airo, 28 April 2014: The Liberian National Cultural Troupe headed by Mrs. Louise McMillian, Assistant Minister for Culture at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism participated in the International Festival for Drums and Traditional Arts under the theme, ‘Drums Dialogue for Peace’ held in the Arab Republic of Egypt from 19 to 25 April 2014.The National Culture Troupe performed at several locations including the historic Salah El-Din Citadel (Castle) and The Opera House in Cairo. The Troupe was then hosted by H.E. Alexander H.N. Wallace III, Liberian Ambassador to Egypt, on 23 April at his residence for a dinner performance which was attended by several Ambassadors and Government Officials.Thirty-one Folklore Bands representing as many as twenty-one countries from the Middle East, Africa and Asia participated with their drums and traditional folk arts in the Festival. At the closing ceremony on 25 April 2014, the Egyptian Minister of Culture, Dr. Mohammed Saber Arab, was joined by the Liberian Assistant Minister for Culture, Madam Louis McMillian and the Minister of Culture of South Sudan to cut the ceremonial ribbon.The Festival was organized by the Bureau of Foreign Cultural Relations of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism.Minister McMillian met with several dignitaries including the Minister of Culture and the Director of International Culture Relations among others. Discussions between the Minister and Officials of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture focused on the improvement of cultural cooperation between both nations. Upon the Minister’s proposition and request, the Egyptian party accepted to undertake the establishment of national theater and cinema in Liberia; they also agreed to train Liberians in Drumming and Traditional Music as well as in Cartoon Animation. The Egyptian Officials disclosed that their representatives will visit Liberia in May 2014 for assessments. They extended an early invitation to the Liberian National Cultural Troupe to participate in the next Festival expected to be held in Egypt in September 2014. The two sides concluded that Liberia host an International Festival, code-named ‘VIVA Liberia’, sometimes this year.The Egyptian side lauded the Liberian National Cultural Troupe for a splendid performance throughout the Festival. On behalf of the Liberian National Cultural Troupe, the Government and people of the Republic of Liberia, Minister McMillian expressed heartfelt gratitude to the organizers, the Government and People of the Arab Republic of Egypt for the hospitality and the opportunity afforded Liberia to participate in such an elaborate international occasion; adding, it provided a remarkable platform to allow for the Troupe to showcase Liberia Cultural Arts and Folk Dances to the rest of the world.For his part, Ambassador Alexander H.N. Wallace, III visited the National Cultural Troupe at their hotel and attended their performances. The Ambassador promised to facilitate initiatives aimed at improving the National Cultural Troupe and promoting Liberia cultural relations with Egypt. He extolled the Troupe for their superb performances throughout the Festival. The Ambassador and the Director of International Cultural Relations of Egypt discussed plans to strengthen Liberia-Egypt Cultural Relations, including exchange of National Artifacts for display in museums or public galleries as well as provision of training programs for the Liberian Cultural Troupe. Additionally, Ambassador Wallace and Minister McMillian discussed ways and means of utilizing the opportunities offered by the Egyptian Cultural Authority to adequately enhance the Liberia National Cultural Troupe. The Minister expressed thanks to the Ambassador for his hospitality and tremendous support accorded the Troupe, as well as his persistent presence around them throughout their stay in Egypt.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has finally sent to the House of Representatives the Budget Message, which includes the performance report on the 2013/2014 and formal submission of the Fiscal Year 2014/2015 National Budget.The Budget Message was in fulfillment of the Representatives’ request amidst the submission of the 2014/2015 National Budget which marked her 9th National Budget of her Presidency.In her letter to Speaker J. Alex Tyler, the President said the Budget calls for a period of national sacrifice – a sacrifice that calls for better efficiency in the allocation of available resources – as we combine aggressive revenue generation with careful debt management and scale up spending in security, energy and the road network.The President’s Budget message to the Legislature was read on Tuesday, June 3, 2014, during the 33rd day sitting in the 3rd session of the Honorable House of Representatives of the 53rd Legislature.A recurrent budget US$529 million was proposed, with a reduction of periodic expenditure, which she said, “It is not going to be easy or painless.”The budget message said there would be decrease in excessive expenditure on goods and services by eliminating scratch cards and reducing spending on fuel and foreign travel.