Reporters Association Wants Def. Min. Samukai Suspended While West Point Investigation Ensues

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The leadership of the Reporters Association of Liberia (RAL) is calling on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to immediately suspend or remove Brownie Samukai as Defense Minister until the pending West Point shooting investigation is completed and those responsible brought to book.

The president of the RAL, Keith Morris, said that it was a grave error for Minister Samukai, who is at the center of the entire fracas, and who should himself be investigated, to instead be included on the investigation panel by President Sirleaf.

Mr. Morris was speaking at a press conference held at the headquarters of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) in Monrovia where he commended the United States Ambassador Deborah Malac for her personal comments and country’s stance on the West Point fracas.

RAL is the largest auxiliary of the Press Union of Liberia, which comprises most journalists in the country. Over 90 percent of Liberian journalists are reporters.

The US diplomat on Tuesday, in a meeting with local and foreign journalists in Monrovia, suggested that the AFL to stay out of civilian matters. She said AFL should play the critical role of dealing with external aggression and leave civilian matters with the Liberia National Police.  She made the comments when she was asked her opinion on AFL shooting incident in West Point.

On August 20, Shaki Kamara, 16, was shot in the leg by an officer of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) during a faceoff with West Pointers while enforcing a quarantine order of the township.

Little Kamara later died from profuse bleeding at the Redemption hospital after being refused treatment at two of the country’s notable medical centers, including the John F. Kennedy Medical Center.

After the incident, Defense Minister Samukai vehemently denied the army ever shot a single shot into the crowd.

He said on a local radio station that the deceased was wounded by a barbwire that was serving as a blockade, dividing the security officers and the residents.

The Liberian Defense Minister, after being convinced by local and international media that there shots had actually been fired into the crowd during the faceoff and that Kamara was a victim of the AFL’s actions, somersaulted in admitting that there had been actual shooting.

Mr. Morris noted at the press conference that Minister Samukai’s action indicated that he has no respect for human lives. “Do you think he could have said those things if the victim had been his son? But their children are in America and other Western countries so they do not care.  I’m highly disappointed in Minister Samukai, and President Sirleaf must act accordingly to save the face of her government and that of herself.”

Mr. Morris described the Defense Ministry boss as an inconsistent and contradictory public servant, and as such, he should be removed from such a high integrity-demanding position. This call, said Mr. Morris, is predicated upon Minister Samukai’s lack of moral rectitude and integrity.

The Reporters boss noted: “Minister Samukai must recuse himself of his post or be relieved thereof as long as the investigation goes on. It is even ironic to appoint him as a member of the investigation team because he is being considered as one of the perpetrators.

“The Defense Minister has been acting in the capacity as head of the AFL, though the Chief of Staff is there. Minister Samukai has been doing all of the talking for the AFL and it is understood that it was the AFL that did the shooting, so who are we going to investigate when he is on the panel?”

“This is unbelievable. We as journalists in this country have a stake in this matter and are calling on President Sirleaf to remove or suspend Minister Samukai from his post.”

Mr. Morris said the actions of the security apparatuses, especially the vehement denial by Minister Samukai, are condemnable, and this has further brought the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf government into local and international  disrepute.

RAL also expressed concern about the issue of security forces’ involvement in civilian matters, directly re-emphasizing the US Ambassador’s comment. He indicated that the AFL, and all other security apparatuses, should not be pitted against the civilian population by political actors.

He noted that the incident at West Point, which led to the death of little Shaki Kamara and the brutal handling of several others, clearly signals that the country is on the wrong path security wise.

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