"The Committee condemns to the highest degree, the abuse, molestation, and rape of our disadvantaged daughters," says Rep. Julie F. Wiah , Lofa County District #2 lawmaker and chairperson of the House Committee on Gender Equity, Child Development and Social Protection. MTM's co-founder, Katie Meyler , is stepping down from the day-to-day operations of the organization, pending an investigation by its Liberia Advisory Board.
The committee on Gender Equity, Child Development and Social Protection of the House of Representatives says it wants More Than Me Foundation (MTM) to be charged, prosecuted and subsequently shutdown as justice to the 10 young girls between the ages of 10 and 16 who were reportedly raped by MTM liaison officer Mcintosh Johnson (deceased).
Representative Julie F. Wiah, Lofa County District #2 lawmaker and chairperson of the House Committee on Gender Equity, Child Development and Social Protection, wants the government and non-governmental institutions, including the ministries of Education, Justice, and Gender, Children and Social Protection as well as UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) to collaborate and ensure that justice is served to those children and generations yet unborn.
"The Committee condemns to the highest degree the abuse, molestation, and rape of several of our disadvantaged daughters, who sought education and other social welfare at the MTM Foundation; unfortunately, they were taken advantage of and infected with HIV," Representative Wiah ranted on Monday, October 15, at her Capitol Building office.
"The Committee calls on the general public and family members to refrain from stigmatizing the girls because their lives' journeys have taken a twisted challenge,"she said.
Rep. Wiah, who is also a member of the House's Committees on Health and Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning, said the House's Gender Committee expressed its deepest sympathy to the victims and their families and also appreciates the family members for their own unimaginable degree of calmness by which they have pursued justice so far.
"The Committee will work to ensure that the victims are given the proper quality, adequate healthcare and social protection for as long as they live," Rep. Wiah said.
Meanwhile, the Liberian Advisory Board for MTM has announced that, pending the conclusion of its own investigation, MTM's Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ms. Katie Meyler, is stepping down from the day-to-day operations of the organization.
According to the board, they uncovered several statements that were either inconsistent with the information provided to them by the MTM leadership or that could be thought of as new information.
MTM, an American charity, was founded in 2009 by Katie Meyler to help get girls, especially those from West Point, one of the most impoverished slum communities in Liberia, from the streets and into schools.
Court documents revealed that the girls were raped from the onset of the MTM initiative. The perpetrator was described as the charity's co-founder, an ex-combatant named Macintosh Johnson with whom Meyler herself had a sexual relationship.
Soon after it was founded, according to witnesses and court documents, Johnson began raping the girls, most of whom were as young as 10 years. Katie herself admitted that the number of girls who were raped at the MTM Academy could have amounted to a quarter of the school, adding: "Everyone over the age of 11."
An investigative panel comprising of prominent representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs), including women and professional associations and appropriate government functionaries, are expected to review all of the circumstances and allegations.
The local board in a statement on Sunday, October 14, said in reviewing the allegations, the panel will comprise no one who is associated with the incident or involved with MTM.
Confirmed members of the panel include National the Civil Society Organization, Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia, Independent Human Rights Commission, REACH, Servant of All Prayer and Disaster Victims Association of Liberia.
LAB members include Public Procurement Committee Commission head, James Dorbor Jallah (Chair), Aisha Cooper, Fiona Weeks, River Cess District one Representative and THINK Liberia Executive Director Rosana Schaack, Dr. Mosoka Fallah, Samuel Sampson and Nelly Cooper.
The investigating panel will be headed by prominent Liberian lawyer T. Negbalee Warner.
Leroy M. Sonpon, III