“Fuel will be restricted to operational use only; and for all travel less than eight hours in duration, officials and ministers will be required to fly economy class,” the President said, “The number of foreign trips will be limited to three per year, with the exception of the President, Vice President, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Finance; and there will be a limit of no more than five members on any travel.”Meanwhile, the Liberian Chief Executive said the Government will honor its side of the counterpart funding agreements on national priority projects by allocating US$45.9 million across the energy, infrastructure, sanitation and health sectors, including the US$7.7 million for resettlement action plans for the Fish Town to Harper and Redlight to Ganta road.Others include US$10 million for Government’s share of the financing for the rehabilitation of the Mt. Coffee hydroelectric dam, US$7.9 million for the resettlement action plans for the West Africa Power Pool Project, US$1.2 million for the construction of a new Heavy Fuel Oil Power Plant and the US$3 million for repair of the Robert International Airport runaway.The President further said the Government will also invest an additional US$26 million for on-going road works and maintenance, and US$1.6 million for sector projects in WASH and land settlement for peace and reconciliation.“In response to the Legislature’s request for more support to rural development , the Government will invest US$18.25 million primarily for the construction of security and social infrastructure, the President noted, “This will accelerate economic activities in the districts and alleviate difficulties in attracting skilled professionals for assignments away from Monrovia.”In view of the UNMIL draw down, the President said in order to maintain peace and stability in the country, US$23 million has been allotted.“We propose that funding focuses on establishment of the BIN training academy in Foya, extension of the Police Training Academy in Monrovia, continuation of the Camp Todee Military Academy’s rehabilitation, and training, logistics and deployment of 1,832 recruits into the various security institutions.”Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
The president of the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA), Madam Lusu K. Sloan, has called on the government to address the issue of dual currency in the country. Madam Sloan made the call, recently at a roundtable symposium on the economic and constitutional implications of Liberia’s dual currency regime in Monrovia. The round table discussion was organized by the Governance Commission in partnership with the Constitution Review Committee, and it brought together several state actors from public and private sectors. According to Madam Sloan, business women and petty traders are calling for local business transactions to be done in Liberian dollars. She said local traders are not making profit because they are buying their goods in US dollars from foreign importers and selling them in Liberian dollars. As a result, the LMA president said, local traders, especially market women, are selling without adequate income from the business to better their living conditions. She stressed that dual currency is causing instability of the Liberian economy and not improving the livelihood of local marketers or the economy. The LMA boss highlighted that dual currency is increasing countless problems as many schools are charging fees in US dollars, instead of in Liberian dollars. “We actually want the government and those that are in charge to look at the situation carefully; we are selling our goods and services in Liberian dollars, but some schools are charging fees in US dollars. I don’t think it is supposed to be that way. You can’t have your school in Liberia and charge the parents in US dollars,” she said.Madam Sloan indicated that foreign importers are taking excess US dollars from Liberia to develop their countries, while Liberia remains under-developed. “Buying in US dollars from the importers, selling the goods in Liberian dollars and at the end of the day you have to change the Liberian dollars to US dollars to re-buy drops the profit margin. So you see, more money is going out of the country on a daily basis, because they come here to look for US dollars to carry it,” the LMA president asserts. She wants the government to monitor the behavior of importers toward retailers to enable the local traders to profit from their businesses. Madam Sloan said the National Legislature in collaboration with the relevant authorities should put in place policies to stabilize the Liberian dollar on the market, adding that it is losing its relevance.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
The irony of ongoing global events never ceases to amaze me. Over seventy years ago, Europe experienced mass emigration of refugees as a result of the Second World War to United Kingdom and the North America. In 2015, there is a reversal of events, rather than have people leave Europe, the entire of Europe with exception of a few, is receiving refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. What is perhaps of serious irony is the role of the German Government in the refugee crisis across Europe. Historians would have records of events leading to the mass exodus of refugees and deliberate extermination of the Jews as dictated by Adolf Hitler and historians will be compiling records of events of the compassionate role of the German Chancellor-Angela Merkel in receiving almost a million refugees from war torn countries in the Middle East and Africa.While the entire world watches the emerging