Sirleaf Gets Hero’s Welcome In Harper
Hundreds of residents of Maryland County turning out in record numbers since the arrival, in Harper, of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and delegation on Tuesday, March 29, on the first leg of a week-long tour of southeastern Liberia. In a welcome statement at Harper City Hall upon her arrival, County Superintendent J. Gbleh-bo Brown said the people of Maryland were excited to receive the President, describing her visit as the renewal of a bond of friendship between the President and the people of the County.
Earlier, President Johnson Sirleaf toured and dedicated several projects, including the newly rehabilitated Alexander Tubman Airstrip, a warehouse at the Port of Harper, and an office of the Liberia National Fire Service. The President also inspected communication facilities of the Roberts Flight Information Region which, when completed, will provide air navigation services for the region.
On a tour, later, of the William V.S. Tubman University, the Liberian leader broke ground for a rubber technology institute – an initiative of the Ministry of Commerce & Industry and the University. The institute is supported by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and funded by the Government of Japan.
According to an Executive Mansion dispatch, the President also dedicated two newly renovated infrastructures on the Tubman University campus – a housing facility for instructors, known as the Elizabeth Tubman Hall; and an academic complex – both of which were renovated with support from the Government of Morocco.
“I am happy to see students here at Tubman University, a place that has been dead for a long time,” a very impressed President Johnson Sirleaf said at the dedication. The President expressed particular pride that the institution is focusing on new areas of academic pursuit. She said Government will work with Tubman University to ensure that the areas are improved. The University has signed a Letter of Intent with authorities of Grand Cavalla Township for the introduction of an Integrated Village program.
“What we have done is to work together and make our village move forward. We want to work with you to help educate our children,” the President of the University, Dr. Elizabeth Davis-Russell, said during the signing ceremony in Cavalla Township, which was witnessed by the President, Ministry of Internal Affairs and County authorities, as well as members of the Maryland Legislative Caucus.
Meanwhile, a Memorial Service was held at the Mount Scout United Methodist Church, in Harper, for shipwreck victims from the County. Relatives and friends wept as survivors recounted details of the incident in which several residents, including mothers and children, lost their lives. The victims thanked the President and Government for the interventions, at various levels, following the tragedy, and appealed for the President’s intervention to save their properties. “Some of us took loans from ECOBANK for our businesses. The Bank has our title deeds. We have no means of paying back the loans because all the goods bought from the loan were lost in the tragedy,” a survivor, Nathaniel Nyemah, told the President. ECOBANK had provided loans totaling L$3 million to the local businessmen and women. The President has promised to settle the matter with the Bank and have the title deeds returned to their owners.
The Liberian leader again extended condolences to the bereaved families and expressed regret for the losses. “We cannot compensate you for lives lost, we can only pray that God consoles you and your relatives and pray that your loved ones rest in peace,” the President said.
“I had to come to see you, to be with you, to share your pain and to let you know that we feel deeply your pains,” the President stated. She informed the survivors and relatives that the Government is working with insurers of one of the wrecked vessels to compensate the victims. The President said a committee is being established to work out the details regarding compensation for victims who are not covered under insurance benefits.
On Wednesday, March 30, the President, met with victims of the shipwreck at a special meeting and reassured them of Government’s support. She then turned over US$2,000 contributed to families of the victims by Marylanders residing in the United States. The President said the ongoing rehabilitation of roads in the County would help to reduce travel risks.
Also on Wednesday, President Johnson Sirleaf arrived in Pleebo and Karluway to a rousing welcome by residents of the areas. Speaking in Karluway, at the dedication of the Tugbaken Public School, the President said the project is a testimony of Government’s determination to provide more educational opportunities for the youth of the country. With Education Minister Othello Gongar at her side, the President urged parents to take advantage of the opportunities being offered by Government by sending their children to school.
The President later toured the border towns of Cavalla and Kablaken, where she dedicated a Bureau of Immigration Post before returning to Harper for a musical extravaganza and an official dinner, hosted by the people of Maryland County. During the event, several statements of support were presented to the President in appreciation for the level of development in the County. Statements were made by representatives of chiefs, students of Tubman University, the business community, the Maryland Motor Cyclist Union, the Muslim Women of Maryland County, and a youth group known as “Friends of Ellen.”
The President left Harper Thursday morning, en route to Grand Kru County. Before departing Maryland, the Liberian leader held a Town Hall Meeting in Pleebo to discuss issues affecting the people of the district.