MONROVIA – The ongoing war of words between two lawmakers, Senator Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba County and Montserrado County District #4 Representative Rustolyn Suacoco Dennis took a new turn over the weekend with Madam Dennis accusing Mr. Johnson of threatening her life.
She said the alleged plot against her life comes after she opposed a bill seeking charter status from the national legislature for the PYJ University College (owned by Senator Johnson) on “moral grounds” but the senator has vehemently denied the claims.
Representative Dennis has been using the various media outlets, including her official social media page to bring to the public what she termed a “planned scheme” by Senator Johnson to eliminate her for persistently standing in the way of his request to have his institution chartered by the national legislature and other critical issues surrounding the past war records of the senator.
Speaking to a live conversation on the Spoon TV over the weekend, Representative Dennis took the time out to narrate her “ordeal” in the hands of Senator Johnson for some time now and wanted the public to be aware of what was unfolding around her.
She narrated: “I have been inundated with a barrage of threats from Senator Johnson and his die-hard supporters and I do have evidence; the Senator himself has been texting me. To date, I want to record that this is my worst experience since I ascended to this position as a lawmaker and my stand on critical national issues. There has been no one who has threatened me directly the way Senator Johnson has carried this out.
“My ordeal started when they brought in this act to grant the PYJ Polytechnic University where a charter will be enacted by the national legislature because every university should have a charter that must be done by the national legislature. Therein I interjected an objection that the house should not grant PYJ University a charter for some reasons.”
When asked what triggered the main thrust of the opposition and if it was not based on some personal beef with the Senator, Madam Suacoco Dennis said she does not have any personal thing against the Senator but it was based on the matter of principle not to be part of a process to “decorate and dignify” any wrong that will, according to her taint the reputation of the country.
Representative Suacoco said further: “We cannot continue to tread this path and want to be on par with other nations. What you do today will remain in history. Look at Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Germany and South Africa. Is there any country in the world today doing what we are doing; decorating a warlord? We have to table that.”
Continuing with her detest against the issuance of the charter, the Montserrado County lawmaker said people who are driving this process should take into account of the fate of the graduates of the institution who may be seeking for admission abroad for further studies and have to grapple with the reality of documents being scrutinized by the foreign universities.
“We all know that even the University of Liberia, Cuttington University and the other universities in the country have problems having their students accepted abroad because they are not rated among top universities in the world and you are talking about a polytechnic whose proponents are associated with violence all over the place,” she said further.
“You are injuring the future of these poor students whose quest for education will be thwarted with the name or the symbol around the name of the institution. That is why I am opposing the charter to save the future of the young people.”
Responding whether she has the support of her other colleagues, she said when she first introduced her argument on a Thursday when they had a session, there was majority on her side but by Tuesday in the following week during the second session, the pendulum changed because according to her “purportedly words came from the Executive grounds” to support it and that was how her argument was voted against and the House passed the bill.
Not being deterred about the U turn passage of the bill, she said she has written to the House of Senate not to vote to concur with the lower house and also to the President so that peradventure the bill sails through in the Senate he should veto it to save the nation the embarrassment it will cause.
She said she had even suggested to Senator Johnson and his people that if the Senator has good intention for establishing the university, let him do the honorable thing by naming it either Nimba University since he considers himself “Liberator” of the people or better still name it in his mother’s name or that of the late erudite educator, Dr. Joseph Saye Guanu.
When asked to come up with prove about the threat on her life, the tough talking lawmaker said that on one occasion, her ceiling was opened apparently by people hiding up there to harm her but she was not harmed and the second time her back door was opened, the intruders entered but did not take anything from the house and she immediately alerted the security, especially the police but nothing was done and from that time, she has been taking precaution moving from one place to another.
“For those who want to argue with me it is their right to do so but this character I am dealing with is not a saint. If I came to raise an issue with a pastor or bishop who has been peaceful and quiet in Liberia, of course you have the right to argue.
“But this is a man who emasculated a former President, this is a man who killed Tecumseh Roberts, Watta Allison, Michael Doe, this is a man who brags of killing, this is a man who is currently intimidating the head of state of Liberia.