immigration crisis to Europe, we, as peace messengers are reminded on the roles that young people and Government have to play in ensuring sustainable peace and security. This reminder dove tails the recent Amman Declaration on Youth, Peace and Security adopted in Amman-Jordan by over 500 youth leaders across the globe, August 22, 2015. It also resonates with the theme for this year’s International Day of Peace: “Partnership for Peace-Dignity for All”.In the scheme of events and amidst the tragic refugee situation, we see the need for new approaches to peace building and security as young people continue to constitute the affected majority, not only in their direct involvement but they are also indirectly disproportionately victims of violence, conflicts and xenophobia, in all its forms.According to the UNFPA Executive Director, -Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, “it is time to acknowledge that the vast majority of young people does not engage in violence, even in conflict settings” Messengers of Peace (MOP)-Liberia is of the believe that young people can be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. In the words of Dr. Osotimehin, “Young people-can and must be peace builders”It is based on this foundation, that the Executive Director of MOP-Liberia along with hundreds of other young peace builders across the globe gathered in Amman-Jordon to support the guiding principles on young people and agree on the Amman Youth Declaration on youth, peace and security which calls on government and non-government organizations, associations, and agencies including youth-led civil society to partner with young people to ensure the implementation of four actions points of the Amman Youth Declaration: Youth participation and leadership in issues of Peace and Security, Youth preventing violence and building peace, gender equality and young people’s socio-economic empowerment.The ongoing peace work of MOP-Liberia and other youth led organizations remain largely invisible, unrecognized and even undermined due, largely, to inadequate participatory and inclusive mechanisms as well as opportunities to partner with decision making bodies like the Liberia Peace building Office, UNMIL , UNDP, UNFPA and other international organizations.Our position on this is clear and it is to encourage policy makers and other gate keepers to develop meaningful mechanisms for youth participation in decision making processes that young people in Liberia. We are encouraged in our quest for sustainable peace in Liberia, by the material support provided by NOVAFONE and others. The role of the private sector in building peace cannot be overemphasized and we would like to use this column to advocate for peace partners that equip young people with the ability to engage constructively in civic structures.Until next week, when we come to you dialogues among peace messengers: “Partnership for Peace-Dignity for All-Part 2”, Peace First, Peace above all else, May Peace prevail on earth.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
The President of Bomi County Community College (BCCC), Dr. Zobong Norman, told participants at the one-day validation workshop, sponsored by Plan International Liberia in Tubmanburg, that Liberia should not overlook the effects of climate change.Last Thursday’s workshop was attended by 45 individuals, including students, professors and other professionals and was meant to validate a module to enable the college to offer environmental science to combat climate change.President Zobong Norman told the participants about the dangers that climate change poses to the environment and said the college is appreciative of Plan International’s support to develop ambassadors that would lead in the campaign to help communities throughout Liberia in the fight against climate change.He noted the ever-present threat in communities such as New Kru Town, West Point and areas in Buchanan that have been seriously affected by climate change.“The current exercise is to provide a response to this serious climate issue by arming graduates with the knowledge to take into their communities and we are grateful to Plan International for its support in this endeavor,” Dr. Norman said.He told the participants that changes in rainfall patterns and increased temperatures and heat waves are clear signs of climatic change due to human actions. Among the environmental disasters include oil sands, oil spills, biodiversity, corrosion, waste, air pollution, indoor smoke, skin cancer, agriculture, fisheries and forestry.He said changes in rainfall and temperature patterns have caused increased levels of water-borne diseases which are affecting the rural population.He challenged the participants to work along with the project and ensure that the validated document will be used in the college’s curriculum to foster climate change ambassadors.The participants examined a seven-chapter module, developed by the college Department of Agriculture, which is headed by Dean Christopher D. Momo.The subjects included causes and evidences of climate change, what is climate change, types of climate change in Liberia, causes of climate change, natural causes of climate change, human induced factors and the role of greenhouse gases.Other subjects included climate vulnerability index, features and benefits, indicators in four thematic impact areas for climate change and carbon economy, impacts of climate change, economics of climate change, biological diversity and climate change and the importance of biodiversity.In a brief overview, Alpha Kabba, Program Coordinator of Plan International, said the organization saw the need to initiate the introduction of climate change learning at Bomi College.He promised further support to the College in providing quality education that could make a difference for its graduates in other areas of interest in the country.Kabba said Plan International Liberia determines to work with the BCCC administration to develop a curriculum for the college to offer a two-year course in environmental science.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
