-Rep. Lt. Col. Jimmy Smith, Others Investigate Blames
Four hundred widows and over 500 of their children, calling themselves the “Concerned Widows and Children of AFL,” have petitioned the House of Representatives of the 54th Legislature to investigate the alleged mishandling of US$100,000 given to the group by former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
In their petition, the group accused their former leader Madam Esther Myers and former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai of conniving to squander the money.
The group told the House in their petition that Madam Myers made unilateral decisions on their behalf and falsely increased the strength of the group for personal gains.
Following receipt of the petition, members of the House unanimously voted to forward it to the Joint Committee on National Defense and Claims and Petitions, chaired by representatives Jimmy Smith and Rustonlyn S. Dennis.
In the first Joint Committee Report, it says with the exception of former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai, who officially requested but failed to show up and did not send any communication to that effect, the rest of the parties concerned were in attendance in the second meeting, along with General Rudolf F. Kolako, Sr.
Rep. Smith said after the second inquiry, another communication was sent to the former Minister of Defense requesting his presence, but he did not come. Rather, a communication from his Senior Legal Consultant Cllr. G. Wiefueh Alfred Sayeh of the Sayeh and Sayeh Law Office was received, informing the Committee about his absence from the country, with the promise to meet with them upon his return in the month of March 2018.
Committee Inquiry Results
During the investigations, the Joint Committee realized that the established group is made up of women and children of some members of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) who lost their lives during the civil war and that Madam Esther Myers and former Defense Minister Brownie Samukai received the amount of US$100,000.
“Madam Esther Myers also admitted that an account was opened with the said amount (US$100,000), with the former Defense Minister being signature “A,” and she Madam Esther Myers and Madam Mary Allison being signatures “B,” the report said.
The report further said that Madam Esther Myers also admitted that the amount of US$60,000 was withdrawn from the account on the instructions of the then Minister of Defense for the purchase of a truck which the group did not receive.
“During our investigation, retired General Rudolph Kolako, head of the Bureau of Veteran Affairs, also disclosed an amount of US$15,000 and 75 bags of rice were received from former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for the widows on January 20, 2018,” the report indicated.
Initial Steps Taken
The Committees, in consultation with retired General Rudolph Kolako, Sr., head of the National Bureau of Veterans Affairs and the leadership of the widows and children of AFL, jointly agreed that Madam Esther Myers and her co-officers should step aside, mandating the head of the Veteran Affairs to formulate and submit a temporary leadership that will lead the affairs of the group until legalization and a proper leadership through elections.
The Committee has recommended that the group be reverted to authenticate its current membership; thereafter, it shall receive all benefits as prescribed by law; that former Defense Minister J. Brownie Samukai be made to produce the truck or return to the widows and children of AFL the US$60,000 taken to buy the truck, and that the Joint Committee be given more time to have more information and detail of the group.
Meanwhile, with the continued absence of the former Defense Minister and his alleged inability to provide response to the accusations levied against him, the Plenary of the House of Representatives has unanimously given additional two weeks to the Joint Committee to get a testimony from the former Defense Minister as well as additional and detailed information of the Concerned Women and Children of AFL.”
In an interview with the Daily Observer in the House Chambers, Representative Smith said the Committee is still waiting for the return of the former Defense Minister in the country and would send another communication this week requesting his presence at the hearing.
“We will wrap things up by next week (meaning the week ending May 26, 2018). We are writing another communication inviting the former defense minister and hope he is in the country, because his excuse of being out of the country was since March,” Representative Smith said.