Recently, some Gbarpolu County citizens residing in the Diaspora invited one of their representatives to address the formation of Gbarpolu county Association in the Diaspora and brief them about happenings in the newly created county. Gbarpolu County was created in 2001 and is one of Liberia’s newest counties. Gbarpolu occupies an area of approximately 1,263 square miles, and was estimated to have a population around 131,227 inhabitants before the civil war.
The vast majority of Gbarpolu consist of forest. Mining was the primary economy activity in Gbarpolu prior to the Liberian civil war, in addition to farming. However, the civil war devastated all sectors of the County even before the 2001 legislation that granted legal County status to the newly created County.
Prior to the creation of the county, lack of development was amongst major problems in the area. To date, Gbarpolu is still far behind the current/ongoing development activities in Liberia. Gbarpolu has three electoral districts. There are three representatives and two senators. On August 29, 2007, Gbarpolu County senior senator Samuel Tormite Died in Ghana while undergoing treatments. A by-election to replace the late Senator termite is scheduled to take place on December 4th 2007. While in the U.S. attending the Gbarpolu County Association formation meeting, Sam K Zinnah had an exclusive interview with:
Hon. Dickson Temo Yarsiah Sr.
Representative, Gbarpolu County, Co-Chairman, Ways Means & Finance
Co-Chairman, Planning & Economics Affairs & Member Maritime
Republic of Liberia.
Q. It is almost two years now since your election as Representative of electoral district number three in Gbarpolu County, how would you describe your relationship with your constituent?
Dickson T. Yarsiah: Well, it is cordial, since our election, we’ve made frequent visits to them. We mainly designed those visitations to ask them what their priority needs are and also to work along with them. As you know, as their true representative, we have to work as per amended, so, to ask me about the relationship between us, our relationship is very cordials and transparent.
Q. What are your legislative caucus major development pillars for Gbarpolu County?
D.T.Y: Immediately after our induction into offices, we wrote a five years development package covering four major key focuses, those focuses are: one, road network, two, health, three, education and four, agriculture. We decided to do these as priority because of the fourteen years of destructions our country experienced. As you know, all of our social institutions were destroyed. Roads were locked, right now; most places are not still accessible. This is why we decided to make road network our priority. Next is health, and that’s followed by education, and as we said, four is agriculture so as to make them self sufficient.
Q. According to your county development agenda, the first priority is placed on the rehabilitation of road networks. To date, Bokomu and Gue-nwolala districts are still land-lacked and completely inaccessible to NGOs and other humanitarian institutions that may want to deliver basic social services to residents of the two Districts, what percentage of your priority has been achieved after nearly two years in office?
DTY: Well as you know Sam, a nation on this fate with a little over three hundred and some years when the war came for almost fifteen years and destroy all those institutions, we cannot just build them over night. When it comes to the roads leading from Bopolu to Gue-Ngwolala and Bokomu districts, that includes also Belle District, really Gue-Ngwolala and Bokomu dDistricts have been land-locked since the existing of our country. Belle District had some kind of path roads where some past so-called investors used to only harvest their logs and bring them forth. So, Sam, to be candid with you, this government has done all she could. What we decided to do first was to ensure that we prepare a development agenda or package. Well, now that we’ve prepared the development package, as we speak, we’ve started rehabilitating the roads from Tubmanburg “Bomi County” to Gbarpolu County capitol “Bopolu”. And from there we are going to continue the road rehabilitations as promised by this government. We will also ensure that the road is build between Belle Yalla. That will also touch portion of Bokomu district. We will later be connecting gbarpolu County to Bong County by way of the St. Paul river to palakolleh. We just got a company that has agreed in principal to build the bridge over the St. Paul River. That company will also be extending the bridge construction to the Tuma River in Bokomu. So, this government has just started the implementations of those promises made to our people during the campaign. But the first two years or the first twenty months were designed to prepare ourselves to commence your work. You know you can’t just get up to build roads without studies because it is capital intensive and there are lots of studies you need to do. You first of all need to survey, you need to do assessment, blue print, before you can commence and this is exactly what we are doing.
Q. I understand you (Representative Dickson T. Yarsiah) and Senator Daniel F. Naatahn constructed a five bedroom clinic in kpayeakolleh, Gue-Nwolala district, what are some of the means of maintenance of this clinic since if fact the district is land-lacked?
