The Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) has called on the government to institute an independent probe into the September 18, 2019 fire incident, which reportedly claimed 28 lives, including 26 students and two teachers, at an Islamic boarding school in the City of Paynesville, outside Monrovia.
ALJA says the recommended independent probe is necessary to get to the core of the problem, despite initial media reports, which attributed the cause of the fire to an “electrical fault.”
The Association says irrespective of the media reports, there is a national imperative for the Liberian government to get to the bottom of the fire disaster, with the foremost objective being to pursue the appropriate course of action.
ALJA said Liberians, including the families of the deceased, have the right to know the cause of the fire outbreak, the concrete actions being taken by the government, and the proprietors of the school to prevent such incident in the future.
In a press release issued on September 23, 2019 the Association described the incident as “saddening and heart-wrenching.”
ALJA then expressed its profound condolences to the families of the deceased, the Islamic community and the government and people of Liberia for the tragedy suffered.
The Association said it is agonizing for Liberia – at the twinkle of an eye – to lose such massive number of young people, who had the potential of becoming the country’s future leaders.
ALJA prayed that the souls of the deceased and those of the faithfully departed would rest in perpetual peace, and that the Almighty Allah would grant their bereaved families and the Islamic community solace and fortitude during this period of loss and mourning.
Meanwhile, the Association says it welcomes President George Weah’s prompt reach-out to the relatives and families of the deceased and the Islamic community on the day of the fire incident as well as his promise to reconstruct the burnt school building.
However, the Association notes, President Weah and the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)-led government’s intervention in the current situation must go beyond the reconstruction of the damaged school.
The Association says while the rebuilding of the destroyed school sounds possible, the president and the CDC administration must ensure that the cause of the fire outbreak is investigated with immediacy, “because Liberians want to know what happened, how it happened, factors that precipitated the incident, and those responsible for the tragedy.”
ALJA says if any foul play or negligence is uncovered during the probe, the individual or individuals responsible must be made to face the full weight of the law.
ALJA is a conglomeration of current and retired Liberian journalists residing in the Americas. It is a 501c (3) non-profit organization. The Association was founded in 1998 with the objective of fostering companionship amongst its members and their American counterparts. Additionally, ALJA is committed to advancing press freedom through media capacity building and the fostering of good governance in Liberia through media advocacy.