Liberia: LiMA Commissioner Laments Rape Allegation Involving Officials in S. Korea

MONROVIA – The Commissioner of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA), Lenn Eugene Nagbe, says the ongoing prosecution of two of its officials in South Korea on allegations of rape has tainted the image of the country’s maritime program to the outside world.

It can be recalled that two employees of the LiMA, Mr. Moses Owen Browne (Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the IMO) and Mr. Daniel Tarr (Director of the Department of Marine Environmental Protection) were arrested for alleged sexual assault and rape by police in the Port City of Busan, South Korea recently.

They were in South Korea attending the International Maritime Organization (IMO) GHG SMART Practical Training and Study Visit (September 19-23, 2022) when this alleged incident occurred.

The men, in their 30s and 50s, respectively, were arrested on the spot at a hotel after a friend of the alleged victims reported the case to the police.

But Mr. Nagbe pointed out that the jailed Permanent Representative of Liberia to the IMO, Mr. Brown, continues to deny the allegations brought against him by the South Korean government.

He, however, fell short to start whether or not Mr. Tarr has also denied his involvement into the alleged acts.

He made these comments when he appeared as a guest on the OK Morning Rush on OK FM 99.5 in Monrovia on Thursday, September 29.

Mr. Nagbe maintained that despite the denial from Mr. Brown, the wide media reports on the matter have cast a “negative spell” on the LiMA and its international programs, adding that, “the clients and ship owners are calling because the issue of sexual crimes is not a joke in Liberia and throughout the world.”

He further pointed out that an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already been dispatched to South Korea and was received at the Liberian embassy in Tokyo.

“I also spoke to Ambassador Blamo Nelson who has supervision of Korea and so, we have to allow the process to unfold. I spoke to Mr. Brown verbally; he was allowed to use his phone at intervals. He continues to proclaim his innocence and said it was a setup.”

“I’m not trying to litigate the matter right now, but I just assured him (Brown) that we will do what we have to do as a government to intervene and make representation with the Korean government in many areas. But I am not pretending that this has not affected the image of the Liberia maritime program.”

IMO and ship owners concerned

Mr. Nagbe disclosed that on Wednesday, September 28, the Secretary of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) convened a meeting on the situation surrounding the arrest and ongoing prosecution of the two maritime officials.

He disclosed that President George Manneh Weah, as a “Feminist-In-Chief” has also mandated the LiMA to “do everything possible to make diplomatic contacts and the Foreign Minister has already initiated that.”

“From our end as a government, in these kinds of situations, we allow the diplomatic engagement to be consummated. This is what’s ongoing. We just have to wait.  My understanding is that the official from the Foreign Ministry has a meeting today with the Korean authorities and after that, we will know what next.”

He noted that the diplomatic process surrounding the matter is currently unfolding between Liberia and South Korea and as such, procedures and protocols surrounding the recall of Mr. Brown will be followed thereafter.

On rice saga

Local rice dealers and consumers have been catching hell to purchase the commodity at wholesale and retail prices respectively.

Rice is the staple food of Liberians.

In recent times, the price of a 25kg bag of rice has abruptly increased from US$13.50 to US$20, US$22 and US$25 respectively in Monrovia and other parts adjacent. The retail price of a cup of rice, which was sold for L$35, is presently being sold for between L$60 to L$80 respectively.

However, President Weah described as “mere street gossip” reports of the scarcity of rice in the country, stressing that there is sufficient food in the country to serve Liberians.

“We need not always listen to the street gossip. This is not the first time it has happened. Those responsible for importing rice say we have rice up to next year. I don’t believe there’s rice scarcity I believe there is rice. We will verify it again. Don’t listen to the noise in the street, ” President Weah when quizzed by journalists about his knowledge of the looming rice shortage being faced in the country.”, he stated upon his return to Liberia from attending the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Session in the United States.

Mr. Nagbe also quoted importers as saying that sufficient rice remain in the country up to December 2022.

He claimed that importers have assured of additional supply of metric tons of rice coming into the country at the beginning of October.

He said government is subsidizing these importers to ensure that the price is kept at “an affordable rate”.

Mr. Nagbe pointed out that government is not reviewing whether or not to continue providing subsidies to these importers for the sale of rice at an affordable price on the local market.

“There is a discussion that is ongoing within the Cabinet itself (about subsidy to rice importers). A decision will be made about that very soon. There is this issue of smuggling also which is unfair.”

He admitted that the smuggling of rice from Liberia to another country shows that the cost is far low compared to the country to which the commodity is being smuggled.

“We have a better price than Sierra Leone and Guinea and because of that, smuggling is happening and smuggling also leads to scarcity. So as a government, it is our responsibility to fix any situation that exists and so, we are not shying away from that responsibility.”

Mr. Nagbe questioned the rationale behind why rice is being sold to retailers in huge quantities but the commodity remains scarce on the local market.

He blamed the situation on the need for these business people to make more profits to the detriment of the masses.

Importers are not the problem

According to him, the situation remains unfortunate in the post-conflict nation.

“The importers are not the problem based on the information that we gathered from the Minister of Commerce. They have been supplying the available stock to the retailers, but some of the retailers are holding back.”

Mr. Nagbe emphasized that the government, through the Ministry of Commerce has moved in to arrest the situation to ensure that the pending huge consignments of rice coming into the country are not hoarded by these retailers.

He observed that an artificial shortage of the commodity is being created by some of these retailers.

“The oppositions are praying for rice shortage to persist and they are praying for negativity or bad things to happen to Liberia. That’s what they been doing always.”

Mr. Nagbe further disclosed that the recent visit of President Weah and other government officials to the just ended United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) was beneficiary to the extent that the government used the even to re-engage with its partners, including the United Nations and United States government, among others.

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