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Liberian Official Insists the Government Takes Care of Its Former Presidents

  • James Butty

Deputy Information Minister for Public Affairs Jerolinmek Piah denies government did nothing for late former leader David Kpomakpor

The Liberian government has said it has not failed to take care of the needs of its most recent former presidents.

Map of Liberia

Map of Liberia

This comes as one of the former chairmen of Liberia’s National Transitional Council, professor David Kpomakpor, who passed away last week, is being buried this weekend in the United States.

Eddie Jones, son of the late Kpomakpor, complained that the government has done little, or nothing, to assist the family in his father’s burial.

But, Jerolinmek Piah, Liberia’s deputy minister of information and public affairs, says the government has been working with individuals who took care of Kpomakpor that he gets a proper burial.

“The government is fully aware that, while the former councilman was sick in the United States, the son was nowhere around. The father was in the care of other persons and not the son. So, whatever assistance the government is giving toward the burial of Kpomakpor is being done through those who were in charge of him while he was ill and alive because our interest is to ensure that the former councilman is properly buried,” he said.

Piah said the Liberian government is willing to give the former Transitional Council chair a state funeral. On the other hand, he said, the government respects the wishes of the Kpomakpor family to bury him in the United States.

“We’ve been informed earlier that the family was interested in having the former councilman buried in the United States, and the government is not in the business of moving against the wishes of families when people are dead. But, if the family was to have a second thought, for instance, and decides that the former councilman would be taken back home for burial, of course, all of the kinds of courtesies and formalities associated with the burial of someone of such status will accompany his burial ceremony,” Piah said.

He said the government is sending a delegation to the burial headed by former Justice Minister Phillip A.Z. Banks, who served on the council of state at the time with Kpomakpor.

Those who saw the late Kpomakpor in his final days said he lived under dehumanizing circumstances.

Piah said the Liberian government is concerned about all its former leaders, but he said the government is in the process of streamlining the laws that would make possible a system of benefits for its former presidents.

“We have a country that runs in keeping with the budget, which becomes law every year. So, when the government does expenditure, it’s got to be consistent with what is reflected in our national budget. We’ve had some problems because too many conflicting things are on the book, from the past state council kind of government, to the last day of the Taylor government, to the coming into being of the Moses Blah government. There are countless documents that say what needs to be done for former presidents, and all of that,” Piah said.

The only surviving former Liberian president, Moses Blah, who suffers from heart disease, has reportedly told local media that he has had to see local doctors for routine check-ups, even though his condition calls for him to see foreign specialists yearly.

But, Blah said he cannot get such foreign medical evaluation because he has no money. He said he was confused about what has been stipulated in the Liberian government budget regarding benefits for former officials.

Piah said there is no clear pension policy, but he said former president Blah receives a monthly allowance of U.S. $2,000.

“As far as the information on the books is concerned, no, we don’t really have a standardized pension scheme. Mr. Blah receives a little amount, which is being budgeted in the amount of a little over $U.S. 2,000, is being given to him. So, as the Budget Committee works with Civil Service Agency and there is an agreed figure for past leaders, then, of course, when you’re taking those kinds actions, it is being done consistent with the law,” Piah said.

The Liberian Transitional council was a collective presidency that consisted of a civilian chair and members representing Liberian’s many warring factions.

Kpomakpor served from March 1994 to September 1995.

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