Pressure Group Wants Lawmakers Uphold ‘3-Day Free Calls’

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The Coalition of Youth and Students Against Poverty and Discrimination (CYSAPD), a local civil society organization, has disclosed a ‘one million men’ operation campaign to petition members of the National Legislature not to tamper with or abort the celebrated three days free calls promotion offered by Cellcom GSM.

The executive director of the group, Ishmael T. Koffeh made the disclosure over the weekend during the kick-off of community awareness in Chicken Soup Factory, Gardnersville, outside Monrovia.

“We will gather in numbers to call on the lawmakers to cut off the one-cent tax on every minute of the three days free calls that has been proposed. We want them to understand that the three days free calls are really assisting Liberians,” Mr. Koffeh said.

According to him, the ongoing community awareness is intended to mobilize other community dwellers across Montserrado County to join the coalition in petitioning the 53rd National Legislature on Tuesday and Thursday to ensure that the quest of the Liberian people, not to add a cent on the three days free calls, is adhered to.

He noted that if the one-cent tax is placed on the three days free calls as proposed, there will be ultimately no three days free calls in Liberia, adding that “We believe that if the lawmakers are petitioned on such an issue, they will listen to our concern and abort the one-cent tax proposed.”

“The lawmakers were elected by us and they will respect our views on this matter. The taxes are for the Liberian people and we have agreed to make maximum use of such a golden opportunity provided by Cellcom GSM. We are not willing now to abort the three days free calls or pay the one-cent tax as proposed,” Mr. Koffeh maintained.

On Thursday, July 21, members of CYSAPD displayed a banner on the grounds of the Capitol Building to petition lawmakers to put a halt to what they described as a plot led by Lonestar Cell MTN’s Chairman, Benoni Urey, to end the ‘3 days free calls’ promotion currently offered by telecommunications companies in the country.

In March this year, Urey wrote a letter to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf calling on her to put an end to the promotion, which, according to him, is costing government millions of U.S. dollars in lost revenue. Two months later, the President wrote the Legislature, suggesting that an excise tax of US$0.01 (1 US cent) per minute be applied on all calls. According to her, the proposed tax on phone calls would help raise US$30 million to fill gaps in the 2016-17 national budget. In that same letter, she also called for steeper taxes on tobacco and alcoholic beverages. The President’s proposal is currently before the lawmakers for their consideration.

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