The thrust of this fifth article of the series on what happens to Liberia after the Ebola crisis is on what I perceive as the significant role of the religious community in fighting Ebola now and in post Ebola Liberia. How is the religious community involved with the fight against Ebola? And what role will it play in attending to some of the post Ebola challenges that will inevitably follow? Who or what is the religious community we have in mind. We shall discuss below. The fourth article on some key suggestions to the government underscored the following points:I would like to suggest that there be some all inclusive conferences on our health system economy, education, agriculture, and on how we fight corruption. These conferences should make use of the best minds of the land, regardless of political affiliation, in critically researching where we are at in these critical areas of our national life, and come up with concrete plans and systems that transcend any particular governments. We pray and trust that this greatest of national challenges will be an opportunity for the rebirth of the nation in the areas of health, economy, education, agriculture, the management of what we have, and fighting corruption.In post Ebola Liberia serious attention has to be paid to those who are hit the hardest by Ebola, the survivals, families of the health workers who die in the fight, orphans, widows, widowers, and all who have and are losing their means of living. Integration of survivals into their communities must be a priority. The nation will have to take care of the education of the orphans caused by Ebola who are of school going age up to college or at least high school, and entrepreneurial support to those who are able to enable them support themselves and families and be in a position to contribute to the welfare of the nation. The government of Liberia will have to encourage and facilitate the unifying of the whole country in going back to the drawing board and re-make the nation for the better. There is a need for us to move away from rote learning to creativity and innovation and commitment to making the most of what we have. History has shown that those who pass through some of the greatest challenges in life tend to develop better and faster than ever before and I trust this will be the case with Liberia.This brings us to the role of the faith based institutions in fighting Ebola and in dealing with post Ebola concerns. Most Liberian believers who have considerable influence in the nation are either Christians or Muslims. I am aware that there are others who may be African traditional believers or some other religions but the most influential are Christians and Muslims. These two religious groups fall under the umbrella of the Liberian Council of Churches (LCC) and National Muslim Council of Liberia (NMCL). All the mainline Churches (Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, etc.) and some Pentecostal denominations are members of the LCC. Again I am aware that there are some Churches and Mosques that do not fall under the LCC and NMCL and they too are involved in some ways. Most of what I am sharing about the involvement of the religious community with Ebola fight is specific to the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia (IRCL) headed by Archbishop Jonathan B. B. Hart and Sheikh Kafumba F. Konneh.This group is collaborating and coordinating the interventions of Churches and Mosques in the national response to Ebola. They are making as parts of their sermons Ebola messages and awareness, training and dialoguing with their members about Ebola prevention and care for its victims, and providing relief and practical support.Recently the IRCL sent pastors and imams in pairs (one pastor and one imam) to five affected counties, Bomi, Bong, Cape Mount, Lofa, and Nimba to hold training sessions and dialogues with over 300 pastors and imams about Ebola. The trainings and dialogues emphasized religious practices that are deemed dangerous with regard to the spread of Ebola and why they must be suspended now in order to save the living. It was stressed how these pastors and imams must be involved at every level: county, district and community. They can help their communities isolate and care for suspected cases and their affected households, and support victims get treatment while protecting themselves and others. More of such interventions are planned to be implemented soon by the IRCL. A large segment of people are excited to see Muslims and Christians working together for the common good.It intended that such collaboration to pursue the common good will continue and even accelerate in post Ebola Liberia. The need will be for community involvement in overcoming common problems and in advancing the good of all of society in the areas of health, economy, education, agriculture, management, and dealing with the cancerous virus disease of corruption. More will be said about this when we, in the last article, explore the role of all segments of society in post Ebola Liberia. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
CONSIDERING POST-EBOLA LIBERIA (PART FIVE): THE ROLE OF THE RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY
Weah, Kaipay Elected to Int’l Bodies
