FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

2 July 2013

Liberia: 'I Will Not Give in to Blackmail' - Sirleaf Takes On 'Bad Press', Nepotism, Wood's Exit

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has confirmed the resignation of Public Works Minister Samuel Kofi Woods from government. Speaking during her monthly 'conversation with the President' on state broadcaster ELBC the President had nothing but praise for Woods whom she said has served well.

"Yes Minister Woods resigned, we discussed it, he wants to be able to revive the justice and peace commission which as you know he worked with, with Bishop Francis and he did so when Bishop Francis died," she said on Monday morning.

President Sirleaf said she has spoken to Minister Woods and accepted his resignation adding that he will continue to make his contribution to the development of the country in his new endeavor. The President was quick to rubbish critics assertion that Woods resignation was a controversial one.

"People can say whatever they want; you know if he had not resigned they would be on his case too that he's not doing those roads good; what's happening to all the money and all of that. People here talk plenty. Minister Woods have served his country well."

FrontPageAfrica reported on May 27, 2013 that minister Woods tendered in his resignation to his employer President Sirleaf.

Woods in an insinuated exit strategy at a signing ceremony between the Liberian government and its Chinese counterpart of a memorandum of understanding through the Chinese construction company China Henan International Cooperation Group (CHICO) to give Caldwell Township a new bridge cited the death of Arch Bishop Michael K. Francis as reason for his resignation .

The Works minister in his tribute to his mentor the late Catholic Arch Bishop insinuated a plan to leave government and embark on a journey to fulfill the late Bishop's aspirations.

"This is an important act for me because at this moment I'm involved in a deep reflection as to where this journey of Career will take me," he said.

Continued Woods: "I still believe there is much more in Liberia to be done beyond this and as I think through these things I ponder; certainly I intend to make a clear decision on where I go from here and how we can continue to fulfill the dreams and ideals of Arch Bishop Michael Francis."

Defending Family name

Hitting back at critics who accuse her of nepotism, President Sirleaf defended the role played by her son Robert Sirleaf in the government.

"I'm glad that I have a son who is involved in the petroleum sector reform, whose primary objective has been to make sure that we bring into the oil sector American companies of high caliber, of high capabilities, high resources that has the potential on the application their own finally prudent laws to operate in our oil sector and that process is well on," said President Sirleaf.

The Liberian leader told the nation that People tend to overplay the role members of the first family including her sister Mrs. Jennie Bernard a retired nurse and people lie about the roles they play.

The President noted that most of the time people use her sister to beg for jobs and other favors from her.

"The Liberian way is, anytime anybody run into some problems or they want something, they go to the family person ay mehn talk to the President for me. It is not only my sister, they go to my friends, they go to associates, they go to people in my office who come to me ay mehn I just want put in a word for them," she told LBC on Monday.

"In the case of my sister ay mehn talk to her for me because I need this job or talk to her for me because I'm running my business."

The President said she comes from a family with a strong moral upbringing, something she attributes to her late mother who was a deeply spiritual person and that it is this morality that have kept her and other members of the Sirleaf family doing the right thing as it relates to Liberia. President Sirleaf stressed that she has no hidden wealth and that all she acquired was done through legal means.

"Liberia is such a close-knit place where somebody knows everybody and everybody's trying to intervene on behalf of somebody. But in terms of owning something, zero, I personally do not own a single piece of property out of this country," she said.

" The only thing I have, my bank account and the biggest amount in that account is the Nobel Prize money; even that one will be diminished because I just committed 100,000 to building a girls dormitory on Todee mission which is currently ongoing. I just completed one in the village near my place. I just completed a new junior high school there."

She said that contrary to reports that the Sirleaf's have amassed huge wealth at the expense of the people of Liberia she is ready to make known what her assets are as declared to the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission.

"I can make my asset declaration and I invite anybody to go and check it out because when they do they will find what I've got there is exactly the truth," she said.

"I'm glad we can sleep well and we can sleep safe today because I have someone in our intelligence who knows that I will never condone the infringement of their rights."

Freedom of the Press

Contrary to reports that the government is contemplating shutting down anti government media entities in the country, President Sirleaf said there will be no such action under her watch but at the same time she would not give in to what she called blackmail.

"We will never take away Press freedom . We will never close any media down however, we expect the media to be responsible. We expect criticism to be factual and our constitution, our laws all say freedom of the press is inviolate but those but those must do so with responsibility," she says.

"I am resolved strongly resolved that I will not give in to blackmail; we will work with the press that want to work with the government and be positive without interfering with their independence and their right to be the watchdog of society but they must be truthful and responsible; if not; we will still not infringe upon their rights but then I don't want to deal with them. I will not give in to blackmail."

The Sirleaf-led administration has come under huge criticisms of late about the level of corruption, nepotism bad government that continue to plague the government despite promises of change every year during flowery speeches.

The President was also at odds with the Liberian media when she failed to speak after the head of her elite Presidential guard threatened to go after journalists because of negative reporting against government officials in the country at the World Press Freedom Day event held in Buchanan Grand Bassa County.

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