She said others may take the senator how they feel about him but for her she will be consistent that he does not deserve to be celebrated in any form or manner because he is a “murderer, a warlord and someone with serious records of serious human rights abuses”.
Representative Dennis also said that Liberians are making mockery of themselves with the way they honor warlords and criminals by electing them and said she will elevate the discussion to higher levels for those recently sanctioned by the US government and others with perverted records not to take part in government starting with being banned from contesting the ensuing 2023 general elections.
Asked if she has the support of her constituency, she answered positively and said that as far as she is concerned she is executing the three main cardinal functions of a lawmaker, namely, lawmaking, oversight and representation and no amount of threat from the government or its agent will deter her from speaking out her mind for her people. She lamented the cold relationship she is receiving from the President and members of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) because she is from an opposition party.
“The whole thing is frustrating that a sitting lawmaker who is willing to work with the President and the ruling party is being sidelined in everything in her district. The president will come to my district and will not let me know. It happened during the county tour. They did not allow me to be part of it and I just told my people not to make an issue out of it but we should be focused on working towards the development of the district”, she said.
But appearing on the same channel on the evening of Saturday, September 17, 2022, Senator Johnson vehemently denied all the claim against him describing the allegations as “a blatant lie, complete falsehood, it has no iota truth”, and accused her of being bitter against him because according to him, “I did not support Benoni Urey in 2017 and she is a member of Urey’s party, the ALP”.
Senator Johnson equally admitted that the origin of their back and forth can be traced to a bill he introduced to the plenary of the House of Representatives by Representative Johnson Gwaikolo of Nimba but instead of her arguing it against the document if she ever had any qualms with it, she went overboard and started to insult him and laying allegations of being a war criminal and killer.
He said his institution had obtained a preliminary clearance by the National Commission for Higher Education (NCHE) to offer courses leading to the award of Associate and Bachelor’s degree and said that the institution has so many facilities like other top universities in the country but being capital intensive, he decided to seek the charter not only to authenticate his full fledge status but also to get subsidy from the government just like the other universities.
“But she disrupted the process and caused confusion that day, thereby causing the Presiding officer to seize the document and send it to the committee room.
“So I decided to lobby with some other lawmakers including Solomon George, Thomas Fallah, etc and they told me to call her and they gave me her number. I initially decided to call her but my mind told me to text her first which I did.
“I did text her and told her that she has been insulting me, calling me all kinds of names, notorious killer, blood sucker, and you know you are in the House, we live in a country of laws, take me to court if you want evidence against me”, Senator Johnson said.
He denied ever being a deliberate killer as was alleged by Rep. Dennis but was drawn into leading a rebellion against the late President Samuel Kanyon Doe because according to him, his people were being exterminated and he could not sit down supinely while the evil lasted. He said the Representative was biased against him because there are so many people today being celebrated who did worse in the country than what she was claiming he did.
He named former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as someone who participated and supported the war but the EJS Ministerial Complex is named in her honor and Doe whom he described as a “tyrannical leader and dictator” has a sports complex named in his honor and his photo is on the LD 50 banknote.
Senator Johnson, who sounded very angry at some point when responding to questions, said that it is sad that people are being hypocritical about his role in the Liberian civil war and at the same time see him as someone who can make them win the election. He said all the allegations being levied against him are as the results of his support to President Weah but once he decides to support the opposition too, the noise will seize from them.
Johnson blamed Mr. Alexander Cummings specifically for his name being listed for designation and sanction through the Magnitsky Act, stating that the Standard bearer of the Collaborating Political Parties(CPP) had courted his support towards 2023 but when he did not accept because according to him Cummings is supporting gay rights in Liberia.
“He came to me to support him for 2023 and even wanted Senator Jeremiah Koon to be his running mate but I did not accept it. I told him that in 2017, when they asked him during the debate about his stand on gay rights, he said he supports gay rights and this is against the Christian principle. Senator Koon is an ordained usher in his church and he will not accept that”, he said.