A week after electing Gbarpolu County Senator Armah Zolu Jallah President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate, that body yesterday in fulfillment of its Standing Rules, elected chairpersons of its Statutory Committees and representatives to three international bodies.Though conducted in an open, free and fair atmosphere, the election like most electoral proceedings did not go on without some drama and surprises.It all started when new comers to the Senate Conmany B. Wesseh (River Gee), and Daniel Flomo Naatehn (Gbarpolu) together with Montserrado County Senator Geraldine Doe-Sherif were named as candidates for the committee on Executive, which is one of the coveted statutory committees.However, Senator Naatehn immediately announced that he was withdrawing from the race, saying it would not be prudent for him to participate because he and Pro Tempore Jallah hail from the same county and that the Executive committee post is a leadership one as is the Pro Tempore.Senator Wesseh who was called on to make a five-minute pre-election comment, in a surprise move, announced that he was not available for the election, meaning that he was no longer a candidate even though he voted for other candidates who vied for other posts.The River Gee lawmaker said he had hoped that in the name of reconciliation, individuals would have been appointment to positions the Senate believes they are competent and qualified to ably perform and not through elections.The two withdrawals left Senator Doe-Sherif as the lone candidate, and Bong County Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor cast the white ballot to elect her the new Chairperson on Executive.In a close race, the Senate voted 15 for Grand Cape Mount County Senator Edward Boakai Dagoseh, against Grand Gedeh County Senator G. Alphonso Gaye as the new Chair of the Committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Budget.For the post of Chair on Rules, Order and Administration, the lone candidate Lofa County Senator George Tamba Tengbeh received the white ballot cast by Senator George Manneh Weah.Another interesting drama during yesterday’s proceedings occurred when River Cess Senator Francis Saturday Paye who had earlier announced his candidacy for the post of Chair on the committee of Internal Affairs, Governance and Reconciliation, mysteriously disappeared from the Chambers and failed to appeared when his name was announced by the Secretary of the Senate to mount the podium for pre-election comments.His name however, remained on the ballot and in the voting process he was massively defeated 18-3 by Nimba County Senator Thomas S. Grupee.For elections of three representatives to international bodies, Grand Bassa County Senator Jonathan Kaipay, the ‘David who beat Goliath’, former Pro Tempore Gbehzohngar Findley, was voted on white ballot to represent the Senate at the Inter-Parliament Union (IPU).Montserrado County Senator and Congress for Democratic Change political leader George Weah, and Nimba County political godfather Prince Yormie Johnson were nominated and unanimously voted to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament; while River Cess Senator Dallas A.V. Gueh was elected to represent the Senate at the Pan African Parliament.Election for arguably one of the most important statutory committees, the committee on Judiciary, Claims, Petitions and Human Rights chaired by Sinoe County Senator Joseph N. Nagbe was postponed as it was discovered that the lone candidate, Matthew Zargo of Lofa County, had withdrawn.All eyes may now turn to the most recently certified Grand Cape Mount County Senator and Chairman of the ruling Unity Party, Cllr Varney Nabir Gboto Sherman, whom from all indications, is the sole favorite to replace Senator Nagbe who is not contesting to retain that post.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Elevate women’s rights in Guyana
Dear Editor,We have seen, in our small country, far too many cases of severe and deadly abuse against our mothers, sisters, aunts and friends. We have grown to accept a system that encourages against women abusive behaviours that are unacceptable, and which pave the way for deadly levels of violence to take place.Women in Guyana have, for far too long, not been given enough attention and protect from our legal and enforcement systems. We have come to accept men speaking to women with disrespect; as if, when married, these women became their property, instead of their having entered a partnership of complementing abilities and mutual respect.Indeed, women also contribute to this dynamic by not setting, at an early stage, the boundaries that would allow the relationship to take the right path.I have, on many occasions, seen where men took out their frustrations on women, and expressed their dominance just because they were emboldened to so do.According to the UN body on women’s rights, even though Guyana has a strong legal framework for the protection of women’s rights, its implementation and enforcement arms are weak and susceptible to neglect and bribery, thus Guyana is unable to make cases of abuse disappear. The responsibility is therefore vested in our legal system to drive accountability, and at the feet of our leaders to create a higher sense of awareness regarding gender-based violence, so that we can change the course of our longstanding poor behaviours towards women.Another of our responsibilities is to empower women to take action at the slightest gesture of abuse; which should include arming them with the knowledge to detect early signs of abuse, and providing them with clear avenues to seek and obtain help. However, this is where it sometimes falls through, since many women would change their minds and turn a blind eye to the early warning signs. In many cases, women’s actions are driven by commitment to their children and other social pressures, such as what society would think and say about them.But the sad reality is that once a space is created for abuse to take place, it is almost certain that it would escalate to a severe type of violence against females. That is why parents should do more to teach their daughters self-defence techniques such as karate, and imbue them with a higher sense of independence when married or in