The New Dawn (Monrovia)

10 July 2013

Liberia: Labor Minister Backs-Off

This paper has gathered that the appointment of Labor Minister Juah Lawson by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to head a committee instructed to investigate Liberia's former Solicitor General Cllr. Michael Wilkins Wrights and several others on human trafficking charge, points to conflict of interest.

Anonymous government sources have confirmed that the Labor Ministry, which Cllr. Lawson heads, has a secretariat which chairs the Anti-Human Trafficking Committee that will investigate ex-Solicitor General Wrights, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN), Cllr. Abla Williams, Deputy BIN Commissioner for Operations Robert Budy, the Director of Border Management Cllr. Wilson Garpeh and the Indian Honorary Consul, Upjit Sachdeva.

This paper has established, however, that Cllr. Lawson may be facing a challenge of conflict of interest to investigate her boss Cllr. Wilkins Wrights in whose law firm-Wrights and Associates she has and continues to work despite her recent appointment by President Sirleaf to head the Labor Ministry.

It has further been revealed to the New Dawn-Liberia investigation that Minister Lawson still works at the Wrights and Associates Law Firm, but spends more time at the Labor Ministry, and that she may not directly be involved in the probe she was instructed by the President Sirleaf to head.

But as administrative head of the Labor Ministry, sources at the Ministry said, the mandate to probe Cllr. Wrights and others on human trafficking matter is not directly her responsibility, but that of a secretariat within the ministry which chairs the Anti-Human Trafficking Committee.

They further disclosed that the committee is comprised of UNMIL personnel, police and personnel of the Labor Ministry Secretariat on Human Trafficking, among others.

Already, Executive Mansion sources have also hinted that Minister Lawson has told President Sirleaf there would be conflict of interest in heading the investigative committee, on grounds of her affiliation with Cllr. Wrights.

The mansion sources said the issue with Minister Lawson and Wrights was brought to the attention of the president, and therefore, the Justice Ministry would work with the Labor Ministry to appoint a legal person to head the committee.

"Firstly, Juah is not the Ministry of Labor; Juah has brought this to the attention of the president and the Justice Ministry would work along with the Ministry of Labor to appoint a legal person to head the committee," the source said.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, on Monday, dismissed four government officials, including the Director-General of the General Services Agency, Ms. Pearine Davis-Parkinson, as well as recommended the dismissal of Liberia's Auditor General Robert L. Kilby to the LiIberian Legislature.

She also dismissed Deputy Justice Minister for Administration and Public Safety Freddie Taylor; Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration for Operations, Mr. Robert Budy; and the Director of Border Management, Cllr. Wilson Garpeh for human trafficking related matters. The Liberian leader, however, instructed a committee headed by the Labor Ministry to probe those involved in the human trafficking issues for further action.

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