— Fears for her life amidst numerous death threats
The recently imported boxes of money brought into the country through Kenya Airways at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) is not only causing a stir as Liberians angrily react to what is being termed as shady acts on the part of the government, but heads have begun to roll over how and why the importation of the money was leaked to the public. And from whence would the initial casualty of money wahala come but the RIA, where the concealed package landed.
Juana Aruna, a security officer who serves as a screener at the airport, is the first victim of the saga. The leaked footage, which the RIA authorities are alleging to have been taken by Aruna, was reportedly sent to popular talk-show host, Henry Pedro Costa after being recorded. Aruna has accused the airport of wrongful dismissal because, according to her, she is “being falsely accused and was not given due process, but rather dismissed arbitrarily.”
The screener, who has spent nearly ten years in the employ of the airport, was dismissed by the Management on Monday, December 16, 2019. According to the dismissal letter, Juana Aruna was relieved of her post for abandonment of duty and giving out misinformation, an accusation she has denied.
RIA Deputy Managing Director for Administration, Martin Hayes, confirmed Aruna’s dismissal and noted that it was based on substantial pieces of evidence that the management has. “Yes, she was dismissed for abandoning her duty and giving out misinformation to the public,” he said.
He, however, could not confirm or deny whether she was accorded due process internally prior to her dismissal, but noted that the RIA Management acted in accordance with its employee handbook.
Director Hayes also disclosed the misinformation Aruna gave out that led to her dismissal. He confirmed that cartons of money were brought in through the RIA but could not disclose where the monies came from and who brought it into the country.
Prior to her dismissal, she was picked up by agents of the National Security Agency (NSA), where she reportedly spent two days in custody for questioning over the allegation.
“Juana was arrested from her home by NSA Agents and we did not see or hear from her for two days. It is not only that, but the level of threat on her life now is too worrisome,” a family source said.
A spokesperson of the family, Adama P. Suma who spoke on behalf of Juana, whose whereabouts is concealed as a result of the reported death threats, said “Juana was wrongfully dismissed by the management of the RIA.
Suma added that the management of the RIA never accorded her sister due process as would be accorded every employee who is accused to exonerate herself from the allegation prior to dismissal.
She said her sister was dismissed following the allegation that she photographed cartons of money brought into the country at the airport, though this information is yet to be verified.
“They accused my sister of taking photos of the carton of money and sent to [Henry P.] Costa. As a result of this, she was arrested by NSA officers for investigation. She was kept in jail for two days.,” Suma added.
The Head of Marketing and Public Relations at the RIA, Ebenezer Mass Wilson, confirmed that the NSA is in charge of the case. He noted that Juana Aruna was not wrongfully dismissed as she is insinuating, but in keeping with internal procedures that guide the behavior of employees on their job.
“I may not know her definition for what constitutes a wrongful dismissal; what I am aware of is that management, with the employee’s handbook we have, took an action in keeping with the handbook and that action was effected,” he said. He added that legal redress is at her disposal if she feels the RIA management action is unjust.
Wilson continued: “If the employee in question has got problem with the decision of management, it will be in her own interest to seek legal recourse. In the mean time, I think management acted appropriately and promptly in keeping with the internal procedures that we have that guide the behavior of employees on the job.”
Asked what behavior initiated the dismissal of Juana Aruna, Wilson said “That is the question that the employee in question will have to answer but what I can say on the record is that management acted in keeping with our policies.”
The family of Aruna expresses concerns over safety amidst barrage of death threats. According to Suma, since the release of her sister by the NSA over the allegation, there have been series of threats on her life from unknown persons.
“Her life is in danger. People are calling and threatening her. Her safety is at risk and we don’t know what to do as a family,” she said. “Since December 5, 2019, she has been receiving series of threatening remarks, text messages, and phone calls from unknown persons. They are alleging that she photographed cartons of monies that came into the country,” she noted.