DTY: Well, that there, after the building of the clinic, infact we build this clinic during the campaign because we believe in positive actions, we believe in results, we told the people before you even elect us, we are going to do this. So, what we did was to construct that clinic in Kpayeakolleh. Immediately after the construction, it was turned over to government. Government is now sending drugs and paying staffs & Nurses. Just the other day in June, when I visited there, I took a generator there so at least at night they can be able to have lights to cater to patients especially in the case of emergency. Government is doing her own possible best and also NGOs around, like the CCC (a local NGO) are helping with drugs.
Q. The chairman and MD of FAPCO “a logging company” Ghazi Bazzi on September 22, 2007 wrote a letter to your honorable office. In his letter, Mr. Bazzi outlined a number of development projects his company is willing to undertake in the county. Does Bazzi’s FAPCO offer meet the requirement of your county standard for investors? If yes, what are some of the procedures your administration has designed to protect the interest of the County “Gbarpolu”?
DTY: Thank you very much for that very good question. Right now Mr. Zinnah, we can assure you all at home and in the Diaspora that we are not doing it hastily to just commit ourselves to any investment companies. What happen to this company “FAPCO”, as you know, they existed in our area from 1988 up to 1990, two years before the war came in Liberia and we know exactly what they did. At the time, they did not care or cater to the needs of our people sufficiently, in fact, not even to count on any development. Lots of commitments were made, so, these commitments as I said earlier, we do not believe in too much promises or rhetoric. What we’ve told them is that we will continue to receive applications from investors and then we will liaise with our people or constituent to decide. These are the people that we represent and these are the same people over 150 years who have really pay taxes for those areas. Some of them were taken into force labor in the process so we are not just hastening to accept companies. We will sifter them, we will appraise them, we will ensure that they meet up with the requirements of the people and more over, we are not going to sit with potential investors in Monrovia. We will make sure to take them to our elders and residents of the county. The current forestry law says that “the investors have to sit with the indigenous people to come up to some social agreements”. When we talk about social agreements, it can’t just be done in Monrovia because we represent them in Monrovia. The people must be given the time and chance to participate. Their voices must be heard and that their decisions will be the final. We are not hastened, our area is a virgin forest, we have lots of un-tip resources, we are very proud to say that. Our area is like a virgin girl that before we give it to any body or man, we must know the kind of man you are, not just because you have the dollars. We have to make sure that even you “in the United States or other parts of the world add your own views”. Our children or sons and daughters must participate in the decision making process so that they too can have their own take or input before we can accept these companies. As you are aware “Mr. Zinnah” Bazzi operated a huge portion of our forest prior to the civil war, we wonder why he did not make these offers to us during the early stage? Why is he now committing himself this much?. This time around, we are not just looking at Bazzi, we are also looking at those other companies that will be in the position to deliver to our people.
Q. Couple of months ago, I received a phone call from a resident of a border town between Lofa and Gbarpolu Counties. During the conversation, it was reported that there’s a border dispute between both sides of the border towns, are you or your caucus aware of anything of such? If yes, what actions have you or your caucus instituted or planning to institute?
DTY: Thank you highly too for that beautiful question. Land dispute “for your information” is not only between the Belle District and the Kolahun District. It’s almost everywhere in Liberia but this area really caught our attention. Some two or three months ago, the Hon. Representative from kolahun District in person of Hon. Vaforay Kamara and me cited the citizens of the areas to a meeting at the G.W. Gibson high school campus in Monrovia. We met with them on two different Sundays. Those meetings were well attended by residents of the two areas. What we did was to ask their views on the issue. We consulted them and then we wrote the elders and other residents that could not make it to the meetings. We understand that the dispute started between the two groups when people from the Kolahun District started doing commercial fishing and hunting in the Lofa river ‘which serves as the official border between the two counties or Districts’. The misunderstanding started when the fishing resulted to wildlife killing and collection of money from our people by residents from the other side of the border. The alleged money collection was not yielding any economic benefits to our people. So, later, our people decided not to allow the continuation of the economic exploitations. But as you know Mr. Zinnah, the people co-existed before the political desire. Meaning that before lower loaf was considered as a county, there were intermarriages, and there were other relationships & common understanding between our people. Because of these commercial activities, heated argument erupted amongst them and we as their representatives decided we will not sit down and look and look on so we wrote asking them to wait for us. By November, latest the 20th, we will be going in to ensure that we settle whatever dispute between the tow areas. Besides that area, we have received another report of dispute between Salayea (part of Lofa county) and the Belle District around the Via River. We will also be going there to try to resolve the issue. All over Liberia right now there are disputes, I mean border disputes. The other day there was similar thing between River G and Maryland counties and the caucus there had to move in. So, our caucus is really taking this serious, we are not going to put it aside, we will make sure to reach them in our efforts to water down the conflict so that the people can continue to co-exist.