By Varney AnastersBackgroundThe Liberian General elections of 2017 is already parading many controversies. From crossing carpet to infightings, electoral activities have been filled with tension, as well as surprising, if not mystical, occurrences. However, the person dictating the current electoral climate is no other than the “Maradona,” or in modern day attribution, the “Cristiano Ronaldo” of Liberian politics, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Varney Sherman long time feudPresident Sirleaf and Senator Varney Sherman were one-time real buddies. When Sherman graduated from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law in 1979, he joined the Maxwell and Maxwell Law Firm in 1980 as an associate, performing duties as a consulting attorney and a trial lawyer. After his graduation from Harvard Law School in 1982, he was given additional assignments and was entrusted to represent some of the firm’s biggest corporate clients; notably Citibank, Chase Manhattan Bank, Tradevco Bank among others. While at this firm, it was noticed that President Sirleaf had formed a special friendship with the head of the firm. The friendship between President Sirleaf and this head of the firm where Senator Sherman worked went on until the inception of the war in 1990, when all of them fled the country. After the war subsided, Cllr. Sherman went back to Liberia while the head of this Maxwell and Maxwell Law Firm stayed in the United States. The agreement was, Cllr. Sherman should revamp the law firm and report to him. After doing that for a while, Cllr. Sherman saw that as a disservice to himself, as he had to do all the work while this so-called boss was receiving the bulk of the remittances. He then decided to establish his own firm. After the Sherman and Sherman Law Firm was founded, Cllr. Sherman took all the valuable clients from the Maxwell and Maxwell Law Firm over with him. This caused some bad blood between Sherman and his former boss who President Sirleaf was close to, thereby starting a rift between Sirleaf and Sherman. It is understood that President Sirleaf was being aided by Sherman’s ex-boss while in exile. After Sherman stopped the cash flow, it ultimately triggered disenchantment and heated exchanges between Ellen and Varney. For years, Ellen and Varney could not see eye-to-eye, and after the elections of 2005, he somehow started reversing his stiffness. After peace talks, both parties decided to reconcile, and in 2011, they formed a coalition which, in earnest, Ellen was only using to gain a second term win. Originally, Varney Sherman was promised a vice presidential slot after Ellen ended her term, when Joseph Boakai would have become the candidate on the party ticket. However, the rift between them reignited during the 2014 midterm elections when the Unity Party refused to support the senatorial candidacy of Robert Sirleaf and the Vice President subsequently campaigned for Sherman in Cape Mount. This led to President Sirleaf empowering the former President of NOCAL, Dr. Foday Kromah, who was also a candidate in Grand Cape Mount county race, to file a lawsuit about the elections result, which led to Sherman missing out on the Senate Pro-Temp position. Fast forward to 2016, Vice President Boakai’s top pick for a vice standard bearer was Senator Varney Sherman. Since President Sirleaf still harbored some resentment against Senator Sherman, she ignited the Global Witness investigation. Tyler was included in that investigation because he would have ultimately become chair of the party, and a Sherman-Tyler clique would not have owed any loyalty to Ellen after her term and could have had real influence on Vice President Boakai (Madam President knew that Sherman and Tyler would have been hard to control). Although Tyler had resigned from the Unity Party and founded the LPDP, he had plans to join the Unity Party in a coalition, which was going to give him some leverage and chairmanship of the party. But Ellen thwarted all those plans with the Global Witness report and setting up of a task force which eventually sent both Sherman and Tyler to court. The 2017 Ellen play: the Liberty Party and Coalition for Democratic Change scenarios After the dismantling of the Sherman and Tyler forces, and with the election of Wilmot Paye as chairman of the UP, Madam President still saw that as a threat to her influence; most of Sherman’s young intellectuals he brought over during the merger in 2011 have become the most powerful and influential people in the Unity Party. In addition, Sherman and Vice President Boakai have a strong relationship, therefore, Madam President started having reservations about Boakai’s candidacy. It was with this thought that she turned her focus