Angered by the wave of public outbursts against him in the wake of the controversial senate leadership election, Lofa County Senator Steve Zargo has debunked the allegation that he willfully withdrew from the race for Chairman of the Senate Statutory Committee on Defense and Intelligence which pave way for the eventual emergence of Senator Prince Yormie Johnson.
Senator Zargo instead traced his decision to back off from the race to a long history of lack of support and cooperation from the Liberty Party on occasions he needed the party the most when he decided to contest for position or take decisions that concerned the party, questioning the party, “When has the Liberty Party built a consensus around me on my senatorial function?”.
‘Good faith dealing,’
Addressing a press conference on Thursday, May 20, 2021, the Lofa County lawmaker indicated, “In one of my reactions to Abraham Darius Dillon (ADD), I made reference to good faith dealing, taking cue from my experience dating back to when I intended to contest for the position of President Pro Tempore as LP chair and to my recent involuntary resignation as LP chair,” Senator Zargo said with reference to the exchange he had with Senator Abraham Darius Dillon who had expressed serious dissatisfaction with the way and manner Senator Zargo withdrew from the race.
The former immediate Chairman of the Liberty who spoke about his doubt about the sincerity of both Senator Dillon and the Political leader (PL) of the party, Senator Nyonblee Karngar-Lawrence to have campaigned and voted for him, given the way he was being treated in the party, made the assertion ultimately in reaction to a press release issued Liberty by the Party against his withdrawal from the Senate race for the Statutory Committee on Defense and Intelligence in which the party chided the Lofa County lawmaker.
“How could I be assured that Darius Dillon and my own Political Leader could even vote for me considering my reference ‘good faith dealing’ to the extent the Chief of Office Staff to Senator Dillon forwarded a communication inviting me to a hearing with LP leadership while the party’s Chair, Musa Bility, who publically spoke against War Crime Court has issued a release distancing the party from my action, what a big contradiction”, he said.
Zargo requested and got the permission from the Senate Pro-tempore to allow him to disclose series of text exchanges between them from May 12 – 18, 2021 to set the basis for the inclusion of this aspect of his press conference, which he didn’t plan or envisage, but was constrained to do due diligence to the prevailing circumstances.
He gave timeline of the text messages as on May 12, 2021, at about 7:16am, May 17 at 9:55pm and on May 18, 2021 at 7:53 am, 7:54am and 7:59am respectively. He also gave those he had with Senator Abraham Darius Dillon as on May 18, 2021, at about 7:36pm (ADD), 8:39pm(ADD), 8:40pm(him) and 8:41pm(ADD) while on May 19, 2021, there were four exchanges comprising of 7:54pm (ADD), 8:11pm(him), 8:21pm(ADD) and 8:30pm( him) 9:14pm(him), 9:14(ADD)
“I do this against the background of comments and concern from the general public as well as on account of the wrong representation being made of me by my colleague, Senator Abraham Darius Dillon. Legally, privileged exchanges between you and a person, least to speak of your supervisor, are not a subject appropriate and, or fit for the public,” Senator Zargo indicated. However, “… but it’s high time I do. Hence, I make these disclosures with timing and data. For this, I apologize to my colleague and supervisor – the Pro-tempore”, Mr. Zargo said
Senator Zargo said there is no time the party ever advised or supported him on any of his activities as per the mandate or direction the party is taking on an issue. He asked rhetorically “When has the Liberty Party built a consensus around me on my senatorial function?”
Senator Zargo who is also Chairman of the Lofa County Legislative Caucus expressed serious dismay about the series of cloudy activities that brought on board Mr. Musa Hassan Bility as Chairman and the secret moves the chairman has been conducting which portrays a hidden agenda.
He named what he called Mr. Bility’s secret dealings with leaders of the party in the various counties prior to the recent special national convention and another surreptitious dealing at the Headquarters of the party in Voinjama, Lofa County.
Liberty Party Reacts to Senate Election
Barely a day after the election, his party, Liberty Party, a constituent member of the opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) said it was appalled by the eleventh-hour unilateral withdrawal of its immediate past National Chairman and Lofa County Senator, Steve J. H. Zargo, from the race for the chairmanship of the Senate’s Committee on Defense and National Security.
The Party said Senator Zargo’s unexpected withdrawal, which paved the way for the unchallenged election of Senator Prince Johnson to this position, is a disappointment to the CPP Legislative Caucus, considering that the CPP Legislative Caucus agreed to support Senator Zargo as Chair of the Committee on Defense and National Security prior to the election.
In a strong worded statement issued Thursday, May 20, 2021 and signed by its National Chairman, Mr. Musa Hassan Bility, the Liberty Party said it saw Senator Zargo’s action as a downright push back at the efforts of Liberians, both home and abroad, towards the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court to end the culture of impunity in Liberia.
The party lamented that it is irrefutable that the election of Senator Johnson to chair such an influential committee undermines calls for the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court to prosecute warlords for the atrocities meted out against Liberians during the Liberian civil conflict.
“As an institution highly acclaimed for adherence to the rule of law, the Liberty Party wishes to distance itself from Senator Zargo’s action against the consensus of the CPP Legislative Caucus. Liberty Party also wishes to inform all of its supporters who continue to cry aloud for the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court in Liberia, both home and abroad, of its commitment to the fight for justice for victims of the Civil War”, the party said.
The party indicated that it has cited Senator Zargo to a meeting with its leadership on Friday, May 21, 2021, to provide an explanation of his action to withdraw from the Legislative election in a manner and timing that effectively disallowed the CPP from putting forth another candidate, especially given the fact he knew that this action would result in the single slate of Senator Prince Johnson being presented for this critical position,” a position statement contained in the party’s press release concluded.
In similar reaction, the opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), the umbrella body of four major opposition political parties which is currently being chaired by the Political leader of the Liberty Party, Senator Nyonblee Karngar-Lawrence, has called on the Liberian Senate to reverse the decision to re-elect Prince Y. Johnson as Chairman for the Senate Committee on Defense and Intelligence, and Cllr. Varney Sherman as chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions.
In press release issued on Thursday, May 20, 2021, the opposition bloc, the four Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) said Liberians in their vast majority have, over the years and in recent times, been calling for the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court (WECC) to prosecute those who have allegedly committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and economic crimes in Liberia.
The opposition parties further said while Senator Prince Yormie Johnson, a warlord, is one of those who have allegedly committed heinous war crimes and crimes against humanity during the civil war in Liberia on one hand, Cllr Sherman on the other hand was recently sanctioned by the United States of America, Liberia’s biggest and most valued ally, for corruption involving judicial bribery, bribery of politicians to impeach Justice Kabineh Ja’neh and for other corrupt practices
“The election of both Sen. Johnson and Sen. Sherman proved that our senate is yet to take the fight against corruption and impunity seriously. As a responsible country that is almost 180-year-old, we should not always wait for our partners, particularly the Americans, to scold us publicly before our leaders can take the fight against kleptocracy and impunity seriously”, the parties said.
The CPP, in conclusion, said considering the issues surrounding the two lawmakers, it welcomed the statement from the United States Government and reiterated its call for the immediate reversal of the elections of Sen. Cllr. Varney Sherman and Sen. General Prince Y. Johnson from the leadership of the Liberian Senate.