11 January 2013

Liberia: Four Contestants Vindicate Miss Liberia Organizer

Dispute over one of Liberia's prestigious crowns, Miss Liberia, continues to flag mixed signals since it was announced early last year that the cold hand of cheat and trickery had robbed the colorful event its salt. Many had thought that the matter was thrown to its final resting place when a special committee mandated to plow the controversy and issue a verdict availed its report to the Ministry of Information recently. Before inks got dry on the pages of the report, which held culpable the main organizer of the Miss Liberia Beauty Contest, Christopher Onanuga, a number of well-respected Liberian beauties raised the voices high in defense of Mr. Onanuga, rubbishing claims of sexual harassment against him. The Analyst reports.

At least four provincial beauties have come in defense of Mr. Christopher Onanuga, the man a special committee is holding responsible for the Miss Liberia Beauty Contest fiasco of last year. The contest in question failed to produce a winner, perhaps the first unfortunate incident marring the history of the contest, because judges and organizers of the event were divided over who won.

The brouhaha that greeted the once prestigious event caused Government through the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) to set up a committee to probe the saga and bring out the facts from the rumors.

Following months of investigation, the Committee has presented its report, holding Mr. Onanuga principally liable on many counts, which the Miss Sinoe, Miss Bomi, Miss Lofa and Miss River Gee have variously repudiated as false and not the handiwork of the accused.

Deputy Information Minister for Culture, Elizabeth Hoff, broke the news of the submission of the committee report at a news conference yesterday. She told journalists that the Committee, among other things, identified discrepancies in the actions of the organizing group headed by Mr. Chris Onanuga of CT.COM.

As a result of the discrepancies, Madam Hoff said, the Committee recommended that the 2012 Miss Liberia Beauty Pageant be cancelled and that  Liberia makes no representation at the 2012 Miss World Beauty while each contestant should be compensated with US$ 3,000.00 Dollars.

She also said the Committee recommended that the vehicle, the prize for the winner of the Miss Liberia Beauty Pageant, be sold and proceeds distributed evenly among the eleven contestants, while the government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Information, provide scholarships for the eleven contestants to attend any school of their choice within the country.

While calling for appropriate counseling of the eleven contestants and their parents, the deputy Information Minister, said the Committee has called for the ban of the chief organizer, Mr. Chris Onanuga of CT.COM from hosting a Miss Liberia contest for five years or hosting any other events sponsored by the government and that the GAC should audit the use of Government money donated for the conduct of the event.

Worse still for the chief organizer of the event the Committee, Madam Hoff said, wants Mr. Onanuga investigated for allegations of abuse and molestation by some contestants of the Miss Liberia 2012 Beauty Pageant.

The particular accusation of sexual harassment and molestation against Mr. Onanuga has been fiercely rejected by Miss Lofa County, Lela Knowlden who countered that the committee's findings were intended to glorify Miss ECOWAS who had a standoff with Mr. Onanuga over the winner of the Miss Liberia Beauty Pageant.

Like other contestants, Ms Knowlden praised the hard work of Mr. Onanuga, stating that never a time did he make sexual overtures during practice sessions or at other time with the contestants.

Miss Knowlden's position has been backed by Miss Bomi, Jumah Doley who claimed that Miss Ecowas who presided over the judges during the failed event is the chief source and culprit of the conflict and failure of the contest.

She said the Liberian government must established better procedures to replace the shameful event of the Miss ECOWAS instead of scapegoating by accusing Mr. Onanuga of sexual molestation.

Another known beauty Mamba Kromah, who was to represent Lofa at the Contest but couldn't due to other pressing matters, she had known Mr. Onanuga for a long time and that the accusations levied against him do not represent the character she knows.

In an interview she told journalists that the allegation against Onanuga was farfetched and a great disincentive for someone who has labored so much to promote Liberian beauty.

Another beauty, Miss River Gee Marie Wesseh said she was never molested or abused by any member of the organizing committee, let alone Mr. Onanuga.

For her part, Miss Sinoe County, told journalists that she was baffled by the Committee's report because it does not represent the truth. Ms Kukor Kumeh, said placing a ban on Onanuga and his organization was an evasion and face-saving measure by the government because the last contest was one of the best Miss Liberia pageants ever.

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