Q. In August of this year, there was a homicide incident in the Belle District town of Lowoma. According to confirm reports from Lowoma, Police went to Lowoma and made several arrest in the town. They brutalized them and requested the sum of LD 2,500.00 from each of the town officials, when the requested was not made available by the town residents; they were made to walk more than 50 hours one way to Bopolu to face investigation. The homicide victim’s father was among the group. The alleged homicide suspect was left loose until a formal complain was file against him by the victim’s father. While the group was in Bopolu awaiting investigation, news of their brutality spread. In a cell phone txt message, I contacted the members of Gbarpolu County legislative Caucus; You (DY) immediately responded to my inquiry request and promised to lunch a full scale investigation into the issues. Weeks later, a local association “LOKOGASA” filed a formal complain to the county authorities (of which you are a part), did you by any chance get a copy of the formal complain filed by LOKOGASA? If yes, what have your caucus done about this case?
DTY: Yes indeed, we received complains not even from LOKOGASA. We heard it from the local authority from the area. In fact the parent of the homicide victim came to Bopolu and as far as Monrovia. He attended our meeting in Monrovia. We saw the father, and we all continue ‘up to now’ to say look, enough is enough. I personally told them when I visited them in last December that “if you don’t want to be killed, do not kill”. This guy was murdered and luckily for us, one of our own sons is the police commander incharge of the detachment in Gbarpolu County. What we did was; we wrote him & even sent for him. We told him to make sure that the alleged killer faced justice. The alleged killer was immediately taken from the Belle District and moved to Bopolu “the county headquarters”. And you are quite right Mr. Zinnah, the police mad-handled our people. I told them look! If you sit down here as a son of the county or the district, moreover as a Liberian police officer and let our people be mad-handled, you will share some responsibilities. You know this government is against killing, you sat down here and send your own people to go in the interior to mad-handle our people and took money from them?. As alleged, we are not in favor of it. We have vowed to lunch a full scale probe into the allegation. For your information, this gentleman “the police commander” sends an independent body to go and investigate the allegation. As soon as we leave from here, we are going to collect the report from them and then send it to you people. We are not going to sit down and shoot this thing under carpets. Enough is enough. The fellow that did the killing is already in jail in Tubmanburg “Bomi County” because we do not currently have jail in Gbarpolu County. As I said, he’s currently behind bars awaiting trial. We will follow it up to the final day in court. This we really promise you, we mean it
Q. According to the analyst Newspaper in Monrovia, on the night of October 18, 2007, Gbarpolu County Development superintendent fell to the brutal hands of Gbarpolu County Police. According to the paper, police flogged the superintendent for failing to buy the police more drinks as requested by the police. What is your county Caucus and officials doing to promote cordial relationship between county residents and police?
DTY: Oh! Are you saying October of this year? SKZ; Yes. DTY, well, I did not hear about up to my departure from Liberia. I communicated with the county Development superintendent prior to my departure for the States. I even told him that the priority need now for the 2006/2007 budget where government allotted USD 18,500.00 is to be used to start the construction of a high school in Belle Baloma “Belle District”. So, if anything of such happen, he should have informed me. So, honestly I’m not aware if anything of such exists. As you are aware, under our own style of government structure in Liberia now, the superintendent’s office is an extension of the president’s office and development superintendent is the next in line. If he can be brutally handled as alleged, then the police would have to be questioned. But as soon as I leave from here, if the information is true, we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Q. During the 2005 presidential and parliamentary elections, I closely followed campaign activities in Gbarpolu County. I noticed some issues between you and Cllr. Kanie Weso. I thought it was just campaign issues but it seems deeper than what I thought. Nearly two years after the elections, residents of Gbarpolu and close sources to authorities of Gbarpolu are still complaining about the dark relationship between you and Cllr. Weso. How would you describe your relationship with Cll. Weso compared to the public’s perception?
