Saturday, November 23, 2013

Renewed Government Effort to Wrest Control of EJ Roye

There's a fresh round of noise in Monrovia in the past week as the government (so often referred to as, "The Unity Party led government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf" in the press) tries to again gain control of the Edwin J. Roye Building on Ashmun Street. Famously built in 1962 with what was rumored to be government funds for the then-predominant political party, the True Whig Party. There's a lot of grand-standing from the individuals quoted here, but also some references to interesting points in the building's history, such as a PRC-era decree seizing the building. Here's a reprint of two press reports from this week, one from the Informer, the other from The Inquirer:  
The Unity Party led government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf stands accused of having employed force and intimidation in the recent seizure of the grand True Whig Party (TWP) Headquarters situated on Ashmun Street in Monrovia. 
In a press statement issued in Monrovia on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 by a stalwart of the TWP, Mr. Reginald B. Goodridge, Sr., said Government's seizure of the party headquarters recognized by the National Elections Commission (NEC) was not only illogical, but an affront to Liberia's emerging democracy. 
Mr. Goodridge who was in a rather despondent mood while addressing the Liberian press, lashed at the UP-led administration for using the defunct People's Redemption Council (PRC) 33- year-old military Decree No. 11 in confiscating the E.J. Roye Building now reportedly leased out to an unknown business tycoon for at least US$130,000. 
Terming the PRC Decree 11 as draconian, and a military instrument, Goodridge took up time to refute GOL's claims that leaders of the TWP used tax payers money to erect the EJ Roye Building. 
"I want to categorically debunk such claim by the Johnson Sirleaf UP Government," Goodridge remarked, and disclosed that the EJ Roye Building, meaning TWP Headquarters, was constructed in 1965 from dues paid by partisans, prominent stalwarts, friends and sympathizers. 
He said the Liberian Government has made several attempts to forcefully confiscate the building; firstly, through eminent domain to no avail and that it was on November 11, 2013 when the Justice Ministry Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs, Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, applied the PRC military Decree 11 in seizing the EJ Roye Building backed by LNP officers and GSA Director Mary T. Broh. 
Goodridge explained that GOL has exhibited a blatant disregard for the due process and property rights toward its forceful seizure of the Building just as it did in the case of the National Culture Center, Kendeja, established by TWP Government, to a millionaire friend of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. 
He said the EJ Roye Building is the legitimate property of TWP and urged government to overturn its decision and give back the Building to the party. 
Accordingly, the TWP has written communications to the Embassies of the United States of America, United Kingdom, ECOWAS region, amongst others, informing them that the UP government's action constitutes a potential conflict returning to the country. 
Meanwhile, the TWP in its press statement issued, called on pioneers of progressive forces in the vanguard for the promotion of multi party democracy for decades, Peace Ambassador George Weah, Cllr. Varney Sherman, political parties, LCC, Interfaith Mediation among others to speak up against "this evil that is threatening to reverse their successes."
The second report, in which the TWP leadership puts the burden on the government to prove that the taxpayer paid for the EJ Roye's construction. I've highlighted the more electric bits: 
Some aggrieved partisans of the True Whig Party (TWP) have called on the Government of Liberia (GOL) to stay away from the E J. Roye Building which they say government is applying force and intimidation to seize the National Headquarters of their TWP. Speaking with journalist at the King's Building on Buchanan Street in Monrovia, Mr. Reginald B. Goodridge said such illegal act on the part of government was done without due process by personnel of the General Services Agency (GSA), backed up by a large squad of officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the Executive Protective Service (EPS) on November 11, 2013. 
Mr. Goodridge pointed out that GOL has not issued any official public statement on its actions, but the Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Justice, Benedict Sannoh, and the GSA Director, Mary Broh, have both stated off record that the GOL is using Degree '33' which was instituted by the Peoples Redemption Council (PRC) following the 1980 Military Coup d'Etat, which overthrew the TWP Government. 
He added that there are several contradictions in the Government's actions, saying that the Government claims that it is confiscating the building as its property rights relying on PRC Decree No. 11. 
At the same time, the Government has admitted that it made a deal with some individuals of the True Whig Party worth several hundred thousand United States Dollars for the privilege of confiscating the building and these same individuals recently published in a local newspaper that they had leased the building for US$130,000.00 (presumably to the Liberian Government). 
This disclosure has infuriated the Ministry of Justice which had preferred that its deal with these individuals remained a secret. "I believe whenever government uses force against peaceful citizens without due process, it is a sign of weakness," Goodridge said. He added that in the wake of this illegal act, a delegation of the True Whig Party sought clarifications from Madam Mary Broh, the GSA Director General in a conference and over the telephone as to her motive, but and in her typical style, she resorted to abusive invectives, and that Madam Broh threatened that if anyone approached her on the issue of the E J. Roye Building, she was prepared to use her gun to shoot them down. 
He told Broh that partisans of the TWP are no longer afraid of bullets or government's bullets, adding, "Thirty-three years ago, on that black day of April 23, 1980, when 13 of our stalwart partisans were lined up on South Beach and shot in cold blood, they were not afraid of your bullets, so we are not afraid of your bullets now; in your conscience, you know that what you are doing is wrong and illegal and your threats are simply an expression of your fear of uncertainty," the TWP stalwart averred. 
Mr. Goodridge stated further that the TWP pities this government or any government that takes pleasure in using its weakness to put up a barrier around an opposition political party's institution, adding, "Know this, Madam President; instead of erecting barriers to multi-party democracy, you must break down the barriers of poverty, hunger, ignorance and disease among our youths and the Liberian people. Our people are suffering; Instead of putting food on their table and money in their pockets, you are busy taking a political party's property by force and you must break down the barriers of ethnic tensions and moral degradations in our society," TWP said. 
The party furthered, "You must break down the barriers that prevent our children from going to school, the barriers that have turned our children into street peddlers and drug addicts." 
Mr. Goodridge also said that President Roye was deposed and eventually killed on the very spot where the E.J. Roye Building now stands. "His body was dragged down to Slipway and dumped in the river. Propaganda was spread that he was drowned while trying to escape, but the truth is, the deposing of President E.J. Roye was Liberia's first coup d'etat, this is why the E.J. Roye Building to us is more than just a political party headquarters; it is more than just a building and it is a spiritual shrine symbolizing the fervency of our belief in justice and equality for all regardless of social, tribal or religious background." 
Mr. Goodridge added that the reason that the TWP has lasted all these years is because it was built as an institution based on its Unification and Integration policies which envisaged the cohesion of every individual citizen as equal partners in the party and it did not depend on the pocket of any single individual and TWP was organized as a corporate entity that made investments and bought shares in viable corporations in order to sustain itself financially for future generations. 
He added that the first attempt was made through the process of Eminent Domain, which did not succeed, then the Government informed the party lawyers that it had documentation to the effect that the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP) owns the building. 
He also said that it turned out that certain individuals some years ago received cash from NASSCORP in an illegal deal to sell the building, but NASSCORP could not produce any documentation to authenticate its ownership. 
Mr. Goodridge concluded that the Liberian Government then claimed that the E.J. Roye Building was built with tax payers' money adding, "This has not been proven; they have challenged Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a former True Whig Partisan, who served as Deputy Minister and Minister of Finance under the late President William R. Tolbert's government to produce any documentation such as budgetary allotment or payment voucher to show that the E.J. Roye Building was built with government's money."

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