009.

The official announcement of polling results is would be on November 14, four days after voting. In case of any runoff, it will be conducted on November 24 with final results announced on November 27.

Statistics at the National Election Commission have it that Montserrado has 14 electoral districts with 496,508 registered voters of the 1.3 million people in Montserrado County, while 280 voting precincts and 989 polling places used in the 2005 elections remain unchanged for the ensuing bi-election.

Furious Education Minister Explores

Minister Korto Blames Journalists As “Paid” Agents to Go After Him

By: Bill K. Jarkloh

Bittered with journalists after his suspension, Furious Minister of Education Minister Joseph Korto has lambasted journalists, saying they are ‘paid agents of his political opponents’ who go after him. Dr. Korto, after he resumed works from a one week suspension without pay, was irritated when the Truth FM’s Patrick Honnan quizzed him on the TRUTH Breakfast Show via phone, seeking to know whether he considered his suspension demeaning, a sign of weakness or strength.

The journalist engaged Dr. Korto on the Truth FM via telephone and further quizzed him on reports from the hinterlands indicative of poor school facilities, a situation reminiscent of that of the E. Jonathan Goodridge’s condition for which Minister Korto and his deputies were suspended.

“I know where you guys are coming from. You are referring to a picture of a school in the interior of Nimba where you have gone and taken pictures that you have published in the papers. But that school is not the only school, there are a couple of good school facilities that have been ignored,” Minister Korto furiously responded the TRUTH FM Breakfast Show question.

The Furious Education Minister contended, “One like you do not know what is happening around, you guys are paid by political opponents to go after people. You may take it and say what you want to say,” he said, noting that the school that was being used as the radio station’s reference was a self-help project – a makeshift school built by the people themselves.

Although presenters of the show countered that the situation was a perfect example to develop an idea of what the public school system is like in the countryside (meaning remote or rural Liberia), Dr. Korto refuted this assertion, saying that his administration has been doing well. But the presenters insisted that there are others rural public schools journalists have no access to, using places such Karnplay in Nimba and also rural Grand Gedeh for Example.

“The President holds me responsible for what are happening in the public education sector because she knows that those should not be happening considering my intellect. You know it is not possible for me to be everywhere; but the President think as head of the Education Ministry, I should be responsible so she suspended me,” he explained.
He added: “I had a lot of respect for you guys. But I know now that you are paid agents hired by my political opponent to tarnish my good hard earned reputation,” saying “you guys are playing politrick with me.”

Recently, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, describing the Education Minister irresponsible, suspended Minister Joseph Korto and his deputies after an unannounced visit at the Campus E. Jonathan Goodridge Public School in Barnersville where she discovered the surrounding of the campus insalubrious and unhygienic. Accordingly, the President on that day, September 7, 2009, described the learning atmosphere at the institution to be horrendous something which she ordered the institution closed for one week.

The visit of President Sirleaf at the E. Jonathan High School was predicated upon threat of strike action by students of the school due to filthy learning condition and bad Administrative practice.

In a rather tough frame of mind, President Sirleaf termed the leadership at the Ministry of Education as irresponsible and inattentive considering its failure to institute requisite administrative and instructional measures at the institution.

Information Minister Dr. Lawrence Bropleh revealed that funds for the cleanliness of the campus will be made accessible from the Presidential Project Budget due to the exigency of the case at the institution. Public Schools in Liberia are disappointingly managed with students in rural areas sitting on cement blocks to learn something which have been reported consistently in the media.

Observers classified the President impromptu visit at the institution as a welcoming venture and challenged her to continue to make such visit a habitual exercise to other Public Schools around the country. The Ministry of Education shares the giant size of the country’s budget with absolutely ineffective policy and poor implementation something which parents and guardians of students attending these institutions have complained for prompt remedy and solution but to no avail.

Deputy Ministers suspended along with Minister Korto are Hester Williams Katakpa, John Emmanuel Roberts and Mathew Zazay. The recent action of Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at the E. Jonathan Goodridge Public High School branding the Minister of Education and former Presidential Candidate Dr. Joseph Korto as irresponsible and reckless in the discharge of his duty entails a matter of attention as we gradually enter the 2011 Presidential election.

Being irresponsible in leadership as affirmed by the Liberian President further illustrates a better picture over the ability of Dr. Korto to administratively control the affairs of any entity least to mention the Country as a whole.

In a bid to substantiate the views of the President concerning the griminess of the giant size institution, I personally visited the E. Jonathan Goodridge High School in Barnersville and realized that the President’s action to suspend authorities at the Ministry to be lightered. Besides the poor running of the institution, other investments like the structures and buildings which are considered assets of government are seen unattended to as far as its renovation is concern.

Coming back to the capriciousness of Dr. Korto as Minister of Education, one could doubt how effective an individual given the task as Minister of Education and by extension, heavily supported by national and international organizations and also supported by the government as indicated in the budget of Liberia would ignored and downplayed his responsibility in making learning condition in Public Schools an acceptable areas for education. What if Dr. Korto had won the 2005 election in Liberia?

As a former Presidential Candidate, there is a need to clear the air over the irresponsibility quality attributed to you Dr. Korto so as to safeguard your ability to govern or share and inspect responsibilities given you. While it remains factual that President Sirleaf is the Boss of Dr. Korto, classifying Dr. Korto and his entire deputies as irresponsible clearly taint the credibility and characters of these educated individuals.

On the other hand, there is also the need for Dr. Korto as a Politician to clear the air over the irresponsibility character attributed to him. Remember, statement alluded to individual’s credibility without prompt response may likely follow them in the future.

The Ministry of Education is just a section of the entire administration of the country and branding Dr. Korto as irresponsible person only indicate his inability to run the affairs of the whole country. The actions against the heads at the Ministry of Education should also be extended to other institutions in government.

Significant percentage of people employed in government institutions usually go free from the inability or refusal of their Bosses to monitor them thereby impeding the needed results expected from such output. “I believed the action against the heads at the Ministry of Education will signal warning to other heads of government institution to dedicate responsibility and further monitor such responsibility.”