DTY: I think by now the people whom we represent are quite aware that those promises made during the campaign are being highly worked on. And Brother Zinnah, I don’t think individual interest will overshadow the interest of our people and the development of our area. Those that will fail to join the national wagon, the wagon of development, the wagon reconciliation, the wagon reconstruction, the wagon of forgiveness, are we going to waste out time behind them? We are busy fostering our development goals ahead. When it comes to Weso and I, I don’t think anything’s between us. As our own culture dictates, traditionally; when something happen between sons and daughters of the land, the elders steps in. And the elders “from my own understanding” have already settled whatever existed between Weso and myself “if any ever. Infact, there was no dispute between us in the political struggles. When you talk about elections, you will definitely find oppositions at each others throats. At the end of elections, the country comes first and then let bye-gone be bye-gone. Unfortunately for this brother and myself, we never had anything in common interns of conflict, so I don’t for see any conflict between us. We will continue to talk to our people as we leave from here again. Before even coming to the U.S. to inform you people on Development issues, we already went on air and inform all of our people. Upon my return to Liberia, I will be proceeding to my constituent to embark on development activities such as; construction of schools, clinics and also the rehabilitation of our roads and construction of new roads. So when it comes between Brother Weso and myself, if he has anything against me, accept you have complain. I think one day when you come to Liberia, then we all can sit and see how we can handle things but we should not encourage group or handful of people’s interest to overshadow our people’s interest.
Q. According to reports from Monrovia and Gbarpolu County, there are about 13 candidates gearing up to contest the up coming by-election comes December 4th 2007. Among them is Cllr. Weso. If you were given the chance hand-pick one of them to fill the position, who would you pick and why?
DTY: Well, power is inherent in the people. I wouldn’t decide for the people. From our own existence since we were born, our people know what we have done for them. For the political party side, the Unity party”which am a full flesh member of”, an executive member too, have selected Theo Momo as the party’s candidate. His selection was done at the mini-convention held in the County’s capitol “Bopolu”. Under the Liberian constitution, every citizen at the age of 25 for representative and 30 for senator can vow for the position accept you have some tinted or criminal records. But anything other than that, you are given the chance to participate. So, it’s left with the people, they have the power, they have the gavel. But on the party line, we have selected Theo Momo “of the Belle District” as our candidate.
Q. Would you work with Cllr. Kanie Weso if he’s elected as the next Gbarpolu County Senior Senator?
DTY: Ooh! Yes, the people’s choice is our choice. The people elected us, anybody they elect will be worked with so that we can bring development to our people. Our arms are open to anybody who wins. We even learn that one of our colleagues (Margibi County District # 4 representative, Flasher Chideryou) who died in Nigeria after a brief illness. So there is another by-election in that area. We are already 63 and the upper house is 29 because of the death of senator Tormite “may his arches rest in peace”, so anybody that will be elected to fill the vacancies will be worked with. As I said, our arms are open, even if Cllr. Weso wins, we will work with him.
Q. You are currently on a three months agriculture break, what are some of the activities you’ve planned to undertake in your constituent?
DTY: Well, before I came, in electorial district # 3 mainly Bokomu , Gue-Ngwolala and Belle District, we visited Bokomu and Gue-Ngwolala in June. The citizens there told us that they wanted clinics as their development priority. So we have already contributed ten bundles of zinc, five boundless to each district. I have already contributed LD 82,000.00 personally as their true representative. We will be making follow ups as they are making the blocks. We will go through the ground breaking and begin the constructions as soon as possible. There are the priority developments we are undertaking during our three months vacation. After the ground breaking in Bokomu and Gue-Ngwolala, we will be proceeding to the belle District where we will also be making blocks for the construction of a high school in Belle Baloma “our District headquarters”. The residents of fassama have also requested a construction of a public school. We will be making ten bundles of zinc available to them for that project. The people of Teigele have also expressed interest in constructing a clinic. We have pledge ten thousand Liberian dollars and five bundles of zinc for that project too. Out of the amount, we’ve given them LD 6,000.00 and will make sure that the remaining is turned over to them as soon as possible. In the Gbandi area (LOKOGASA), before I came to the states, I was written. The people (of LOKOGASA) requested a meeting with us to commend us for out tireless efforts in trying to seek their well-being. They (LOKOGASA) have planned an honoring program for the Gbarpolu County legislative caucus to give us our flowers while we are alive. They also intent to build a five bed room clinic in Gatima, “a Town in the Belle District”. We will also make sure to make significant contributions to that project. As you are aware, on April seven of this year, we took the president of the republic of Liberia “her Excellency, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf” to Belle Yallah where we broke ground for the construction of vocational institution. We also made pledges there. The Gbarpolu caucus pledge USD1000.00. We will also be making personal contributions.
