16 November 2017

Liberia: Weah Support Backfires Among Australian - Based Liberians

The Australian - based Liberian Community has trashed as "misleading, false and complete lies," claims by its former president Amb. Bobby Whitfield that the Community with an alleged over 10,000 population in Australia is overwhelmingly supporting opposition Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) presidential candidate Sen. George Manneh Weah.

Following the publication of Amb. Whitfield's claims in this paper on Wednesday, 15 November, the Liberian Community in Australia immediately addressed a communication to the NewDawn the same day to clarify that members of the Community in question support various political parties in Liberia including the oppositions All Liberian Party (ALP), Alternative National Congress (ANC), Liberty Party (LP), ruling Unity Party (UP) and opposition CDC.

"Therefore, the claim that the CDC has an overwhelmed majority of 10,000 members in Australia is misleading, false and a complete lost opportunity," the Liberian Community says in the communication from Sam Sakama to NewDawn and "CC copied" to others including F. Reagan Bledee Sr., Mohammed Dukuly, Vafee, Moses and Meo D. Beyan.

Opposed to Amb. Whitfield's claims that the Liberian Community has over 10,000 population overwhelmingly supporting the presidential bid of Mr. Weah, the Community says the last time the Federation of Liberian Communities in Australia (FOLICA) made any Federal attempt to count Liberians in Australia was in 2013, noting that documents in their possession show 3000 Liberians.

Amb. Whitfield is said to be a former President of FOLICA and former Board Member of the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA). In his interaction with Liberians in Monrovia, Mr. Whitfield made many claims, alleging that he met with key stakeholders in Australia and had favorable discussions to render the CDC-led administration the needed assistance aimed at buttressing the party's efforts to deliver on its platform to the Liberian people.

He claimed to have been part of advocacy efforts in Australian that have yielded great results including the increase in scholarship slots for Liberian students in the country; and that it was under FOLICA's instrumentality that the Australian Parliament was convinced to have the country's Prime Minister donate US$44m to the global efforts in combating the deadly Ebola epidemic that ravaged the country.

But these revelations have been trashed by the group he once headed, clarifying that the claims made by Mr. Whitfield about the Liberian community in Australia are not only misleading but overly exaggerated, and in some instances, complete lies.

"First, The Federation of Liberian Communities in Australia (FOLICA), which the interviewee (Bobby Whitfield) once led, did not organize a single activity/ event during the Ebola crisis. It had planned a match in Canberra (Australian capital) during the crisis, which did not materialize," the Liberian Community in Australia says.

They note that it took the mothers, fathers, sons and daughters of Liberians across Australia as well as NGOs and some politicians to force the Abbot Government's hands to act. The Liberians in Australia say they can still recall holding several meetings in Victoria with Richard Di Natalie, the Greens' Senator, who travelled to Liberia and Sierra Leone on a personal fact-finding mission during the Ebola crisis.

They note that there were also rallies, appeal events and media engagements held across Australia by members of the Liberian community, saying "We do understand people are seeking favours in this political season but we submit that Bobby cannot take credit for the 44 million dollar effort from Australia that he did not have much to do with."

They also clarified that the scholarships that Australia often offers to Liberians are as a result of the bilateral agreement between the UP- led government and Australia, adding that neither FOLICA, Bobby nor any one of them has any say in this agreement.

"We do however support, in some cases, Liberians who study here, as expected, but that is purely based on a community, friendship, citizenship or family level. So why is Bobby taking credit for these scholarships? Can he prove any scholarship endeavors that he has made? This is a complete lie!"

While a steady migration of Liberians has been ongoing, the Liberians in Australia say it cannot more than double in four years. According to them, the majority of their migration was between 2000 and 2006 when Australia took Liberian refugees in numbers. They say family, student and other migration schemes post 2006 are nothing compared, so the claim made by their former president that they have 10,000 Liberians in Australia is a factual lie,

In conclusion, they note that many people within the Liberian Community in Australia are not happy about the blatant lies and exaggerations about their community made by Mr. Whitfield.

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