Gov’t Debunks Opposition Claims Of Extravagant Independence Anniversary Fete
Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe has refuted reports that the Government of Liberia is spending US$ 1.5 million for the upcoming July 26th Independence Day celebration.
Nagbe, in an interview with VOA “Day Break Africa” on Wednesday, said the budget for the Independence Day celebration is under US$400,000 contrary to speculations being spewed in the public by some opposition politicians.
“The entire budget for the July 26 celebrations is under US$400,000 and most of it is going into projects that the President will be dedicating,” Nagbe indicated.The Information Minister comments come amidst statements emanating from government critics, especially members of the Council of Patriots (CoP), claiming that the government is spending US$1.5 million for the Independence Day celebration. The group also prefers that the government aborts the celebration.
Despite their calls, the government has said that it will host an inclusive and participatory July 26th Independence Day anniversary celebration aimed at bringing together Liberians of all walks of life, stakeholders, partners and members of the international community.
The independence celebration, which is the biggest national event in the country’s history, a government source told the Liberia News Agency recently, cannot be deferred at the displeasure of the masses, believing that many Liberians use the occasion to take sober reflections on how far the country has come, judging from its past which was marked by a period of civil crisis.
Opposition politician and Representative of Montserrado County District #10, Yekeh Kolubah, said in an interview with the Voice of America on Wednesday that the Independence Day celebration is not necessary, claiming that the people of Liberia are suffering.
Kolubah, who is also a member of the CoP, alleged that government employees have not gotten paid for months and “yet the government wants to use US$1.5million to celebrate Independence Day.”
“Our people are dying of starvation; we will not sit and allow the president to take US$1.5 milion to celebrate a three-hour program that is not necessary. We will protest beginning July 24th to the 26th,” Kolubah indicated.
“We are going to do our peaceful sit-in; this time around we are very serious about it. We are going to sit there until the president responds to our petition. I want to say to the international community that our protest is going to be very peaceful.”
But Nagbe, however, stated that the government will not dignify those wanting to protest against the Independence Day celebration because they are being used by the apparatus of the establishment that was defeated by President George Manneh Weah.
“We have been celebrating Independence since 1847, this is not something invented by President Weah and we are not spending US$1.5 million,” Nagbe pointed out.
“We have a celebration to carry out; we have invited several guests, including presidents of the region… we will celebrate our freedom, we will celebrate our democracy and those who believe that they can try to obstruct the democratic flow of our country are in the minority and we are not interested whether they want to protest on the16, 24 or whatever day. They must do so in keeping with the law.”
On his radio platform on Tuesday, talk show host Henry Costa, who is also a member of the CoP, disclosed that one of the intents of the planned CoP protest is to instill fear in the foreign presidents who have consented to grace the Independence Day celebration.
“No president will want to come to a country where people are protesting. We are aware that since George Weah became president no foreign president has come here to him, now that the Presidential Press Secretary has confirmed that five presidents are coming for the Independence Day celebration we will protest from the July 24th to the 26th so these presidents can be afraid and not come. Yes, that is what we want,” Costa stated.
“I am not saying that we not going to be peaceful, we will be peaceful but we will protest until the president can meet our demands,” Costa warned.
The warning about a subsequent protest by the CoP has been widely criticized by many Liberians, including splinter groups of the CoP.
Some have described the adventure by Costa and a handful of others as a “money-making spree,” judging from the news of massive corruption that rocked the CoP following the staging of the failed June 7 protest.
With few days to the nation’s Independence celebration, many Liberians remain optimistic that the day will be celebrated in grand style as the public seems not to be jittery over threats of protest from members of the opposition, owning to the failure of their June 7 assembly.