We have also begun making Communion farms in the constituent or electorial Districts. We’ve made some farms but we thought the sizes are not impressive so we want to go back there. Sometime this year, we called on the three districts to get involved actively. We told them that the District that will make the largest farm will receive a price of USD 1000.00 and USD500.00 to the individual farmer with the largest farm. We did this because we believe in encouraging competition in our area so that the people in our area can be encouraged to produce their own food. As you know, we used to be with Lofa County. And those days, we used to be considered Liberia’s bread basket. Now that we are politically separated from lofa County, we want to be the bread basket of Liberia. When it comes to help and road network, we have contacted the German Agro Action (GAA) “a local NGO”. They have agreed to re-condition some of the bridges from Bopolu to Belle District. They even asked us to give them names of implementing partners. We’ve forwarded the name of the Belle District Development Association (BDDAA) and a local Church which has an NGO status. Those two will be helping the GAA to re-condition the roads from Bopolu to Belle. For your information also, last year, we gave scholarship to seven students from the Belle District to attend the “Tubman National Institute of Medical Arts” (TNIMA) in Monrovia. This year, that number has grown up to 12 students. The reason we are sponsoring these students is that the clinics we are building or talking about in our areas need Nurses to operate them.Just before I departed for the States, I instructed my office to make the first check available for the initial payment to TNIMA. Besides TNIMA, we also have some students at other institutions in Monrovia. They are going to be educated by us because we believe modeling the mind of our own children and preparing them for tomorrow but they must be able to serve their people. These are just few of the things. We cannot name all now but I can assure you that there are major things that we are going to do during the three months break. Beside those named, Myself will be making a farm. It will not be a communion farm, it will be a farm that I will make and turn over to the District.
Q. On March 22, 2007 Internal Affairs Minister “Ambulai Johnson” appeared before the Senate to explain circumstances surrounding the disbursement of the county development funds that was allocated for the 64 districts in Liberia. During his appearance, Ambulai Johnson, “according to some journalists witnessing the event” could not account for the funds. There are reports that some counties received cash from the minister while others are yet to. Did Gbarpolu County receive any portion of that money, if yes, how much was received and how was it utilized? How was the decision “to utilize the amount receive” derived at? Were the constituents directly involved in the project identification process?
DTY: Well, the amount you are talking about was the initial amount after we took over from the Bryant government. That amount was around 80 to 90 million dollars. When we came, we had to recast the budget. We had a period from January to June 30th, so we talking about some five months. Our recast budget that was passed into hand bill amounted to about USD44.1 million. Of that amount, we had one million dollars for county development. We divided that amount by the 15 counties regardless of size or population. I think each county of us (county) received about $66,666.64 cents. That amount was divided by the six districts in Gbarpolu County. But because we had just assumed office and were still in a kind of formation stage, we were done hastily. So our people “even we as members of the caucus” were not conferred with as to how that money was used. This is why we had to invite the internal Affairs minister to clarify how that money was utilized. It was not only in the upper House, the lower House also did the same so that he could make a comprehensive report to us. He appeared on two different occasions but was sent back. Up to now, his report is pending. And I can assure you Brother Zinnah & citizens of our own Country, we are not going to sit and relax. This government preaches against corruption and believes in transparency and accountability. So, we will not just talk like past leaders. If we came to change, we must see change in Liberia. This government will ensure that positive changes come to Liberia. So I can assure you that the legislature is not taking it light, we are not taking it free. Anybody who consumes public money must be held liable for his or her action. If you don’t give account, well, it may imply that you will not serve in our area. Either we declare a vote of no confidence in you that you cannot serve the people. I told him when he met us. I said “Mr. Minister, you position is one of the sensitive positions n the whole country. Reason being that you are dealing with the people that elected us. Don’t only sit behind your air conditioned desk and receive report and be satisfied with those reports. Get up from behind your desk and go in the rural areas as we are doing. Right after his appearance at that session, even the journalists asked me why I was so though on the minister when in fact we are all from the same ruling Unity Party. I told the journalists that I was simply being objective. In my family, if you do wrong and don’t want to be told the truth, then don’t call me there because I will tell you the true. So, I can re-assure you ‘Brother Zinnah’ when we return, we will ask the Minister to come back and make his report. But we really told him that it was unfortunate and an abuse to us for them to purchase sand, timbers, crush rocks and other materials to take in our county where we have dense forest and don’t even know how to fell our trees. We told him it was an abuse, so this is where we reach sir.
