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Under Pressure, Liberian Government Appoints Special Corruption Commission


Two weeks ago the Liberian government denied allegations that some current and former officials in President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's government had received bribes from an American who heads the Liberian International Ship Corporate Registry (LISCR) in order to get a renewal of his contract without competitive bidding.

Those allegations were contained in a multitude of emails published on the Internet allegedly written by individuals in and out of President Sirleaf's government. Now another batch of emails have sufficed, this time allegedly suggesting corruption by the senior executive assistant to President Sirleaf.

In response and under pressure from many quarters to do so, the government has now named a special commission to probe the alleged emails exchanges. The government is also denying that it has been paying off local journalists to suppress the story in the local media.

Liberian Information Minister Lawrence Bropleh told VOA President Sirleaf is anxious to see the investigation get underway.

"The Liberian government continues to say that this is of a grave matter for us and what the government has done is to have asked the Liberian National Bar Association to kindly lead the process for the setting up of an independent commission of inquiry in order to get to the bottom of this issue because we believe that we are stewards of the people's resources and anything that suggests that this government has been involved in these negotiations with acts of bribery is counterproductive to what we are trying to do in our nation," he said.

In its initial response to the so-called "Knucklesgate emails" allegedly implicating Liberian government officials of bribery, President Sirleaf's government said it had asked the country's justice ministry to determine the emails' authenticity.

But opposition leaders have said that such involvement by the justice ministry would render the investigation not credible since the justice minister himself is alleged to have received bribes, according to some of the emails.

Bropleh said under the independent commission of inquiry being requested by the government, the justice minister would be asked to recuse himself from the investigation.

"The justice ministry is going to recuse itself from taking any active role in the investigative process because the Minister of Justice, though he has strongly denied being involved in this has been mentioned in the emails as one of those who were supposedly either bribed or listed to be bribed," Bropleh said.

He also denied that the Liberian government has been paying off or pressuring local journalists to suppress the story about the alleged emails in the local media.

"What I can say as the minister of information, culture and tourism, and I can only speak for that which I know, is that my ministry of through any efforts of the president is not involved in trying to pay off any journalist from publishing this story. We are a transparent government and we will not muzzle the press on this matter. We believe that the press must be the watchdog and present balanced opinions or various sides to this. So I can speak for myself, I can speak for my ministry, I can speak for the president that no one is bribing any journalist or journalistic organizations not to publish these things or to talk about them. I cannot speak for any other organization or any other person who may be linked to this," he said.

Bropleh said President Sirleaf is anxious to see the investigation get other way because the president is resolved to see a corruption-free Liberia.

"We know that it is difficulty but there would be no intentional effort on the part of this government, through the leadership of this government to engage in corrupt practices," he said.

Bropleh said President Sirleaf would soon present to the Liberian legislature a draft act seeking the set up of an independent commission.


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