The Inquirer (Monrovia)

16 May 2007

Liberia: Chris Toe Escapes House's Wrath

Agriculture Minister, Dr. Christopher Toe, yesterday, narrowly escaped the wrath of the members of the House of Representatives when he accused the lawmakers of making disrespectful utterances against him.

Dr. Toe and Mr. Keith Jubbah who both served as Chairman and President of the Rubber Planters Association of Liberia (RPAL) respectively were invited by the Lower House of Parliament to give some clarifications on the RPAL which is serving as the Interim Management Team of both plantations.

The Minister was faced with statements and questions from members of the House after giving some clarifications on the operations of RPAL and his role as Chairman of the Taskforce.

A statement from Maryland County Representative, James Biney, that Dr. Toe is encouraging the 'illegal' operations of the RPAL at the Cavalla Rubber Plantation thus, denying the citizens of Maryland County their just benefits so that he (Dr. Toe) will continue to benefit from the resources of the Liberian people did not go down well with the Agriculture Minister who in turn, responded that utterances from the lawmakers were disrespectful to him and will not accept it.

The statement from Dr. Toe created some uneasiness amongst the lawmakers thereby causing some of them to call for contempt charges against him for his statement. The Minister was however, pardoned by the lawmakers when he was made to apologize to that august body by House Speaker Alex Tyler.

Responding to questions from the lawmakers when he appeared before plenary yesterday, Dr. Toe said an agreement between the government of Liberia and the RPAL was signed last year that empowered the latter to serve as interim management team for the Guthrie and Cavalla Rubber Plantations.

He said though the Ministers of Finance and Justice have not yet signed the Cavalla agreement due to some misunderstanding, there are lots of benefits in the agreement for the Liberian people. He said in the Cavalla agreement, which is yet to be completed, government is expected to receive 60 percent while RPAL will benefit 40 percent.

Touching on the Guthrie Agreement, the Minister said under the agreement, government will receive 65 percent; RPAL will receive 15 percent while Guthrie will accrue 20 percent. He said the twenty percent for Guthrie would go toward development including the restoration of basic social services.

Mr. Jubbah, who received most of the questions when he took the stand, said RPAL has put US$11 million in government coffer of which 6 million will go toward development while the balance 5 million will go toward other purposes.

The interactions with the two RPAL officials apparently did not go down well with the lawmakers, as questions posed to them were not satisfactorily answered. As a result of this, plenary has therefore, requested the two RPAL officials to submit all documentations including MOU and others pertaining to the two agreements.

The House has also called for an audit of the RPAL to be conducted by the General Auditing Commission, which cost will be underwritten by Guthrie and Cavalla. Dr. Toe and Mr. Jubbah are to submit the documents to plenary tomorrow.

The Lower House has also set up a search committee Chaired by Rep. James Benson of Grand Cape Mount County for the turn over of the plantations to their legitimate owners. The committee is comprised of all Representatives from Grand Cape Mount, Maryland and Bomi as members.

From the Senate Wing, Suspended Maryland County Senator Gloria Scott has admitted that the sending of a carbon copy of her letter to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was a mistake on her part.

Senator Scott has however, apologized to her colleagues for the embarrassment to the Senate noting that her action was not intentional. "I wanted to apologize to this body the very day but I was not given the chance," Senator Scott pleaded with her colleagues.

Meanwhile, the Liberian Senate has accepted Senator Scott's apology thus, allowing her to travel to the United States to attend the conference organized by the Howard University Kennedy School of Government.

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