President Johnson-Sirleaf Addresses major News Conference

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has commented on recently unearthed email exchanges allegedly concerning the Liberia Ship and Corporate Registry (LISCR) over pending renegotiations with government of its Maritime program.

 Addressing a Press Conference Monday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the President said she is deeply wounded and hurt over reports of alleged corruption involving a former closed aide, Mr. Willis Knuckles. If the emails are authentic, the President said, it would be a despicable act of betrayal.

An Executive Mansion release quotes President Sirleaf as saying government was determined to get to the bottom of the matter to ensure that the truth is revealed.  An Ad hoc Commission, headed by renowned Liberian academician Dr. Elwood Dunn was announced over the weekend to spearhead the investigation.

The Liberia Ship and Corporate Registry, (LISCR) the president disclosed, has already investigated and submitted its findings in a report that would be forwarded to investigators. In addition to contacts with the U.S. State Department to provide expertise to help probe the purported email exchanges, the President disclosed that her government would also welcome any international probe regarding the issue.

The President, however, urged Liberians and other interested parties not to rush to judgment as investigations are underway. “I think in all fairness to everybody concerned, everybody accused, we should let the investigation take its course, and let’s see what the results of the investigations show before we begin to pass judgment,” the President stressed.

Meanwhile, President Johnson Sirleaf has defended government’s decision to cancel the provisional results of the bid awarding the Western Cluster Iron ore contract to Delta Mining Consolidated. Delta and another iron ore company, Tartar Steel, were disqualified from partaking in re-bidding involving the Western Cluster Iron Ore Deposits. Government, the President said was taking the decision based on reports that the initial process may have been compromised by external influence or impropriety.

Asked why no action is being taken against individuals who represented government in the negotiations, the President said there is yet no clear evidence linking anyone, but government was concerned about public perception and what appears to be circumstantial.

 Although, there is no clear evidence, besides alleged communications in the press, the Liberian leader said it was in the country’s interest to take an action on political grounds.  She, however, fears the risk of a lawsuit against government for the decision since it does not yet have evidence regarding the matter.

“It is risk worth taking to remind our citizens and partners that this government’s commitment to fight corruption remains unwavering,” the President emphasized.

In a related development, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says the fight against corruption in the country requires the participation of all Liberians. Addressing a press conference Monday at the Foreign Ministry, the President regretted that corruption has captured nearly all levels of the society and urged journalists to continue exposing corruption wherever it may be found.

The Liberian leader described as unimaginable reports of corruption in recent times, noting that there is a need to identify, engage and fight it as a nation. The President recalled the recent establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission, describing the measure as part of government’s effort to minimize corruption.

She expressed the hope that the action will strengthen government’s efforts to confront corruption, hoping that the Commission would begin work immediately.  The Liberian leader also named bills now before the National Legislature, including the Code of Conduct and Declaration of Assets, as more measures being adopted by government to tackle corruption.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that 50 cases involving government officials either dismissed or suspended are before the Ministry of Justice for investigation and prosecution. The President expressed the hope that the Ministry will complete its work within the shortest possible time.

Speaking on other national concerns, the Liberian Chief Executive explained that the recent legislation setting aside 26 businesses for Liberians was withdrawn from the National Legislature for more consultations.

 Once the consultations are complete, the President noted, the legislation will be resubmitted to the National legislature. The regulation setting aside 26 businesses for Liberians was instituted in 1979. The Liberian leader however maintained that it has been ineffective due to limited capital, market and technology.