toward the Liberty Party. Cllr. Fonati Koffa, a former chairman of Liberty Party, started working on a deal between the President and the party for her support, and the party’s protection of her family when they win. This was how Koffa was appointed as head of the special task force on the Global Witness saga. The earlier negotiations started with a proposal to Vice President Boakai for a Boakai-Brumskine ticket by Madam Sirleaf, which the VP rejected. After that rejection, Madam Sirleaf decided to boost the morale of the Liberty Party by funneling money through the task force headed by Cllr. Koffa. Because she did not want this money to be detected, the task force budget was embedded into the National Security Agency’s budget (the NSA can’t be audited). Three payments of US$250,000 each were made through the NSA over the last three months with the intent of the task force’s operational budget. It was not: it was a means used to clean the money for onward transfer to the Liberty Party by Fonati Koffa. This was how the Liberty Party brought in all those vehicles and bikes, with Musa Bility fronting like he made the arrangements for them. Actually, it was taxpayers’ money. During this period of Madam President’s support to the Liberty Party, officials of the Unity Party started to become a bit jittery. Tension was visible between the Madam President and Vice President Boakai, which eventually led to a peace talk between the two by Bishop David Daniels of the AME Church of Liberia. During that meeting, Madam President wanted assurance from Vice President Boakai for the protection of her family and to eliminate the Country and Congau rhetoric. Vice President Boakai could not commit to the protection of her family, as his stance was if they were found culpable of any crime, they will be prosecuted. But he promised to intervene with the party to calm the Country and Congau rhetoric. Since that meeting did not yield the fruit she wanted, Madam President then turned her attention to the Liberty Party once and for all. However, after three surveys were done by Nigerian, UK and an Israeli firms, the President was told that Liberty Party does not have a chance of winning these elections. She was advised that if she wants to partner with any opposition, the Coalition for Democratic Change of George Weah could be the best shot. At a meeting at the American Embassy some time ago, the President was informed by the Americans that they want a free and fair elections, void of any malpractice. This put the president in a position of eliminating any thought of influencing the results in favor of Liberty Party for a second-round spot. Being the ‘smartest’ Liberian politician she is, President Sirleaf then reached out to the CDC. Madam President’s outreach to the Coalition for Democratic Change is for two reasons: protection of her family from prosecution and Weah’s support to Robert Sirleaf during the special elections for Montserrado for his vacant seat if Weah wins. Since the provisional acceptance of her outreach by Senator Weah and co., the President has instructed all her trusted confidants to choose between the Unity Party and her. This led to the resignation of Eugene Nagbe as Secretary General of the Party and Gbezongar Findley from the party (Nagbe will officially resign from Unity Party soon). More resignations are expected in coming weeks. In addition, it is being reported that Robert Sirleaf has promised Gazprom, a Russian Oil Company, some of Liberia’s oil wells with the election of Weah. This has prompted Gazprom to make some significant commitment to the campaign of Weah through the Sirleafs. The CDC is expected to benefit from choppers and some good sum of money from this arrangement. Conclusion Although they are saving face, the Unity Party is in serious disarray. The party is divided into two factions: the President Sirleaf faction on one hand, and the Vice President Boakai and Varney Sherman faction on the other hand. If the marriage between the Sirleafs and the CDC becomes really successful, we will see unusual defections from the party in the coming weeks. While it is true that politics is about interest, I would like to clearly state in my impartial and independent opinion that the treatment of the Vice President by President Sirleaf is very bad. This was the party that elected you to two terms. In the meantime, the Coalition for Democratic Change needs to be careful with this marriage with Ellen. Madam President is a political strategist and should not be trusted in a wholesome manner. While Madam President might not influence the election by manipulating the results, she might just influence it by manipulating parties. In our Liberian terms, “Ellen is putting political susu hand all over.” As the Liberian “House of Cards” series premieres, we are on the sidelines watching. Good luck to all parties involved. 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A shop owner, her mother and sister are now counting their losses after they were all held at gunpoint and robbed of cash and valuables by a lone gunman on Sunday night.The shop owner, 36-year-old Devika Williams of La Penitence Street, Albouystown, Georgetown; her mother, 53-year-old Nerisha Sukhu and her sister, 28-year-old Rebecca Petamber, were robbed around 19:20h.Reports are Williams had just closed the front of her shop and was in the process of closing the back entrance when the gunman pushed his way into the premises.Guyana Times was told that the bandit then took Williams into the shop and pointed the gun at her mother and sister. He then instructed the three women to kneel as he demanded valuables.The man ransacked the shop, taking cash and jewellery valued over $400,000.The gunman then exited with the items, demanding that the three women lay on the ground while he escaped.The matter was reported to the Police, who are reviewing CCTV footage as they investigate.
