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Liberian Opposition Says No to President Sirleaf's Pick for Corruption Czar

In Liberia, opposition political parties and civil society organizations are calling on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to withdraw the nomination of former elections commission chair Frances Johnson-Morris as head of the newly appointed Anti-Corruption Commission. The senate confirmation hearing of Johnson-Morris resumes Thursday.

The opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), George Weah's party and the Center for Transparency and Accountability described Johnson-Morris as a confidant of President Sirleaf and said her nomination raises serious doubts about the neutrality of the commission.

But information minister Lawrence Bropleh says Johnson-Morris is a qualified individual who has served her country honorably.

The appointment of the Anti-Corruption Commission comes on the heel of the publication of a series of emails on the Internet implicating several members of President Sirleaf's government in alleged corrupt practices.

Geraldine Doe-Sherif is acting chairperson of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change. She told VOA her party has a litany of complaints against the nomination of Johnson-Morris.

"We are saying that the Anti-Corruption Act was tampered with before it even went to the Mansion. Section six point-two originally stated that the president shall appoint in consultation with the civil society. Also few months ago the justice minister accused opposition political parties of wanting to overthrow the president of the Republic of Liberia which she could not prove, thus jeopardizing and putting their lives in danger," she said.

Doe-Sherif said the coup accusation against the opposition by then Justice Minister Johnson-Morris, which has yet to be supported by prima facie demonstrates her poor judgment as a lawyer and strong abhorrence for the opposition.

She described Johnson-Morris as a puppet and confidant of President Sirleaf and that such a relationship calls into question Johnson-Morris' neutrality as chairperson of the Anti-Corruption Commission.

"We also see Counselor Morris is a prodigy and confidant of the president and will become a presidential puppet if given this opportunity because she will not be acting on her own. She will be used by the president to carry on these acts. So we want to encourage other civil society members and other political parties to join us in making sure that counselor Frances Johnson-Morris is not confirmed," Doe-Sherif said.

Besides overseeing the 2005 presidential elections that brought President Sirleaf to power, Johnson-Morris once served as Chief Justice of Liberia's Supreme Court. After the elections she served as justice minister and now commerce minister.

Doe-Sherif said Johnson-Morris got these various government positions because of her relationship to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

"It is also rumored that she's even a relative to President Sirleaf, and we are saying with all these problems and her credibility at stake, not talking about her competence, we're talking about credibility. She has held two major ministries which of course two weeks from now will be audited. So how can this person that has held these ministerial positions be the one to go after corrupt people when these ministries themselves have to be audited. So CDC is saying that the playing field is not leveled. We cannot condoned it, we will not accept it, and we will continue to fight to make sure that she is not confirmed," Doe-Sherif said.

But information minister Lawrence Bropleh said Johnson-Morris is not a relative of president Sirleaf

"Counselor Frances Johnson-Morris is not a relative of the president. The president only met her when she had an unfortunate incident when she was chair of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission when she was imprisoned during time of former President (Charles) Taylor," Bropleh said.

Bropleh also said Johnson-Morris is a qualified individual who has served her country honorably.

"This woman is an astute lawyer of high repute. She has served Liberia as Chief Justice of our highest arbiter of justice in our nation. No body can point, in her public service, any act of corruptibility. The issue here is we must bring up things that are tangible. There is none of us that is perfect, but to suggest that because the president had previously appointed her to a public position that another public position would mean that she would serve at the whims and caprices of the president one has to be kidding about this," Bropleh said.