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Saturday, July 20, 2024

INFORMATION MINISTER REFUTES ALLEGATIONS OF DENYING FORMER PRESIDENT WEAH ACCESS TO VIP LOUNGE

Date:

MONROVIA – Information Minister Jerolinmek M. Piah has refuted allegations that former President George Weah was denied access to the VIP lounge at Roberts International Airport (RIA). This statement comes a day after the House of Representatives summoned relevant government institutions to explain why the former president was allegedly denied access to the VIP lounge while traveling abroad recently.

Minister Piah clarified that former President Weah was asked to prepare the VIP lounge on the day of his arrival. However, Weah refused and insisted on using the ordinary lounge. Minister Piah urged former government officials to desist from what he termed as petty distractions and propaganda intended to misinform the country, stating that such actions are concerning and need to stop.

The Plenary of the House of Representatives, on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, summoned three senior government officials in response to allegations that former President Weah was denied access to the VIP Lounge at RIA. The officials summoned include James K. Mulhah, Managing Director of RIA; Foreign Affairs Minister Sara Beysolow Nyanti; and Justice Minister Cllr. Oswald Tweh. The summons stems from what members of the House term as “disrespect” towards former President Weah, with the plenary demanding an explanation and the policies governing such decisions.

The communication to summon these officials was initiated by Montserrado County District #10 lawmaker, Representative Yekeh Kolubah. He emphasized that while their side supported the government during the election for the sake of change, they believe that disrespecting a former President is unacceptable. Kolubah’s motion was backed by other lawmakers, including Representatives Clarence Gahr of Margibi County District #5, Steve Tequah of Rivercess County District #2, and Dixon Seboe of Montserrado District #16.

The controversy began last week when former Maritime Commissioner Eugene Nagbe disclosed in a radio interview that the Unity Party (UP) government had, for the second time, denied former President Weah access to the Clara Marie Weah VIP Lounge at RIA. Nagbe recounted that two weeks prior, Weah had notified the Liberian government about his upcoming diplomatic meeting in Accra, Ghana, and had arranged to use a private jet for the trip. On the morning of Weah’s departure, Executive Protection Service (EPS) officers were stationed at the airport early to ensure the smooth facilitation of his journey. However, upon Weah’s arrival, his team found the Presidential Lounge locked, preventing them from accessing it.

“To avoid any further embarrassment,” Nagbe explained, “we advised former President Weah and his team to proceed to the regular terminal for security checks.” This incident marks the second time that the former President has been denied use of the VIP lounge, raising concerns and questions about the motivations behind the government’s actions.

Minister Piah has strongly denied these allegations, stressing that the refusal to use the VIP lounge was Weah’s own decision. According to Piah, the VIP lounge was ready for use, but the former President chose to use the regular lounge instead. Piah argued that there is a need for clarity and honesty to avoid unnecessary public confusion and distrust.

The House of Representatives’ interest in this issue highlights the sensitivity and respect traditionally accorded to former Presidents. Lawmakers are insisting on a clear explanation of the protocols and any deviations from standard practice. The involvement of multiple senior officials underscores the gravity with which the House is treating these allegations.

As the summoned officials prepare to address the House, the Liberian public awaits a detailed account of the incident. The transparency and thoroughness of this process will be crucial in maintaining public trust in government institutions. It is hoped that the forthcoming explanations will clarify any misunderstandings and reinforce the importance of respectful treatment of former leaders.

The outcome of this inquiry will likely have implications for how such matters are handled in the future and may influence the relationship between current and former government officials. For now, the focus remains on the summoned officials and their upcoming testimonies before the House of Representatives.

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