A Guyanese ministerial delegation will be visiting India next week to attend several high-level meetings.The delegation will be led by Vice President and Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge, and includes Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman. During the State visit, which is scheduled for January 29 to February 3, they will be attending the Guyana-India Joint Commission and the Inter-Ministerial Consultations.The visit will provide an opportunity for the two States to further enhance relations through an exchange of political dialogue as well as for the fostering of economicVice President and Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidgeand cultural cooperation.The Joint Commission facilitates talks between the two countries on all aspects of bilateral relations while the Inter-Ministerial Consultations allow for dialogue in areas of common interest at both the regional and global levels.“Since the independence of Guyana in 1966 and the immediate establishment of political and diplomatic relations with India, our mutual relationship has been strong. Our ongoing social and cultural cooperation is a reflection of this close link,” stated Minister Greenidge.“The visit is intended to set a policy framework for medium to long term cooperation,” he added.While in India, the Foreign Minister is also expected to sign and ratify the Framework Agreement on the establishment of the International Solar Alliance, a platform through which sun-rich countries collectively address common challenges related to the use of solar energy.This will serve to advance Guyana’s efforts to establish a “Green Economy”, including through its renewable energy sector, as well as further solidify the bond between the two countries. Also slated for signature is a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the cultural exchange programme between the two Governments.Guyana and India have already collaborated on several development projects in areas such as infrastructure, energy, information and communications technology (ICT) and agriculture. Additionally, in 2016, the two States signed an MoU, which allowed for the creation of a Centre of Excellence in Information Technology.Formal diplomatic relations between Guyana and India were established on May 26, 1966.This visit of the ministerial delegation to the Asian powerhouse comes on the heels of a public exchange between Head of the local Department of Public Information (DPI), Imran Khan, and Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, Venkatachalam Mahalingham.Khan had accused the Indian mission of interfering in the country’s internal affairs and attempting to engage in destabilisation of the coalition Government. His statement was in light of the recently-concluded Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) Parliamentary Conference held in New Delhi earlier this month, where a 23-member Guyanese delegation attended upon invitation of the Indian Government.The delegation, which was the largest at the conference, comprised 17 Opposition and three Government parliamentarians as well as three Mayors – all of Indian heritage.The DPI Director, in a Facebook post, asked whether the Indian High Commission deliberately invited only three Government backbenchers and specifically ignored Government Ministers of Indian heritage.In response, however, the resident Indian diplomat, who was tagged by Khan on the post, explained that the top hierarchy of both the Indian and Guyana Governments were aware that the invitations were for 23 Members of Parliament and three Mayors of Indian Origin who were not Ministers.“Hence reckless comments on such a serious issue on social media with the clear intention to mislead the general public by none other than Director of Public Information is unfortunate, irresponsible, unprofessional and to say the least, mischievous given the excellent bilateral relations being enjoyed by both India and Guyana and the ongoing friendly cooperation in various multilateral fora,” Mahalingham said in a comment on the post by the Government’s information chief.While there were several arguments pertaining to whether Khan should be asking these questions, or whether it was a direct attack on the Indian High Commissioner, several persons found it strange that Khan, a public office bearer, would raise these concerns with a foreign mission in such a forum.Meanwhile, Government had subsequently distanced itself from Khan’s comments, with Minister of State, Joseph Harmon saying that the personal view expressed by the State official did not reflect that of the coalition Government.“It does not represent the position of the Government. We have excellent relations with India and we continue to work on those relations. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement that we have with that country and we would like to work towards ensuring that it gets better,” he had said.