Q. For decades now, the system of representation in Liberia has been quite different from other countries. In the past, when a political party won an election, all the contestants on that party’s ticket were declared winners. The 2005 elections broaden the horizon of the Liberian legislature. Representatives and senators from different political parties were elected. Most Liberians “including me” thought this 52nd legislature would be very though but a surprise grabbed Liberians world wide when the Senate’s standing committee on ways, means & Finance disclosed to the public that each member of both Upper and lower houses of the Liberian legislature would be receiving USD 1,500.00 as monthly transportation allowances while civil servants still received less than $50.00 per month. As a member of this 52nd legislature, what would be your justification for such a huge gap when in fact law makers are accused of not attending sessions or doing what they were elected for? As a Co-Chair on ways, means & Finance, could you explain how did the Senate’s committee on ways, means & Finance derive at this figure?
DTY: Well, that’s a very beautiful question. Maybe you would like to ask again, how much other countries parliament, congressmen, assemblymen are earning? SKZ, California law makers take home $110,880 per year making them the best paid Legislatures in the United States. The State (California) gross domestic product is $1.3 trillion-plus only behind Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom. If you look at the yard stick that we used, we look at Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cote de’ Voire, Gambia and other neighboring countries and compare their salaries, ours is absolutely nothing. Besides, the $1,500.00 is what we met. The Taylor Government made it, the Bryant government made the same thing. When we got in the recast budget $1,500.00 was accepted as our gross allowance. Of the amount, $320.00 is paid as tax. Take home will be around $1,180.00. Brother Zinnah, as your own representative, you think that amount is so………much that a representative can earn after we have looked at what other people make, and with the kind of contributions we’ve made and continue to make and you are saying that Liberians are saying it’s too high? I think Liberians are now convinced that we are underpaid. For your information, a civil servants salary was $15.00 when we took over. We have increased it to $55.00 a month. It is not less than fifty dollars. You have to be paid as per your status in society. If it is the Liberian people’s will that we should not even make anything and we should work, well, if we will have to make the sacrifice, then so be it! I was very delighted when you mentioned about the congress men from California. You see, they worth millions of dollars, they have their own budgets. Just about five months ago, we received some Republicans and democrats that we talked to in Liberia. They themselves agreed with us that we are underpaid. Though we are not making the money right now, but there are your representatives. If the Liberian people say we are making more and it should be reduced, then they have the gavel. This is what we did, we did not just take it from the blue sky. We only accepted what other people made. It was even the executive who saw us during the first recast budget of $44.1 million, the second recast budget of $134 million and the third one, they said no let’s increase this thing to two thousand dollars. I can’t hide anything from you, right now, our allowance has increased to $2000.00. The net take home is around $1,400.00.
Q. Since the birth of the financial autonomy act, corruption scam has been hunting the National legislature, few months ago, the senate committee on rules, order and administration of the lower house was rocked when a starling revelation was made by George Mulbah who is the chairman on right sizing and downsizing. Several fraudulent or ghost names were discovered on the legislature’s payroll. On May 10, 2007, Bong County’s George Mulbah insisted that he would ensure that the right thing be done in the legislature even if he’s blame in the process. He also vowed to expose any ghost names he found on the legislature’s payroll. How far have the legislature gone with this case? If any ghost names are found what would be your recommendation as punishment for the perpetrators?
