“Stop Stealing our Collective Wealth”

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— Fr. James Selle Warns People in Power at Amb. Lafayette Diggs’ Funeral

The Rev. Fr. James B. Selle, the dean of Trinity Cathedral, has warned government officials to stop stealing the country’s wealth to enrich themselves while the majority of people suffer.

In remarks at the funeral of the late Ambassador Lafayette Diggs, Fr. Selle called on those “who are stealing our collective wealth and using your power to oppress others to stop it!” “You are hurting all of us and ultimately yourselves and your families,” Fr. Selle shouted last Wednesday during Amb. Diggs funeral.

Fr. Selle warned those engaged in these nefarious practices, “It is just a matter of time; you will be booked. In this technological age, there are so many ways to check what you are doing now when you leave. The same people who are helping you to steal by writing spurious checks and other unethical means of using cash and material things that do not belong to you, and hide your tracks, will one day help to expose and disgrace you,” the preacher further cautioned.  

He reminded his audience that “Power is slippery. It can slip away from anybody any time. The Psalmist says, “God has spoken once, twice I have heard it, that power belongs to God (Psalm 62:13). So, use power wisely to do good so that when it is gone from you people will remember and in turn do you good.”

Dean Selle stated that Ambassador Diggs served his country well in the diplomatic service. The preacher lamented the fact that though Ambassador Diggs had served his country so well for many years as Liberian Ambassador to Nigeria, and other places as well as in many other capacities, his funeral was sparsely attended. 

It is unfortunate that in Liberia people who serve their country faithfully over many years are often soon forgotten and when they pass their funerals are not well attended, as is seen today in the case of Ambassador Lafayette Diggs.

Ambassador Diggs, said Fr. Selle, loved and served his country well. He also loved and served his Church well. He loved and served his family well. He was great in some serious respects.

“We often think of success and greatness in terms of money, positions, and power. But according to the Bible, Fr. Selle noted, greatness is measured by how well one serves. And we all can serve in one form or the other. Therefore, we all can be great. Some people serve in private and others in public. There are many who serve behind the scenes such as drivers, caterers, sanitary workers, securities, and those who aid doctors, engineers and other specialists, often supporting the ministries of others. And there are others whose service is manifest to all such as our public leaders.

Public service is one of the vital and yet most difficult forms of service, Fr. Selle observed.

This is because leaders are often unappreciated while in office. It is often when they are gone that people begin to appreciate and miss them. Generally, people magnify their errors and ignore the good they do. Some of them work very hard, often behind the scenes, to lay solid foundations.

“So, let me take this time to commend those of you, public servants, who are doing your best behind the scenes and openly for our nation. History will judge you right and people will appreciate you and miss you.”

Ambassador Lafayette Harmon Diggs served as Deputy Minister for Administration in the Department of State (now Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Executive Director, Liberia OAU Preparation Committee, Organization of African Unity (now African Union); Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Counsellor, Liberia Permanent Mission to the United Nations, First Secretary/Consul, Embassy of Liberia to Guinea, Assistant Secretary to President W.V.S. Tubman and many other positions.

Lafayette Harmon Diggs was born on December 29, 1931 in Hartford, Grand Bassa County to the union of Mr. Joseph Thomas Diggs and Mrs. Annie Harmon Diggs.  At an early age he became a member of the Episcopal Church of Liberia. 

He commenced his educational sojourn at the St. John’s Episcopal High School in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County and later enrolled at Cuttington College and Divinity School (now Cuttington University, Bong County), the University of Liberia (UL) in Monrovia and the Williams College in Williamstown , Massachusetts, USA.

In his diplomatic career he helped draft the French Guinea-Liberia Border Treaty before France ceded independence to Guinea.  He also helped to develop the basic protocols for the Convention of the Law of the Sea which redefined the Hugo Grotius 1609 “Mare Liberum,” marking the inner limits of the territorial sea and out limit of national internal waters.    

Lafayette Diggs later joined the Foreign Service of Liberia and took many diplomatic missions, including Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, the Ivory Coast, France, the Liberia Permanent Mission to the United Nations, New York, USA and later Liberian Ambassador to Nigeria.

On one of his diplomat missions, as Liberian Consul General to Mali, Mr. Diggs was assigned by President Tubman to introduce Mr. Nelson Mandela to the President of Mali, H.E. Modibo Keita, towards fostering political and diplomatic support to the South African Liberation leader.

Mr. Diggs was first joined in Holy Matrimony on August 16, 1964 to Ms. Fatoumata Yattara and this union was blessed with two daughters, Cerue and Yassira.  This union was later dissolved.  On December 29, 1995 in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, he married Ms. Otterlee Bass of Harrisburg, Liberia.

Survivors include his widow, Mrs. Otterlee Bass Diggs, two biological daughters, Cerue (Uzoma)and Yassira, four step sons, Richard Freeman (Elaine), Emmet Williams (Christina), Rodney Diggs (Julie) and Charwin; brothers Dr. Joseph Diggs, Sr. (Rachel) J. Milton Greaves (Estella), Edward L. Dunn, Jr.; sisters Joyce A. Mends-Cole and Joy Diggs. 

Others are the only surviving aunt, Mrs. Catherine Ketter,  many cousins, including Mrs. Annie Diggs Neal; eight grandchildren, many nieces, nephews and a host of other relatives and friends in Liberia and abroad.

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