Lindo Creek CoI The wife of Lindo Creek Massacre victim Clifton ‘Berry’ Wong said she heard the news about miners being killed, but brushed it aside and went about her domestic chores, only to have her entire world collapse later that night.Collette Wong took to the stand before the Commission of Inquiry into the June 2008 Lindo Creek Massacre and tearfully recounted when she received the news of her husband Clifton Wong’s death.Clifton Wong’s daughter, Shaniza Romain, on the standThe woman related that prior to heading into Lindo Creek, her husband had been home to celebrate Mother’s Day and her birthday, and while heading into Lindo Creek, he had promised to send some money to celebrate their daughter’s birthday on June 13.The woman said the last communication she had had with her husband was when he stopped at Kwakwani before heading into Lindo Creek, and he had told her, ‘I love you’, and had asked her to take care of their five children.Collette explained that when she did not hear from her husband for their daughter’s birthday, she made contact with his boss, Leonard Arokium, and asked that he contact the camp, which he promised to do.Amidst tears, Collette Wong said her nephew-in-law was the one who had informed her of her husband’s death on June 21, at sometime around 12:30hrs.“I bravely said, ‘Hit me with it,’ he said, ‘You already heard’, and I said there was a newsflash. At that moment I did not panic,” she said. To confirm the news, she then called Arokium, and her worst fears became true.“Upon hearing that, I went upstairs. The children were already in their bed, and I woke them up and said, ‘He is no more! He is no more!’ ” the still grieving woman related before breaking down on the stand.She said her screams were so loud that they woke up the entire neighbourhood, and persons came over to enquire what was going on.She said that apart from media operatives, the family was visited by Social Welfare Officers, but she noted that they did not receive any form of counselling or therapy to deal with their loss.Collette Wong said she was also fearful of the heavy Police presence in her street during the wake held for her husband. She further related that her brother-in-law, Courtney Wong, was asked to provide the Police with an SNA sample, and that the family was never contacted about the burial of her husband’s remains.Also taking the stand was the late Clifton’s daughter, Shaniza Romain, whose birthday he was supposed to send money for. The woman related that when her father did not call her for her birthday, she sensed something was wrong.She said that her father was a family man and would never miss their birthdays, and she still remembers the last present he had given her before he was murdered.Romain recounted that, in 2007, her father had presented her with a pair of gold jingles (bangles) for her birthday, but after his death, the family had to sell those to supplement their finances.Sometime between June 12, 2008 and June 24, 2008, miners Cecil Arokium, Dax Arokium, Compton Speirs, Horace Drakes, Clifton Wong, Lancelot Lee, Bonny Harry and Nigel Torres were shot and killed, and their bodies burnt at the Upper Berbice River mining camp being operated by Leonard Arokium.The Lindo Creek CoI is the first of what the coalition Government has said would be a series of inquiries into the hundreds of killings which occurred during a crime wave that began in 2002. The CoI was established to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the killings of eight miners, and to report its findings and recommendations to President David Granger.