DTY: Well, for your information, he was not the rightsizing. Mulbah is a member of the labor committee, he’s also a member of the Forestry committee. We decided to give that investigation to committee “outside of the Ways, means & Finance” to do the investigation. Mulbah and his colleagues or team went in and the problem came from the central administration. The mandate from plenary was that he “Mulbah” goes there and see weather he finds ghost names. He was also mandated to find out how many people had reach the retirement age. That’s the only thing we can do from that study and report, from that report, we would be able to analyze how many people are being over worked. If any ghost names found, those names will be dropped. For those that have reached the retirement age or stage, we will find or put together a package for them. Mulbah and his five member team prepared the report. Out of the five, only two members signed the report. Plenary said obviously there was something wrong. Why would a five member committee report be signed by only two persons? Plenary recommended that Mulbah’s committee return to committee room. So, they are still in committee room, they will get back to us as soon as they are ready or finished with their report. If we find out any ghost names, obviously we will drop those ghost names and hold those responsible for placing the ghost names. All those at the retirement age or stage will be retired with their benefits or package. If we say we are against corruption, it must start from above, from the first branch of government to the last. It should not only be down there where we will be looking at messengers, ministries & agencies. I can assure you also as we leave from here, we are going to make sure that Mulbah’s committee comes out with the report and if we find ghost names, we will drop them. If we wanted to hide any names, we ourselves would have done that.
Q. Some Liberian economists are suggesting that instead of internal Affairs Minister “A.B. Johnson” acting in dual capacity: for eg; county development official whilst serving as Minister, the Liberian legislature should pass a historic law that will comprehensively establish national development benchmarks that will serve as a blue print against which all current and future national development policy from one administration to the next in a consistent manner to ensure speedy and systematic development of Liberia. What is your position on this suggestion?
DTY: Well, what we’ve done even before that act you’re talking about can be passed or introduced. In the 2007 and 2008 budget, the amount of $2.5 million dollars was reached because of our own experience about the $1million development funds. We said that the internal affairs ministry will not be the sole institution or agency of government that will do the implementation. If they will, then they will have to work with the caucus, other stake holders and other county officials. We give priority to our citizens and this is why the amount of $2.5 million is still in escrow account and has not been used up to this time. As I’m telling you right now, that man will not touch that money until the people in the counties identify their projects. And for your information, we have also set up a standing committee comprising of one member from each county to make sure that the money be used for the people and for the intended purpose. So if legislation is suppose to be passed again to point out, we will not have any problem but we don’t want to make the mistake of the past where our people were given money but they did not see the money. The money did not work for them. This time around, we will hold people accountable; we will make sure that people are prosecuted if they are found diverting public money for their personal use.
Q. On October 27, 2007, you attended a Gbarpolu County formation conference in the U.S. what were some of your impressions about the conference and what did you “as a member of Gbarpolu County Legislative Caucus” recommend to the interim leadership of the Association?
DTY: Well, first and foremost I like to take hat off for you all “particularly to you, Brother Zinnah & Cllr. Jalloh” for a job well done. If you hold a teleconference in the United States where people are busy twenty-four hours and 22 persons attend the initial conference, for me, I feel it was an achievement and success. I just like to admonish you all “like we stated before”. I would also like to take this time to encourage you all to work collectively to make sure that the organization is well established so that we can be able to emulate other counties in Liberia. I know it is difficult but it is not impossible for everybody to meet. I’ve seen it, I’ve witnessed it, other people were given some responsibilities but they gave excuses. This should not deter your. We should not only this organization to the Diaspora. All of you can collectively support development in our country “Liberia”. Again, we say hats off to you ‘brother Zinnah’ for your leadership role you’ve play and continue to play in bringing your colleagues together and not relenting in ensuring that a Gbarpolu association is formed in the Diaspora. I was very impressed when a citizen of Gbarpolu called from Sudan and stayed on the conference for the entire two hours plus. As soon as your elections are held or right after your interim period, if you want you elected officials to be inducted into offices in the county capitol of Bopolu, our arms will be opened to receive you. As we leave from here, we will convey the message to our people. We will let them know that the association already has an interim body. The task of nation building is not the sole responsibility of those who reside in Liberia nor is the responsibility of those who reside in the Diaspora but rather, it is a collective responsibility. Let us consider it as our obligation. Our people have asked us to please tell you to work together to help build their lives and that of their children.
SKZ. Thanks for your valuable time and I look forward to talking to you another time if need arises.