Monrovia, Liberia - We welcome you to this Press Briefing, which is meant to address a number of issues and to also give you the opportunity to raise questions on issues concerning the Presidency and the Executive Mansion that you have heard about and which we have not spoken about, and which we may also not speak on as we address this Special Press Briefing.
The first issue that we want to handle is one that caused all of the controversies in Monrovia yesterday. This issue concerns the visit of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to the House of Senate. As you may be aware, the Government is a singular structure but triangular in nature, with the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary Branches coordinating to run a single Government. A part of what is required is that all of these Branches which, though independent, must work as a team to be able to work as a single Government. We believe that coordination and collaboration are critical elements of the governance process. Consistent with this assertion, President Johnson Sirleaf thought it very prudent and expedient to have visited the House of Senate yesterday to share a very simple lunch with the Senators and to exchange notes on an agenda that comprised of just three items:
a) Considering what occurred along our border with Côte d’Ivoire, and the actions that were taken by Government, the President thought it was very important to brief the Senators on the prevailing security situation in the country in the aftermath of the crisis at the border. This was key on the agenda.
b) Secondly, with the submission of the new Budget to the National Legislature, an instrument that originated from the Executive, the President saw it proper and important to engage members of the Liberian Senate on a number of critical issues concerning the Budget.
c) As you are aware, President Sirleaf recently made a 10-day working visit to the United States of America. By the request of the Senators, the visit to the Senate was also aimed at briefing them on the outcome of Madam Sirleaf’s visit to the U.S. This was the President’s mission to the House of Senate.
We also know that there were concerns expressed by members of the press that the President refused to speak to them after the meeting, which they considered as snubbing the media. This assertion is not correct. The truth is, the President had a very loaded schedule, and the meeting with the Senators took longer than anticipated. For that reason, the President was already more than an hour late for her next engagement and so she had to quickly depart. I could not brief you as her Press Secretary because I had to be briefed myself by the President.
The second issue we want to address relates to the Government’s fight against corruption. During the first term, appointed officials were required to declare their assets. This requirement has not changed under the new administration. The war on corruption remains in force despite criticisms that much was not done during the first term of the Sirleaf administration.
Government officials appointed by the President were mandated to declare their assets following their confirmation and appointment. Surprisingly, it has come to the attention of the President that some of her appointed officials have not declared their assets as mandated by the Liberian leader.
The President is therefore using this opportunity to instruct all such officials of Government who are yet to declare their assets to do so now. The President takes this issue very seriously because the declaration of assets is considered a critical component in the war against corruption. And because the President is strongly determined to ensure that the ugly face of corruption is controlled and contained, the declaration of assets will not be comprised. Punitive actions therefore await those who will fail to comply with the President’s mandate.
Finally, the third issue we wish to address is that which concerns the Mayor of the City of Monrovia, Madam Mary Broh, and the Liberian Senate. Anxiety seems very high among the public as to what the President will say or do about the situation. Let me therefore inform you that, in the thinking of the Executive Mansion, leadership – not just issuing loose comments – is required in trying to address the concerns. Therefore, engaging in a way that will lead to finding amicable solutions to the existing problem is an imperative. The President is showing leadership by holding series of consultations whose intent is to ensure that the problems are resolved. This is the President’s position at present, and where it becomes necessary to issue additional comments, the Executive Mansion will do same.
Thank you and we can now take your questions.