21 January 2013

Liberia: Capitol Mourns

The shocking death of last Thursday of Sen. John Francis Whitefield under mysterious circumstance left many legislators and their staffers mourning.

The atmosphere at the Capitol Building, the seat of the Legislature, which is usually characterized by political debates, was virtually quiet last Friday following the stunning news that Sen. Whitefield, who participated in the formal opening of the Legislature on Monday, was dead. He met his demise at the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital in Monrovia on Friday after a short illness.

Majority of the legislators and staffers were seen clustered in circles discussing the mystery behind the sudden death of the Grand Bassa County lawmaker.

Many observers said Sen. Whitefield who was present in Senate plenary Tuesday, shown no symptom of sickness or health disorder. But he was also not looking visibly active as he had demonstrated in pervious seating of the 53rd Legislature.

Even, on the issue of Charles Taylor's letter claiming pension benefits, Sen. Whitfield could not comment on it in the plenary but later spoke to journalists on the matter at his Capitol Building office.

Sen. Gbezohngar Findley (Grand Bassa County), Senate President Pro-Tempore, who said, he was still mourning the "great loss" of his colleague described him as a "closed colleague."

"This is a great loss to us, Sen. Whitefield was a close man to me, he was too close to me," Sen. Findley who spoke in a depressed tone via a telephone interview with this paper said.

For his part, Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue who also hails from Grand Bassa County, the home of the late Whitefield, described him as a "great son" who will be forever remembered in the country.

"The late Sen. John Whitefield has left a vacuum, one that would never be filled by anyone. He was a man who always spoke his mind.

"Indeed, Liberia has lost a great son," said Deputy Speaker Barchue, adding that the people of Bassa were currently mourning the demise of the late Senator.

Deputy Speaker Barchue also told this paper that although government would host a state funeral for the late senator, Grand Bassa County would also hold a special ceremony for the demise of their son.

Sen. Abel Momolu Massally (Grand Capemount County), Sen. Chair on Commerce and Trade, told this paper yesterday that they felt 'downhearted' upon receiving the death message of their colleague.

"The late Sen. Whitfield was a very strong and analytical senator. When it came to the issue of national and international concerns, he discussed and debated them analytically. He was not afraid to speak; he spoke without fear or favour.

"We felt downhearted when we heard about his death. He was also a member of the National Patriotic Party (NPP). He served the NPP with dedication and myth," Sen. Massally said.

Sen. Massally, further describing the late Senator as a "gifted speaker," disclosed that on the first day of the Senate seating following their return from their break, the late Sen. Whitefield appeared "very quiet."

"At the first seating of the senate, he was too quiet. He was very quiet. I don't know why. But he was not too active as he always did in our previous sittings.

"We have lost a very great senator. He was a tough talking senator. He has a gift of talking. We will forever miss him," said Sen. Massally.

Rep. Eugene Fallah Kpakar (Lofa County) said they were "deeply touched" by the demise of the late senator who he described as "the lion of the senate."

"We express that with sound regret. He stood very tall. He was like a lion of the senate. We are however encouraged that his legacy would live on," he said.

Others expressed similar sentiments and feelings over the death of Sen. John F. Whitefield whose remain are currently being deposited at the Samuel Stryker Funeral Home in Sinkor.

The late Whitefield could be remembered amongst his peers for his strict, principle, independent and analytical manner of discussing issues that affected the people.

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