We would like to welcome you to the Executive Mansion. This press briefing will seek to address a couple of issues that we have been following of late.
1. The first thing is the President’s continuous engagement with the sisterly Republic of Ghana since the demise of President John Atta Mills. For some of you who were fortunate to have engaged the President at the signing of the Book of Condolence, you were informed that Liberia would be fully represented at the funeral of the late Ghanaian President. Liberia will be represented at the highest level at the funeral which is scheduled for August 10, 2012. President Sirleaf will lead a high-powered Liberian Government delegation and would like to continuously say to the people of Ghana that we regret the death of Professor John Atta Mills who was a voice of wisdom amongst his peers as leaders on the continent, as was pronounced by President Sirleaf at the signing ceremony.
We have moved a step further by working to make sure that Liberians are able to follow the funeral ceremony of the late Ghanaian leader on the day of the funeral. We have assurances from the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS), who are testing their television services, that they will also be working with the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation to broadcast live all of the events of the burial ceremonies. By this way, we will be drawing Liberians close to the event as it will be unfolding.
2. We also want to use this medium to say thanks to the United Nations for lifting the travel restrictions on some Liberians. As you may be aware, when the President visited the United States of America recently, she made a case for some citizens who have been on the travel ban for some time now. We are glad to note that the people she spoke with listened to our President – again an indication that this President is hugely respected by her international colleagues and all of the actors in different international organizations as they were able to clear a number of Liberians from the travel restrictions.
President Sirleaf and the Government are very grateful for such action, and want to assure that we will remain engaged with the United Nations as we look forward to a time when we shall no longer have any of our citizens on travel restrictions. Notwithstanding the fact that there are a few persons who are still on the list, President Sirleaf and the Government are very pleased that the case she made was listened to and some of our citizens are now free people.
3. Thirdly, we followed the Monday, July 30, 2012 edition of the Heritage newspaper, which reported that COMIUM Liberia has been sold to one Abi Jaoudi for US$18 million. The story went further to say that Mr. Abi Jaoudi wasn’t the actual individual purchasing COMIUM but rather an unnamed member of the First Family.
The Executive Mansion wishes to categorically state that this accusation is completely false and misleading. Neither the President, nor any member of her family is associated with COMIUM Liberia or any other business establishment. The motive associated with this publication remains a lingering question that we are also seeking answers to. But for the record, we want to state, again, that neither the President nor any member of her family is associated with what is being reported by the Heritage newspaper.
In fact, among all the GSM companies operating in Liberia, it is only COMIUM that benefits from duty-free privileges, and this is something which this Government met on the books. The President and the Government will shortly be taking steps to make sure that that kind of privilege doesn’t exist anymore. So, we’re even wondering if the President would be taking such action against an entity that is supposed to be for her family. We want to make it clear that what is being reported by the Heritage newspaper has no bearing of truth and it is misinformation to the core. Let me say further that we are also struggling to give meaning and interpretation to whatever the motive for this publication may be.
4. The fourth issue is something we have addressed with a few media institutions, but still want to address using a broader space, instead, because it keeps coming up. It came up, went to bed, and it’s back again. This has to do with the notion that Mr. Robert Sirleaf has been appointed by the President to UNESCO as Liberia’s Ambassador. We want to clearly state that this information is untrue; and in fact, for your information, which you can check, Liberia’s Ambassador to UNESCO is Liberia’s Ambassador to France. He has that responsibility.
Mr. Sirleaf has been given domestic responsibilities by the President which he’s implementing very well, and we think that’s quite sufficient for him. Maybe we need to be asking these individuals who report such stories to give us concrete evidences upon which they’re making their claims. If they are meant to incite people or to continue their onslaught of constant and continual accusations against the Presidency, we want to urge them to stop because it does no good to anyone to continue to deliberately instigate lies against people who are working diligently for the advancement of the country like, in this case, with reference to the President who we think is on the right footing with regards to how she’s handling the affairs of our country.
I thank you for your attention and we can now take your questions.