a relationship.Parents also should do more to elevate the level of expectations their sons should satisfy when it comes to treating with women.There seems to be a disparity in the way men regard women who are unrelated to them from the way they regard their mothers, sisters and other female relatives. But, in reality, there should be no difference in the way men regard all women.In terms of leadership, we are seeing that women are doing a much better job of being leaders than men. For example, in politics, a woman leader of Germany has been showing stronger results and delivering more peace and stability than her male counterparts. We have also seen the power of Michele Obama, who has inspired women across the globe with her strength and fearless approach to challenging the status quo in regard to how women are viewed by some men.As Guyanese, we must not accept mediocrity, but should instead strive to raise the bar in all aspects of life.Sincerely,Malcolm Watkins
A colossal waste of time
Dear Editor,One recent meeting was described as “a colossal waste of time”.The most recent round of meeting between the two main political players can also be described thus. Why? There has not been anything new emanating or emerging from the meeting. No compromises or brokered agreements in arriving at a consensus. Not even a glimmer of hope.Both sides hold firm and steadfast to their respective views, opinions and interpretations of the Constitution and court rulings. The caretaker President and Cabinet maintain they will not resign, while the Opposition maintains it will not return to Parliament among other numerous stated positions on both sides.So what we have? Continued stalemate…a photo op and another day gone.It must be wondered if these “colossal waste of time” meetings are for the benefit of the international community.Sincerely,Shamshun Mohamed
Prisoners spat on Fire Chief – CoI hears
Upon arrival at the scene of the fatal Camp Street Prison fire, which left 17 inmates dead, Chief Fire OfficerChief Fire Officer Marlon GentleMarlon Gentle revealed that he was verbally abused and spat on by prisoners.In his testimony at the afternoon session of Wednesday’s Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into events surrounding the deadly prison fire, Gentle explained that the situation was very tense, noting that there was potential for “anything to happen”.Due to the nature of the prison environment, he opined that inmates could have attempted a jail break. Attorney representing the Prison Service and Guyana Police Force, Eusi Anderson asked Gentle to detail the abuses which were hurled at him.In his testimony, the Chief Fire Officer remembered vividly prisoners saying “Why the f**king Fire Chief coming now” and “we want to f**k up the prisons”.“I was spit on by the same people [prisoners]; persons were rocking the fence,” Gentle further explained.The Chief Fire Officer was questioned as to why he arrived at 11:59h after the Fire Service received the report at 11:18h. Gentle explained that he ensured that ambulances gathered as his deputy Compton Sparman related to him to expect casualties. He noted that when he arrived, he along with Police Commander Clifton Hicken and Deputy Director of Prisons Gladwin Samuels tried to diffuse the situation.Proceed with cautionThe Commission was told that subordinate firemen were told to proceed with caution.“The cautionary words were basically to alert them that this was not a normal situation, it was a riotous situation and they must be cognisant of their own safety,” Gentle recounted. In his explanation over what he heard over his radio set, the Chief Fire Officer explained that Fire Officer in Charge of Operations Compton Sparman was shouting “Enter with caution! Proceed with caution!” several times.In trying to ascertain the available resources to the fire service, the Commission was told that there are 191 ranks in Georgetown (A Division) and that there is a more than 95 per cent compliment of ranks in the overall service. Gentle however admitted that the fire service does not have all that it currently needs. He revealed that the fire service is undertaking measures with stakeholders to fix many of the broken fire hydrants in the city.Sophia Boucher, leading firewoman in the control room, was also called to testify as she was the officer on duty receiving reports at Central Fire Station, Stabroek between 11:00h and 14:00h. Upon inspection, Attorney associated with the Bar Association Glen Hanoman raised concerns that the logbook started on March 2, 2016, and as such, could not establish a flow of entries, thereby hindering its credibility. He then petitioned Commission Chairman James Patterson that its predecessor be tendered as evidence.Her evidence corroborated the time when the report was received, when Marlon Gentle arrived, the time when the fire tenders were dispatched as well as the time when the ambulances were deployed.Fake logbook?In cross-examination, Attorney Hanoman postulated that Boucher assisted in “drafting up the logbook” for the purpose of bringing it to the Commission and that another logbook exists for March 2 and March 3.“I am suggesting to you that you assisted in preparing a brand new logbook,” Hanoman said but the leading firewoman simply replied: “No, Sir.”Eariler, another Fire Officer, Garfield Benjamin told Commissioners that the scene in the prison was “gruesome” and noted that he had never seen such scenes in his experience as a fire fighter. He stated that some of the bodies were packed on top each other – 12 were at the doorway and three were near the toilet area.The witness related that he did not see any canister of tear gas at the scene on March 3.In this morning’s session, Marlon Gentle will resume his testimony.
