Thursday, November 25, 2010

HOCUS CAUCUS: Bassa Legislators Outrageous Over Tarr’s ‘Purported’ Rejection

- Nat Nyuan Bayjay

Source: FrontPage Africa

Monrovia -

A day after Roosevelt Jayjay was appointed Minister at the Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, members of the Grand Bassa County Legislative caucus have come out in support and defense of the man, initially offered the post, Dr. Byron Tarr.

FrontPageAfrica reported last week that Dr. Tarr was under presidential consideration to fill the void left by former Lands, Mine and Energy Minister Eugene Shannon and was even offered the position, but the Senior Senator and Superintendent of Grand Bassa County, reportedly expressed votes of no-confidence.

According to sources, Senator Milton Gbenzohngar Finley and Superintendent Julia Duncan- Cassell reportedly lobbied against the appointment of Dr. Tarr, one of the county’s prominent citizens, leading to an apparent change of heart that has now landed Jayjay at the post pending Senate confirmation.

In the aftermath of the Tarr controversy, members of the county caucus are now raising the flag over what they termed as a great harm to the county as they lament a grossly under-representation in the Sirleaf led administration from the county.

The Junior Senator of the County and Chairman of the Caucus, Nathaniel Innis, debunked suggestions that the entire caucus was against the appointment of Dr. Tarr, adding that the rejection of Dr. Tarr is a missed opportunity that would have brought one of the county’s prominent sons in the Sirleaf government:

Said Senator Innis: “Let the word go forth. Whoever might have done this have done great harm to the people of Grand Bassa County and the entire county in general. I mean whoever might have stalled the possible appointment of Dr Byron Tarr to any position by the President did this at the disadvantage of the Bassa people. It shows that they don’t have the Bassa people at heart and it shows no need for them to talk about the Bassa people”.

The report had indicated that the President consulted the Caucus on Tarr’s possible appointment but Senator Innis said, “That is not true. It’s far away from the reality. As far as my knowledge can serve me right, we have not had any consultative meeting with the President for us to say Dr. Byron Tarr is not qualified for the position and can’t be minister for any of these ministries. I have no knowledge where he was sent to get the blessing of our committee (the Caucus).”

Liberty Party-UP Grand Bassa Factor

Since the inception of the Unity Party (UP) Government, county officials on the county have been divided along party line. Five of the county’s six legislative members are from the dominant Liberty Party with its Senior Senator Finley who won the senatorial post as an independent is allied with the ruling Unity Party while the county’s superintendent is a UP partisan.

Senator Innis, whose relation with both the Senior Senator and the Superintendent has been strained, told FrontPageAfrica that whoever may have stalled Tarr’s appointment was only besmearing the good character of the county.

“So, I’m not aware, as Chairman of the Caucus, concerning Dr Tarr’s purported appointment to a ministerial post. Maybe one or two persons might have done that just to be-smell our good character. The rest of the Caucus’ members are not aware; Page is not aware, Byron (Brown) is not aware, Hodges is not aware, Smith is not aware”, Innis said.

Innis further noted that any serious intention on the part of President Sirleaf to appoint Tarr or anyone to a ministerial post is fully left to her discretion: “But it is left with the President squarely, if she wants to appoint him to any position, she can go ahead and make her appointment. We have no qualm against our son, a distinguished son of the county.”

Seeing a need for commonality between the pair, the Grand Bassa lawmaker thinks there should be no need for consultation if Sirleaf truly wants to work with Tarr on grounds that they shared a common work place at the level of the United Nations: “As far as I’m concerned, Bryon Tarr is a very smart man who is qualified for the post. He and the President worked in the UN circle together. They are good friends. She doesn’t necessarily have to consult us as members of the Grand Bassa Legislative Caucus, though she at times chooses to do so.”

Looking back at those he regards as cruel, the Junior Senator added: “If they don’t love the people, and where blessing is supposed to come for the people, you don’t kick against it.”

Representative Gabriel Buchanan Smith, another lawmaker of the county, says it beats his imagination that any Bassa official would be untrue to the county: “In all fairness, I believe that no member of the Bassa Legislative Caucus in his right mind would seek an impediment to the appointment process of any of our citizens, not even Dr Bryon Brown.”

Representative Byron Brown had earlier expressed his disappointment in the reports of his kinsman being denied a chance to serve based on reported influence from some county officials.

With a perception that their county is not as vote-rich as the likes of Nimba whose citizens are always sought after by the President to occupy posts as soon as they are vacant, most of them think she needs to stop listening to a few from the county on such matters.

“It may be possible that the President might have asked for opinions on this matter because they are very close to the President. They frequently see her”, the lawmakers said.

Bassa Under-Representation in UP Gov’t

Now with yet another chance for a Bassa citizen to serve at a ministerial post in the current government far from realization, the county officials rekindled their concern of their tribesmen’s under-representation in the Sirleaf-led administration.

Says Smith: “As a matter of fact, it has been us who have been engaging Madame Sirleaf time and time again as to why not just those from Grand Bassa County but the Bassa tribe in its entirety, who are qualified, have not been grossly under-represented in the Sirleaf Administration.

Senator Innis agrees: “We, particularly me, have been engaging the President that Bassa is not fully represented in her government. Grand Bassa County is the least represented in this government. The President, though told me that she doesn’t do her appointment on the basis of tribal affiliation but base on qualification, that didn’t go down well with me because we have a lot of qualified Bassonians even in the Diaspora.”

Since the departure of her former Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs, Togar G. McIntosh, Sirleaf continues to come under fire from the county officials for ‘her insensitivity’ to calling for the services of qualified citizens hailing from the county.

Though with Education Minister Othello Gongar, hailing from Rivercess County, coming back on the fore as her second ‘Bassonian’ to serve in a senior ministerial post, most public officials with tribal Bassa background have been serving only as assistant and deputy-ministers.

Ranging from Deputy Information Minister Jerolinmeh Piah to Assistant Information Minister Leigh-George Cassell and Assistant Information Minister Isaac Jackson to Assistant Education Minister Bill Twehway and a few others, there has been mounting concerns about qualified tribal Bassa being restricted to just lower and junior posts.

One of such deputy ministers hailing from the county expressed concern over his boss’ ignoring of elevating those public officials to senior posts.

“Well, there are a lot of qualified people from Grand Bassa but most of us are only being made to stick to only assistant and deputy ministerial posts”, said another junior official hailing from the county, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The LAC Factor

Amid the Tarr controversy, the controversial expansion plan of the Liberian Agricultural Company (LAC) is said to have factored the purported stalling of the former finance minister’s appointment to the Lands, Mine and Energy ministerial post.

Tarr, a native of one of the villages to be affected by the expansion, has been opposed to the plan while Cassell and Findley have supported it.

Innis too believes the LAC expansion plan may have had a stake in the matter: “Maybe it is based on the LAC scenario because that identical area which the company wants to take is where Byron Tarr comes from. That is his own home-town. His village is called Zondo. So he has the right to defend and champion the cause of his people and nobody can blame him for that.”

Emmanuel Karngar, a youth activist hailing from the county, added his voice of condemnation to Tarr’s reported glitched-appointment as he pointed accusing fingers at Cassell and Finley who he said undermined the ‘son of Bassa.’ It is sad that a handful of people actually undermined a fine and prominent citizen of the Grand Bassa.

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