Sen. Prince Johnson Accuses Pres. Weah of Politicizing Coronavirus Fight

MONROVIA, Montserrado – Nimba’s Sen. Prince Y. Johnson is accusing Pres. George Weah and other politicians of politicizing the fight against the Coronavirus by treating it as their personal projects.

Johnson said he wants all Coronavirus-related billboards with Pres. Weah’s image taken down because it politicizes the health crisis and minimizes the current health situation.

“This disease is killing and many have been infected,” he said. “It should not be a personal project for anybody.”

Sen. Johnson added, “A disease that is killing people is not a project for any individual. It’s a disease that we must all pull together and fight. This is not a Coronavirus project for anybody, be it the president or anyone. I see billboards that are printed and put up around the city with [the] inscription, ‘This is my project.’ We must stop.”

The Nimba senator also tackled the issue of many politicians placing their photos on handwashing buckets to designate it as their projects. He argued that this practice was not prevalent during the 2014 Ebola epidemic.

“I want to say, Madam President of the Liberian Senate and Vice President of Liberia, you know that Ebola time, nobody placed their pictures on buckets,” he told Jewel Howard-Taylor. “It shows that this entire Coronavirus fight has been politicized.”

According to Sen. Johnson, he received 500 buckets from Pres. Weah with no soap or bleach to take to Nimba. He said they had already been sent to the county.

“But the question is why is he putting his photograph on the Coronavirus buckets?” the Nimba senator asked. “We elected him, we know him very well, so why [is] he politicizing the whole virus by putting his photograph?”

Across Monrovia, there are several Coronavirus awareness billboards containing the president’s image and the phrase, “Weah’s Project.” That same phrase was used on songs recorded by the president and other musicians to promote awareness of the virus.

Lawmakers are currently reviewing the president’s plan to assist citizens during a state of emergency he declared on April 8. The legislature now has less than 24 hours to approve the president’s declaration or it will be invalid.

“Our people need all the help they need to stay home,” Johnson said. “When you stay home, you eat more than when you are out on the hustle.”

He urged the use of trained experts in the fight against the virus and not just anyone for political reasons, likely a dig at the Monrovia City Corporation’s recruitment of 6,000 individuals with no medical background to assist health authorities in contact tracing and gathering information.

Sen. Johnson also said he wanted health workers and civil servants paid for two to three months in advance “because it’s our responsibility to ensure that civil servants are paid while under quarantine.”

He also recommended that the plan ensure that health care facilities around the country are supplied with adequate medical materials and other incentives to protect their staff.

Johnson expressed concern that without proper oversight, the funds used in fighting the Coronavirus could be misappropriated.

“We also sat down here and US$25 million was taken from our national coffers, which should have been placed in the economy by the Central Bank of Liberia through the commercial banks, it was crookedly done and up-to-date, [there has been] no proper identity of those who the money was given to,” he said. “So why do we have an Oversight Committee? We need to be more robust.”

Sen. Johnson said Liberians were watching the lawmakers.

“Especially for those of you going for re-election this year, if you do well with the fight against this disease, working to ensure your citizens get the basic and essential incentives to survive, I think the sky will be your limit,” he added. “Let all of us put together to ensure civil servants are paid.”

“One of our colleagues was here two years ago and has become president of Liberia,” he said, referring to Pres. Weah, who was a senator of Montserrado before being elected president. “He invited us at Farmington Hotel and said to us, ‘Please help me, I’m from your constituency.’ Are we helping him and the situation confronting the country?”

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Ida Reeves

Ida Reeves holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Liberia in Mass Communications and Sociology. She graduated from the Young Political Leadership School and has worked in the past for Farbric Radio, Freedom Radio, and Frontier newspaper.

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