Liberia: Rep. George Wants Sanctions Extended to EJS, Others

Monrovia — Barely a few days after the United States Treasury Department imposed sanctions on three top officials of the government, a National Executive Committee (NEC) member of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Representative Solomon Claudius George has cautioned President George Manneh Weah to desist from “dining with the devil” and those plotting to prevent his second term.

Lawmaker George is representing the people of district # 7 in the 54th National Legislature.

President Weah is seeking a second term in the pending 2023 general and presidential elections. He suspended his most trusted ally the Minister of State Nathaniel McGill, National Port Authority (NPA) Director Bill Twehway, and Solicitor General Syrenius Cephus less than 24 hours after the sanctions. The sanctions fall under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.

After a rigorous inter-agency investigation, the Treasury Department determined that these three officials engaged in corrupt acts, and they are now subject to U.S. financial sanctions and visa restrictions. This is a decision that the United States Government does not take lightly because corruption is not a light topic. As Treasury Secretary Yellen put it, “Corrupt acts take resources from citizens, undermine public trust, and threaten the progress of those who fight for democracy.

According to the US Treasury Department, during his tenure in government, Minister McGill has bribed business owners, received bribes from potential investors, and accepted kickbacks for steering contracts to companies in which he has an interest.

“McGill has manipulated public procurement processes in order to award multi-million dollar contracts to companies in which he has ownership, including by abusing emergency procurement processes to rig contract bids. McGill is credibly accused of involvement in a wide range of other corrupt schemes including soliciting bribes from government office seekers and misappropriating government assets for his personal gain.

He has used government funds allocated to other Liberian government institutions to run his own projects, made off-the-books payments in cash to senior government leaders, and organized warlords to threaten political rivals. McGill has received an unjustified stipend from various Liberian government institutions and used his position to prevent his misappropriation from being discovered. McGill regularly distributes thousands of dollars in undocumented cash to other government officials for government and non-government activities.”

The Treasury department said, McGill is being designated for being a foreign person who is a current government official who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

Regarding Cephus, is the current Solicitor General and Chief Prosecutor of Liberia, the Treasury Department noted that the controversial Solicitor General has developed close relationships with suspects of criminal investigations and has received bribes from individuals in exchange for having their cases dropped.

“Cephus has worked behind the scenes to establish arrangements with subjects of money laundering investigations to cease investigations in order to personally benefit financially. He shields money launderers and helps clear them through the court system and has intimidated other prosecutors in an attempt to quash investigations. Cephus has also utilized his position to hinder investigations and block the prosecution of corruption cases involving members of the government. Cephus has been accused of tampering with and purposefully withholding evidence in cases involving members of opposition political parties to ensure conviction.”

The Solicitor General, according to the Treasury Department, is being designated for being a foreign person who is a current government official who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

Regarding Twehway, the Treasury Department noted that the current Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), orchestrated the diversion of $1.5 million in vessel storage fee funds from the NPA into a private account. “Twehway secretly formed a private company to which, through his position at the NPA, he later unilaterally awarded a contract for loading and unloading cargo at the Port of Buchanan. The contract was awarded to the company less than a month after its founding. Twehway and others used family members to obfuscate their own involvement in the company while still benefitting financially from the company.”

Twehway is being designated for being a foreign person who is a current government official who is responsible for or complicit in, or has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

But speaking at a news conference held at his Capitol Building office in Monrovia on Monday, August 22, Representative George said the US government, which claimed to have cogent evidences against those accused, should also exert efforts to place sanctions on past government officials, while pursuing others in the Weah led-government.

He alleged that the US has been biased on the latest move as evidenced by its failure to place sanctions on ex-Liberian President Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her son, Robert Alvin Sirleaf for the bankruptcy of the National Oil Company of the Liberia (NOCAL), and multiple audit reports released by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) during the tenure of former Auditor General John Morlu.

Rulers serving in government

Representative George claimed that some of those currently in government are serving as “rulers”, instead of leaders in executing their assigned tasks and responsibilities.

He emphasized that these officials are also “mean and stingy” to the Liberian people, making things difficult for the government ahead of the elections next year.

“I want to say to the Liberian and American people in the world at large that we embrace the sanctions because, some of us that are in power today, we have forgotten history and we are not looking back. We are leaders, but we think that we are rulers. This sanction is going to ensure that we stop acting as rulers here. People have been misusing their positions thereby damaging the government.”

Representative George added that the latest action of the US government to place sanctions on some government officials without going back to name and sanction other past officials amounts to “targeting” President Weah.

“I am not against the sanctions, but I like to take this time to appeal to the United States of America through the Ambassador who is sitting here (in Monrovia) giving hypocritical smile to our President-these sanctions need to go backward while going forward. There are more people here in this government that need to be sanctioned like you said, but it must go back. I am saying to the United States of America, you are targeting George Manneh Weah. But guess what; he (Weah) is a prophet sent by God to redeem his people. We beg you people, don’t bring war to our country.”

Surrounded by sycophants

Speaking further, Representative George observed that most of those surrounding the Liberian leader are sycophants who are unable to speak truth to power.

As a result of this, he added, that others have been pushed away from President Weah.

“Mr. President, Ambassador George Manneh Weah, you chose me to come into politics because, you believe and still believe in me. But because of some of the people you are having around you who are only able to speak to you on what you want to hear and Solomon George will not speak to you on what you want to hear, but what you are supposed to hear-you pushed me away.”

“You (Weah) need to meet me on a weekly basis and listen to my stupidity and take the sense from there. I can never be a Minister of State and taint your government the ways it has been tainted. The Minister of State is the door to the President. If that position is attacked, I want to let you know Mr. President that you are being attacked. I am asking you Mr. President to stop dining with the Devil.”

