“When Push Comes to Shove”!

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The National Housing Authority (NHA) bribery scandal appears not to be going away soon — at least not before or even after the ongoing trial of NHA managing director Duanna Siryon, who on trial, facing charges of economic sabotage and bribery. Controversy surrounding the scandal have intensified even further with revelations by a purported cousin of President George Weah who goes by the title of Ambassador Augustine Weah.

Ambassador Weah, speaking on the Costa Show aired on Thursday October 31, narrated a story that bears strong resemblance to statements attributed to the former NHA managing director, Duana Siryon, currently facing trial. More to that, Ambassador Weah made some troubling revelations which smirk of gangster-like behavior by top ranked government officials.

To say the least, the allegations he made are very damaging; they cast President Weah in a very negative light, suggestive of his involvement in an extortionist racket. The public is left wondering just where were the President’s advisors in all this “going back and forth”. Are individuals acting in his name or at his behest?

Disclosures by Amb. Weah that he is part owner (20% ownership) of the GelPaz company, from which officials of this government attempted to extort money, has raised a lot of eyebrows in the public and there are nagging questions whether President George Weah was/is actually complicit in a deal whose details were leaked in an audio recording aired on a local radio station sometime ago.

Mr. Weah further disclosed that while serving with the UN in Haiti, the future President visited him along with his wife and they took pictures together, some of which he displayed. This was apparently to support claims of his close familial relationship to President George Weah. According to Amb. Weah, it was he who encouraged his Burkina Faso based company to come to do business in Liberia, trusting that his close family ties to President Weah would have worked to his company’s advantage to gain a foothold in the housing sector.

According to information gleaned from official court records, former NHA managing director Duana Siryon solicited a bribe from the company in order to win a contract to construct housing units in Liberia. Several individuals are being charged for bribery, amongst them, Augustine Weah. But the interesting twist to this is the fact that Mr. Augustine Weah, who is part owner of the company, is accused of soliciting bribes from the very company which he is part owner of but he is currently out of the bailiwick of Liberia.

Mr. Weah has since disclosed that he fled the country for fear of losing his life. He claims that he is part owner (20%) of the Gelpaz-Immo company, based in Burkina Faso. He added that his most recent trip to Liberia was at the behest of the management of the company and its majority shareholder (51%) to handle matters relating to his company’s quest to do business in Liberia, which the company’s agent and representative had found extremely challenging.

He said shortly after attending a meeting at the President’s office he was accosted by three armed men who showed up at his 8th Street residence, demanding that he went along with them to the Police Headquarters where he was detained for three days and, after which, he was taken to the South Beach Monrovia Central Prison where he was held for 8 additional days without formally being charged.

It took the intervention of lawyers dispatched to Monrovia from UN headquarters in New York specifically to seek his release from detention. According to him his official UN Passport/Laissez Passer was seized and never returned to him, adding that he was forced to flee the country under cover of darkness for fear of being killed.

Whatever the true and actual facts of the matter may be, it has gone viral on social media. Beyond that, it has come to the official attention of the FBI, the US State Department and the UN. Whatever the fallout may be and whatever consequences may ensue appear unclear at this point. It however appears more likely than not that there will be consequences, one of which could be the erosion of President Weah’s projected image as a “Mr. Squeaky Clean”.

President Weah, unlike any contemporary Liberian politician, acquired a lot of wealth by dint of hard work and sweat before becoming President. For this reason, so many in the public held the belief that he would not be prone to stealing from the nation’s coffers since he was already wealthy. Most of those now “in the photo” were virtually penniless before his ascendancy. Now they are millionaires, their wealth skimmed off the backs of poor and suffering Liberians. And for this reason they appear prepared to kill anyone perceived to be standing in their way.

The Daily Observer notes that history records that this kind of mindset and behavior always bear tragic consequences for those who believe they can ride roughshod over the people without consequences. President Taylor probably came to this realization as he sat in the criminal dock at the Court in the Hague. President Doe may have also come to this realization as he pleaded for mercy sitting helplessly before an impervious Prince Johnson.

Even President Sirleaf may have come to such realization when she saw her beloved son in handcuffs appearing before a criminal court and being whisked off to jail. This newspaper has consistently warned President Weah of allowing others to take charge, lest he be led by others to an unkind and untimely fate.

He should learn from history. Intimidation of opponents, use of unbridled violence, even extra-judicial killings, would simply serve to harden resolve and encourage greater resistance. He should not, like Presidents Doe, Taylor and Sirleaf, sow seeds of his own calamity.

Why? Because in the final analysis when “Push comes to Shove”, all his “men dem will give it” and he will be left alone to his fate as the nation suffers again. This must be avoided at all costs.

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