Yesterday, some bystanders were left speechless as supporters of Mr. Robert Alvin Sirleaf were seen “misusing” the new buses recently donated by the Indian Government.
At least five of the 15 new 52-seater buses formed part of Mr. Sirleaf’s electoral campaign convoy of cars that were conveying supporters as he (Sirleaf) carried out his campaign activities.
Mr. Sirleaf, one of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s four sons, is contesting along with 11 others, including soccer legend, Ambassador George M. Weah, for the Senate seat of Montserrado County. Mssrs. Sirleaf and Weah are seen as the two major frontrunners for the post.
Our reporter didn’t see Mr. Sirleaf himself in any of the buses and other cars, which were all lined up before the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Congo town.
Mr. Sirleaf’s supporters, having crowded the inside of the buses, were seen standing, sitting and dancing atop the buses to loud music blaring from loudspeakers in the back of pickups. This behavior of his supporters left one passersby to remark: “This is a total misuse of good gesture from the Government and people of India.”
Another said: “If another political party had gone to ask for these buses, NTA [National Transit Authority] was going to deny them the opportunity to use these buses, which are for the public. But they could not deny Robert Sireaf because he is the son of the President.”
When contacted yesterday for comments on the use of the buses, the spokesperson of the Robert Sirleaf Campaign Team, Mr. Stephen Johnson, told this newspaper: “We rented the buses from NTA. They cannot restrict us on how to use them. We choose to use them the way we think is good for us. NTA doesn’t have any restriction on how we use the buses. The Daily Observer should not be the one talking for NTA.”
Mr. Johnson, however, assured this newspaper that Mr. Sirleaf’s supporters are responsible and law abiding people, who will do all to protect public property.
When contacted, too, an NTA representative who, when asked, declined to give his name, said he could not speak on the issue, adding: “I’m into campaign activities now. I am very busy; thank you.”
The 15 52-seater buses were turned over to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by the Indian Honorary Consul General to Liberia, Mr. Upjit Singh Sachdeva, on December 8.
Consul General Sachdeva, commonly known in Liberia as ‘Mr. Jeety’, turning the buses over stated that they are in fact an addition to 25 buses previously donated in October 2010 by his country’s government and people. The 25 buses were turned over to the President on her 72nd birthday in 2010.
“These bus donations are a culmination of efforts at various official levels both in Liberia and India, and reflect the very cordial and mutually beneficial bilateral relations between India and Liberia,” the Indian diplomat said.
According to him, the additional buses are his country’s way of identifying with GOL’s policy program of “setting up a reliable, efficient and sustainable public mass transit system in line with the Poverty Reduction Strategy.”