Representative George urged the Liberian leader to invest in the agriculture sector, especially rice production and reserve some of the country’s natural resources, including diamond and gold at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) in a bid to help build the country’s declining economy for the benefit of the unborn generation.

CDCians are bleeding

He further stressed the need for the holding of what he called a “Come to Jesus Meeting” for the ruling party before the 2023 elections.

He observed that though he and others assiduously worked to ensure the election of President Weah, they are being ostracized and kicked away.

“There are your CDCians that are bleeding because they are hurt. I Solomon George I am also hurt. But because you are the President, I slowed down on that hoping that you will sit down and listen to some of us. You have some of your people in the hierarchy and executive-they disrespect us vehemently and rudely.”

Representative George reminded President Weah that many of his supporters will give up or defect to other political institutions if their show of loyalty to him and his government are not harnessed.

“Loyalty is not permanent; loyalty must be harnessed. If people that are loyal to you are not care for by you Mr. President, they will walk away.”

Responding to LCC

At a program marking the President’s tour in Township of West Point, Representative was over-zealous and overwhelmed as a result of the huge turnout of his constituents to welcome the Liberian leader when he opted to be the a Police Director instead of a lawmaker.

“Mr. President, you know me, maybe you want to win Nobel Peace Prize, but as for me I don’t want to win Noble Peace Prize. I want to be police director for just six months or one year, some people will lost”. Representative George stated during the program.

But the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC)-an ecumenical group comprising of churches and religious institutions, promptly reacted by scolding and bringing the CDC lawmaker to check for his utterance.

The Council termed the lawmaker’s declaration as reckless, and called on him to rescind his statement.

“As a an institution whose task is to preach the gospel of righteousness, joy, goodness, goodwill and spiritual wisdom, the LCC says it is appalled that Representative George would express his enthusiasm for president Weah’s leadership in such a disgraceful manner,” LCC said in a statement.

“Representative George touting idea of people disappearing is completely out of touch with the peace and security that Liberians cherish as vital to our democracy.”

The LCC also called on President Weah to publicly distant himself from the lawmaker’s malicious and vicious utterances.

“The Council believes, if not acted upon, such a wild pronouncement from a sitting lawmaker would plunge Liberia into a failed state of war, politically induced killings and the disappearance of politicians and their supporters. This is not the values many people died and sacrificed for over the years and as such, it must be condemned by all Liberians irrespective of your association.”

In reaction, Representative George used disparaging comments against the Council and its head.

He wondered why the Council did not invite him to clarify his comments, but went ahead and issue a press statement to attack him personally.

“I am an elder of this country, an elder of the Body of Christ and a legislator. If I do anything wrong, the biblical way to solve this problem is that, this Rev. Reeves who wrote this document on me should have order me to meet them for a discussion. (But) they are rebuking an elder of the state, church and an elder in the country openly. They disrespect me, I will disrespect them”.

Targeting Weah?

Representative George maintained that the statement issued by the Council is not only an attack on him, but it is “a cleverly gathering by the enemies of Liberia to get rid of Ambassador George Manneh Weah as President of the Republic of Liberia.”

He emphasized that these enemies want to disrupt the holding of a peaceful elections in 2023 because, they are cognizant that President Weah would win.

He claimed that critics of President Weah and his government are holding discussions on the possibility of an interim government in Liberia and as such, they are engage into acts to make the nation unstable.

“What they want to do is to disrupt the elections. They are looking for all the means to the extent that they are bringing in the Gray D. Allison style of getting rid of people that are around the President so they can get rid of the President. These people have seen that George Weah will win the next elections and they are afraid and gossiping and discussing about an interim government.”

Representative George questioned the silence of the LCC on the consistent use of invectives against President Weah by Prophet Key and Representative Yekeh Kolubah.

Statement misconstrued

He claimed that his assertions made during the tour of the President in his district are being misconstrued and wickedly torn apart by some members of the public.

“They should have asked disappear how? I never insinuated or said I will make the opposition to disappear. They are hidden hands. This Rev. Reeves ran against my government for the vice presidential seat and he lost. Therefore, he cannot use God to attack me. He lacks the moral rectitude or authority to speak anything.”

He used the occasion to hail some members of the opposition community including Representatives Rustolyn Dennis, Yekeh Kolubah, Larry Younquoi and Senator Abraham Darius Dillon for always speaking in the interest of the Liberian people during legislative deliberations.

Representative George added that most often, issues raised by Representative Kolubah are genuine, but he (Yekeh) continues to “damage himself” due to the manner and form in which he presents voice out those issues by her cannot do anything to eliminate these opposition politicians, especially Representative Kolubah.

He, however, clarified that his comments were meant to arrest and place behind bars, not to make citizens or critics of the government and President Weah disappear through elimination.

He vowed not to apologize for his utterance, accusing the Liberia Council of Churches of allegedly comprising of pastors who are hypocrites with lukewarm character.

Plea to Liberians

Representative George, however, urged Liberians to be aware and mindful of a calculated ploy to “get rid of President Weah”, adding that, “I beg you people to talk to your children not to be jumping in the streets.”

He observed that Liberia is gradually becoming a lawless country due to the failure of government officials to listen and find solutions to concerns being raised by the citizens.

“Our people are speaking to us. We need to listen to them. Mr. President, I am appealing to you-you are somebody who when you give your ears, you give them. Liberian people, I beg you to not let anybody fool you to join on George Weah’s back to overthrow or fight him.”

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