Labourer slapped with bodily harm charge
A labourer was on Friday placed on 0,000 bail by Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan when he appeared before her charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm.Chris Baird, 23, of Lot 41 Parika, pleaded not guilty to the charge which stated that on 10 April at Tabatinga, Central Rupununi, Lethem, he inflicted grievous bodily harm on Linden West.Baird also denied the charge that on the same day at the same location he also inflicted grievous bodily harm to Amanda Campbell.Magistrate McLennan enquired about the Complainants’ whereabouts to which Police Prosecutor Neville Jeffers informed the court that they are in Lethem.The case was transferred to the Lethem Magistrate’s Court and will continue on May 30.
Thieves hit Delicious Restaurant
The owner of Delicious Restaurant is now counting his losses after bandits broke into his premises on Monday evening and carted off an undisclosed amount of money and other items.According to reports received, the restaurant which is located at Lot 60 Cummings Street, Alberttown, was broken in to about 22:00h when the family of the owner was out.A waitress at the restaurant told this publication that the thieves broke in to the premises via the back entrance.“When the owners for the restaurant returned home that night, they noticed that the back entrance of the restaurant was opened and upon inspection saw the entire inside of the restaurant ransacked,” the waitress said.Upon further inspection, it was discovered that the thieves drank a quantity of alcoholic beverages, as empty bottles of Guinness and Heineken were found on the restaurant floor.“Also we usually buy food and leave it for our boss, and the food was eaten out and the boxes were on the floor,” the woman explained.According to the waitress, a number of sunglasses that were stored in the restaurant were also stolen.The surveillance cameras which were inside the restaurant were also disconnected and the DVR (digital video recorder) was taken by the thieves.The owner of the restaurant refused to report the matter to the Police, as he stated that on a number of occasions the restaurant has been robbed and when reports were made to the Police, no one showed up to investigate the matter.
APNU/AFC to review performance at impending summit
In less than a month, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change coalition (APNU/AFC) will commemorate its first year in governance, as such, the coalition is expected to host a seminar to review its performance over the past 12 months.This was revealed by Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman on Wednesday at the post Cabinet briefing which was held at the Ministry of the Presidency.APNU/AFC coalition to review past year’s performance“As we approach the first year in Government, there will be such a gathering where you can look at the triumphs and the hills and the valleys, the lows and the highs of the coalition Government and the relationship between the parties,” he stated.However, Trotman noted that no date has been set aside for the hosting of such a forum but assured that this event will take place within the coming weeks. He did not say whether it will on or before May 16 – the date last year when the coalition was sworn into governance after being announced the winners at the May 11, 2015 General and Regional Elections.Tensions risingMeanwhile, tension seems to be building within the APNU/AFC Government after the AFC, the smaller party in the coalition, recently raised concerns about the amount of authority being vested to Minister of State Joseph Harmon.Harmon has recently found himself in the midst of controversies following a recent trip to China. In this regard, the AFC had called for Harmon’s powers to be trimmed. The party had explained that the concentration of the powers of the office of the Cabinet Secretary, the Minister of State in the Ministry of the Presidency and the effective Head of the Presidential Secretariat in a single person is a matter of concern and that in fact, the powers should be separated.However, President David Granger had subsequently stated that Harmon’s duties and responsibilities are not too burdensome. “I don’t think that they are so burdensome that he cannot take all three responsibilities. I am standing by the duties which were assigned to him last May and this is what we have been working with for the last 11 months,” the Head of State told reporters last week.Nevertheless, Minister Trotman revealed on Wednesday that the matter was brought up before Cabinet during which President Granger encouraged the AFC Leader and Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, and the party’s Vice Chairman, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, to voice their concerns.“They gave their opinions, their views (and) were not hindered in anyway… The AFC as a constituent member or a partner in a coalition may give its views and it has done so,” he stated. However, the Natural Resources Minister outlined that while the matter was raised, the issues raised by the AFC were not resolved.In fact, he pointed out that such a resolution will have to be undertaken at a different forum. “The issue of the AFC views and the APNU views cannot be settled in Cabinet. Cabinet is a governmental institution. The APNU and AFC will have to meet at some high level summit and work through those matters,” he noted.The APNU and AFC signed the Cummingsburg Accord in February 2015 to contest the national elections. They went on to win the polls, taking 33 of the 65 seats in the National Assembly in a controversial election, which results have since been challenged in court.
