-Says he remains a ‘free man’
Senator Prince Y. Johnson (PYJ) has again described the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report as a fraudulent political instrument only intended to nail him and a few others who were deeply involved in the civil war in Liberia.
In a live video conversation with Mac Jabateh at his (PYJ’s) church in Paynesville recently, Johnson said Jerome Verdier’s TRC report is full of contradictions and it is not worth being taken seriously.
Jabateh is a social media political commentator who operates Mac Jabateh Political and Social Forum on Facebook.
“Verdier wanted to nail me but God confused him. He who called me a disciplinary leader during the war was the same person who accused me of killing people of a whole community. His TRC’s report showed that my rebel group, Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) was a disciplined force because of my able leadership,” he said.
PYJ said it is mockery for the same TRC report which said earlier that he, Johnson, was a good man to again say he committed crimes against humanity and, as such, he should be tried by a tribunal.
He challenged TRC chairman Cllr. Jerome Verdier to bring forward proof showing crimes that he committed anywhere in the country as alleged by many who claimed to be disenchanted over the delay by the government to implement the recommendations of the TRC which calls for the establishment of a tribunal to try him and others linked to war crimes during the Liberian civil war.
“I am not afraid because I know I am a free man and will remain a free man,” he boasted.
He said when the National Patriotic Front of Liberia’s (NPFL) leader, Charles Taylor became President of the country he granted amnesty to all those who were involved in the war.
“There are two laws. One which was passed by the 51st Legislature says that all those who participated in the war from 1990 to 2003 are to be granted amnesty. The other law is found in the 1986 Constitution. It has granted amnesty to the People’s Redemption guys who perpetrated crimes against our people. They killed people at the Lutheran Church in Sinkor. So I am a free man as far as I am concerned,” he said.
Although his claim of a law allegedly passed by the 51st Legislature granting amnesty to anyone who participated in the war could not be confirmed by the Daily Observer, Article 97 of the 1986 Revised Constitution states that “No executive, legislative, judicial or administrative action taken by the People’s Redemption Council or by any persons, whether military or civilian, in the name of that Council pursuant to any of its decrees shall be questioned in any proceedings whatsoever.”
The Article continues, “And, accordingly, it shall not be lawful for any court or other tribunal to make any order or grant any remedy or relief in respect or any such act.”
PYJ said Liberian taxpayers paid their money for the formation of the TRC in order to solicit views from across the fifteen political subdivisions but, after its tour, the TRC failed to provide the exact numerical ratio between those in favor of the establishment of a tribunal for the adjudication of war crimes and others who said there is a need for reconciliation and sustenance of peace.
“The Act creating the TRC says that the alleged perpetrators of crimes and alleged victims should meet face to face in order to authenticate facts but that did not happen. Cllr. Pearl Brown Bull, who was one of the commissioners of the TRC, got vexed with the idea and took the matter to the Supreme Court but, at the end, the Supreme Court said the TRC was not a court to do that,” he noted.
He laughed out why the same TRC Report on the war praised him so much for helping a lot of people to survive during the war but also went on to claim that he committed atrocities against other people.
“The documents I showed you, I have not shown them to any other journalist. The reason is that most of them are not objective in their reporting, he alleged. “I will be a free man if I take these documents to any war crimes court.”
PYJ said he wrote the TRC at some point in time questioning its report on him, which he termed as a fraudulent report, but no reply came his way from the Commission.
“I wrote them and asked as to whether they understood what they were saying in their own report. How can you say I am a disciplinarian but at the same time refer to me as a killer,” he asked.
When asked to give his opinion on the Liberia Council of Churches’ (LCC) position which calls for national healing through reconciliation and sustainability of peace, PYJ said the LCC is composed of sound minded persons who love the country and are interested in its forward march.
He said he has received several communications from Cllr. Verdier in which he descended on two of the TRC Commissioners, Massa Washington and John H. T. Stewart for challenging his decisions in which he (Verdier) proceeded wrongly.
“The American advisor to the TRC was even vexed with Verdier for the many mistakes he made. In fact, the white man shared with me a couple of his letters to Verdier, with one of them being his letter of resignation from his service at the Commission due to the too many irregularities he found. I get all of the documents in my possession,” he claimed.
He boasted that he is a fair man and truly worship God in whom he solely relies on all his assistance in times of joy and difficulties.
“You cannot punish us and let the PRC people go free. They killed our people. They are responsible for the crisis. Therefore, we cannot bear any burden without the PRC people also in court because they too are responsible for the calamities the country suffered,” he said.
Concerning the settlement of land disputes in Nimba, particularly between the Mandingo ethnic group and the Mano and Gio people (two dominant tribes in the county), Johnson said Musa Hassan Bility is to blame for the persistent land crisis between his kinsmen and other people in the county.
According to him, Businessman Bility became chairman of the committee set up by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf when he PYJ was in Nigeria at an ECOWAS function and was surprised that Bility’s push for the chairperson position was only because of money.
“You know the Bible says that money is the root of all evil. Bility who has more than fifteen land cases against him in Nimba took on the position of chairman on the very committee I served only because more than US$1,000,000 was set aside for the committee to work and settle the land crisis in the county,” he alleged.
“Musa Bility told me that he was selected by the Caucus. So in a meeting, I told him to step aside and allow me to serve as chairman but he refused. And since then nothing good has happened to put to rest the land conflicts there,” he said. PYJ said for Bility to be on the disputes resolution team is a conflict of interest.
“I asked to be the chairman because with me at the front we could be able to look into the matters appropriately and transparently,” he boasted.
Meanwhile, calls and a text message to Mr. Bility for his reaction to Sen. Johnson’s claims did not get a reply up to press time.