17 January 2013

Liberia: Doubts Over Taylor's Letter

Photo: Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera television news records the moment Charles Taylor was sentenced.

Doubts have emerged over the authenticity of the letter purported to have been written from The Hague by jailed former president Charles Taylor who is reportedly demanding nine years of annuities from the government.

Uncertainties surrounding the genuineness of the letter began to unfold Tuesday when speculations were rife that it was forwarded to the senate through a lady believed to be one of Mr Taylor's close relatives.

Now, some senators are contemplating setting up a committee to ascertain whether indeed the former president who is awaiting long term jail sentences after being convicted of war crimes in The Hague wrote the letter.

According to our reporter covering the Legislature, a day following the official reading of letter requesting the senate to intervene in ensuring the payment of Taylor's pension benefits, some legislators doubt the validity of the letter. They suspect that it was written by one of Taylor's staunchest suppers, Sen. Sando Johnson on behalf of the former President.

"I doubt whether that letter was written by President Charles Taylor. Right now, Mr. Taylor is only thinking about his release from The Hague so how can he write such a letter? It must have come from Sen. Darzoe (Sando Johnson)," a Senator demanding anonymity hinted this paper Wednesday.

But Sen. Sando Johnson quickly rebutted the allegation, stressing that the letter was written by former President Charles Taylor himself.

"Mr Taylor himself wrote the letter to demand the government to give his legitimate benefits. It is an insult for anyone to say that," he clarified.

At the Capitol Building Tuesday, Sen. Dan Morrias, a Maryland County Senator who supports the former president's benefit claims, said the authenticity of the letter would be investigated by a special committee that would be set up by the senate.

He told journalists that one of the key issues the committee would look at would be the authenticity of the letter to determine whether it was actually written by former President Taylor himself or his family members.

"The committee would investigate the letter to know whether it was written by his (President Taylor's) lawyers or family members," he told journalists Tuesday.

However, Sen. Johnson noted that though he and other family members have been advocating for the pension benefit of President Taylor, he was of the conviction that the former President himself wrote the letter for his benefits.

"I knew that he was going to write, he wrote the letter," he stressed.

Sen. Johnson also emphasized that former President Charles Taylor was a legitimate president of Liberia who voluntarily resigned his post and should therefore be given his legitimate benefits as a retired president.

"Taylor was never overthrown. He Resigned. If a man like late President Doe, who died in a battle, is allegedly receiving pension benefits

thru his family, why should President Taylor don't benefit?

"If the government don't pay, we will tell the Taylor family to go to court. And if they go to court, they will win the government," he averred.

He revealed that as a former member of the 51st legislature under erstwhile President Taylor, they decided to take a similar action against the current government.

"We were about to go to court when they (government) called us for settlement. Until I go elected, I always received my benefits as a former lawmaker of the 51st legislature. And if we benefited, why then should they refuse to do the same for President Taylor?

"We are not begging for it. He is entitled to it, so people should stop playing politics with it. The former speaker is benefiting, why don't you want to pay him (President Taylor). We will go to court, I am sure we will win," he said.

Persistently defending the content and authorship of the letter as legitimate, Sen. Johnson assured that as a family, they would be "very civil" in the engagement of the government to ensure the payment of former President Taylor's benefits.

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