Ex-CANU officer jailed for cocaine in shoe soles
A former Customs Anti Narcotics Unit (CANU) officer and another man were on Monday jailed for four years and ordered to pay a fine of over .5 million each by Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan.They were convicted of trafficking cocaine in shoe soles at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).Ex-CANU officer Kurt Sunich, 30, and Israel George, 22, were found guilty of conspiring with a person or persons known and unknown to traffic 580 grams of cocaine on July 3, 2015 at the CJIA.The cocaine was reportedly neatly packed in the soles of two shoes and placed in the lavatory of the departure lounge at the CJIA, for George to collect. However, the plan failed when CANU officers carried out a routine search and found the drug.Unknown to George, who was an outgoing passenger to the United States, the ranks reportedly substituted the drug. He then took possession of the shoes and was arrested.Surveillance footage assisted investigators in identifying the persons who had allegedly taken the shoe soles to the toilet.During the summing up of evidence, Chief Magistrate McLennan said Police Prosecutor Neville Jeffers was able to prove all the elements of the offence.She said that the Prosecutor was able to prove his case beyond reasonable doubt against Sunich and George.Magistrate McLennan added that she believed the two men had knowledge of the trafficking agreement and intended to play a part. As such, she affirmed that based on evidence led during the trial she was satisfied that they conspired with persons to traffic narcotic.In mitigation, Attorney Euclin Gomes said that Sunich has accepted the ruling of the Court and was very remorseful. He also asked the Court to impose the minimal sentence that the law permits.Prosecutor Jeffers told the Court that the street value of the drugs multiplied by three is $1,566, 000 which the men were each ordered to pay as a fine.Sunich and George made their first court appearance on July 7, 2015 and had denied the allegation. They were initially remanded to prison, but were subsequently released on bail by the High Court.
Mother remanded for ‘wilful neglect’
Molestation of 3-year-oldThe mother of a 3-year-old girl who was sexually molested last Saturday was remanded to prison when she made an appearance in the Springlands Magistrate’s Court in chambers before Magistrate Rabindranauth Singh on Thursday, charged with ‘wilful neglect’.The mother, whose name is being withheld to protect the child’s identity, was not required to plead to the charge of “wilful neglect in a manner wholly to cause unnecessary suffering and injury” to the child.Police prosecutor Inspector Godfrey Platter told the court that the woman is an alcoholic and has five children ages 2 to14 years.He said between Saturday 18 June and Sunday, June 19 she went on a drinking spree. She returned home at 20:30h on Sunday and retired to bed with her children. Platter said the accused woke about 01:30h the following day and discovered the 3-year-old infant missing from the bed. Upon checking, she found the child on the floor of the house bleeding profusely from the vagina.The matter was reported to the police and the child taken to the hospital.The prosecutor asked for bail to be refused on the grounds that the state of the infant’s health was unknown as she remains hospitalised.Magistrate Singh remanded the mother to prison until Monday 27 June, 2016 when a medical report on the child’s progress is expected to be presented.Meanwhile, Divisional Commander, Assistant Commissioner Ian Amsterdam said as police continue their investigations, two other persons are in custody.He noted that the woman’s four other children will be placed in the care of a relativeThis publication understands that the woman’s husband and father of the children, who is a fisherman has been at sea for some time now and it is unclear if he is aware of the incident.He is expected home in four days.