Liberia: Big Gossip, Lie

ECOWAS House Abuja

The Executive Mansion here has denied claims that President George Manneh Weah has told a mediating Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) delegation that his Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor is supporting the pending June 7 protest.

Deputy Presidential Press Secretary Smith Toby told a press briefing Tuesday, 4 June at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the ECOWAS team's concerns to the president and the president's responses to the team was not centered around the vice president.

"For someone who never attended the meeting to come out and tell you, say, this is what the president discussed ... that is just a big gossip, lie,"Mr. Toby says.

At separate locations, according to Toby, the ECOWAS team met with President Weah, Vice President Taylor, former President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf, the Legislature, the traditional people and the protest organizers Council of Patriots (COP).

The presidency warns that for people to make up stories to breed conflict here will not help the country.

According to the COP, it will petition President Weah on June 7 to immediately declare his assets, dismiss Finance Minister and chair of the Economic Management Team (EMT) Samuel Tweah, Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Executive Governor and EMT co-chair Nathaniel Patray, and address Liberia' bad economic conditions.

The EMT spearheaded the controversial US$25m mop - up exercise that witnessed numerous discrepancies, according to the General Auditing Commission (GAC's) report which details that 52 entities listed to have received US$1,092,292.00 did not answer or reply to GAC's calls and messages during investigation.

Four collaborating opposition political parties including Unity Party, Alternative National Congress, Liberty Party and All Liberian Party have endorsed the protest.

But Mr. Toby told the press briefing Tuesday that President Weah is not worried about the situation in terms of what people see out there, adding that June 7 will be a normal working day.

He says the president encourages people to avoid the fear, keep their businesses open and send their kids to school on June 7.He wonders why kids should not go to school if people will assemble to bring their grievances to their government's attention.

"If people will assemble uh, to bring their grievances to the government, why should the country shut down?" Toby asks rhetorically.

According to him, the planners of the June 7 assembly have assured the government, the public and partners in public statements and documents they have sent around that they will be peaceful.

Based on the protest organizers' commitment, Toby indicates that government sees no need for the country to be shut down.He reveals that during President Weah's recent meeting with the ECOWAS team in Monrovia, he reassured the regional bloc that his government will continue to be engaged, provide the corridor for peace and protect the peace and everyone, whether protesters or non-protesters.

He, however, repeated warnings that the government will not hesitate to hold protesters accountable if things turn on the contrary. Toby explains that President Weah is hoping that the country does not degenerate into chaos.

Regarding protesters' demand for President Weah to personally receive their petition, Toby says the government will receive the petition, which mean the Vice President or anyone in higher position could receive it.

He urges that people should be concerned about what will be government's response to the petition, and not who receives it.

Meanwhile, President Weah is expected to chair a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, 5 June which is expected to highlight economic issues mentioned in his recent nationwide address.

According to Toby, the president is also expected to attend a European Union Spotlight initiative in Grand Cape Mount County shortly.By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah

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