22 April 2014

Liberia: Clash Over Taylor's Benefit

The debate as to whether jailed ex-President Charles Taylor should be given his benefit as former head of state has been rekindled, this time between two prominent female lawyers here-Counselors Frances Johnson-Allison and Pearl Brown-Bull.

The latter believes that Mr. Taylor is entitled to his benefits because he was a legitimate and elected President of Liberia. But Cllr. Allison disagrees, saying that Mr. Taylor did not deserve such because of his conviction as a war criminal-serving a 50 year prison sentence in a UK prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sierra Leone.

However, Cllr. Bull dismissed the view shared by Cllr. Allison and other like-minded Liberians while speaking earlier on a local radio station Friday, saying Liberia did not try Taylor for [any] criminal offense, declaring that he's not a criminal under Liberian law, and therefore, it was his entitlement to be rewarded with benefits as a past President.

She said specific amounts are spelt out to be paid to past Chief Justices, Vice Presidents, and Presidents, while at the same time, arguing that such entitlements, as well as their burials were not a favor done by government.

"My friend, Taylor is entitled because besides being interim President, he was a legitimate, elected President; and Liberia didn't try him for [any] criminal offense; he's not a criminal under Liberian law; it's an entitlement. And if he's not getting it, I'm surprised; but you see this [is] what other leaders should know the kind of people they got round them- just a few of them still talking for him," said Cllr. Bull.

Additionally, while acknowledging that people's death was in God's calling. Cllr. Bull, however, insisted that Chairman Bryant was very frustrated on that day of his death. But Cllr. Allison, a former chairperson of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission speaking to the New Dawn Newspaper on the same Friday, 18 April 2014, said only past leaders who honorably exited offices were entitled to their benefits and not those who brings disgrace to the country. Mr. Taylor, she argued, did not deserve such benefit.

As a leader and chief ambassador of the Republic of Liberia, the lawyer further debated that a President cannot afford to behave in a way that brings shame and disgrace to him or herself or the country represented.

"So, if you go and bring shame and disgrace to the country, leaders should be above reproach. That has been my position; people who left offices honorably deserve to be rewarded and catered to. So, I think as a leader, when you are forced to relinquish power under those conditions, I do not think- especially when you have been brought down guilty... ," said Cllr. Allison.

She further told the NewDawn that she has never been one of those who believe that former President Taylor deserves any special benefit or any special treatment given the way he exited the Executive Mansion and the whole idea of the Special Sierra Leone Court indictment that hung over him.

Cllr. Francis Johnson (Morris) Allisson, as Director of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, was arrested and detained during the Taylor administration under what was later described as a mistaken identity by the Liberia National Police. Meanwhile, both lawyers also disagreed over claims that the late Transitional Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant died frustrated.

Cllr. Allison noted that the government could not have flown Chairman Bryant out of Liberia for treatment because he was not an indigent (poor) person, expressing the belief that he could have flown away for medication if he so desired.

"Frustration over what? I don't know what they mean by he died from frustration- frustration over what? Like I said, Chairman Bryant was not an indigent," said Cllr. Allison proudly.

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