Liberia: In Auditors’ Mysterious Deaths, Deceased Spouses Call on Int’l Community for Independent Pathologist; Say Government’s Investigation Is a “Kangaroo Process”
MONROVIA – Sitting behind the microphone in Sky FM’s studio on Monday, Mr. Sylvester Lama’s voice was filled with emotions, his eyes got teary, when he told the 50-50 show that the Government of Liberia has deprived him and the families of his deceased wife, Mrs. Gifty Asmah Lama and that of Mr. Albert Peters, the opportunity to have an independent pathologist perform autopsy on the remains of their spouses who were mysteriously discovered dead in a vehicle on Broad Street, Monrovia.
The government announced that post mortem examination is aimed at establishing the cause of death of the deceased, whose passing has given rise to public concern. The dead, Albert Peters, a former Internal Auditor of the Liberia Revenue Authority; Gifty Lama, Research Analyst, Liberia Revenue Authority; George B. Fanbutu, Revenue Auditor, Liberia Revenue Authority; and the Director-General of the Internal Audit Agency, Emmanuel Barten Nyeswa, all died within days of one another.
Mr. Lama believes Monday’s autopsy conducted by the government’s recommended doctors would have no credibility because both families of the deceased are unhappy with the way the investigation is ongoing, especially the many ‘misinformation’ being given to the public by the government.
“We continue to say as families that the process would not be transparent. The Pathologists you are talking about here are paid by government – they work for government…It’s a kangaroo process,” he said.
He described the death of his wife as a “gruesome murder” and lamented that the government is yet to put out a statement condemning the killing.
Asked whether the government accorded them the opportunity to select an independent pathologist that they believe would be transparent with the outcome of the autopsy, he responded:
“We were coerced by the government through the Ministry of Justice – because we asked for an independent pathologist – they told us that the government cannot provide any independent pathologist. They said we the family, we should shoulder the cost if at all we want an independent person. That was the first intimidation.”
He said bringing in a pathologist would cost both families not less than US$30,000 which they, of course, cannot afford.
“I want to use this medium to send out an SOS call to the international community to help us because we’re talking about close to US$30,000. The family – we cannot afford. My wife left two children behind – two years and five years – we’re thinking about the upbringing of these children. So, we are calling on the international community to come to our aid. We don’t trust the system because of the manner in which they’re proceeding clearly states that this entire process has been compromised,” Mr. Lama said.
“We were coerced by the government through the Ministry of Justice – because we asked for an independent pathologist – they told us that the government cannot provide any independent pathologist. They said we the family, we should shoulder the cost if at all we want an independent person. That was the first intimidation.”– Mr. Sylvester Lama, Husband of the Late LRA Research Analyst, Gifty Lama
He also raised concerns over why the police did not allow both deceased families to view the bodies of their loved ones before removing them from the crime scene.
Mr. Lama said coupled with the unpleasing manner in which the police have been conducting the investigation, the Information Minister, Mr. Ledgerhood Rennie’s denial of the deceased not being auditors on the BBC further raised their suspicions of lack of will on the part of government to truly ensure justice in the matter.
Pathologists Assure Credibility
In the wake of the doubts of a credible autopsy, the two Liberian pathologists in the employ of the Government of Liberia (GOL) say they are conducting pro bono service on the remains of the four top-notched Liberian auditors who died under mysterious circumstances in sequence in the country.
Dr. Benedict B. Kollee and Dr. Zoebon B. Kpadeh , who are employees of the Ministry of Health and the John F. Kennedy Medical Hospital respectively, are presently conducting separate autopsies on the remains of the auditors at the St. Moses Funeral Parlour on the Somalia Drive.
Speaking prior to the conduct of the autopsies on the remains of Gifty and Albert, Dr. Kollee disclosed that a full autopsy will be conducted separately on the deceased auditors free of charge.
He noted that though they are working with the government, no extra amount is being paid them by government for the conduct of the autopsies.
“We are independent, and we are technicians and are here to gather the scientific evidences or facts. We don’t have any special interest in this case either in the interest of government or those that are accused”.
“Government is not paying for this service that we are offering because we are doing it for the country”.
He added that the outcome of the autopsies conducted will end some of the speculations or accusations surrounding the deaths of the Liberian auditors.
Dr. Kollee’s assertions come just a day after the families of the Albert and Gifty expressed the lack of trust over the conduct of an autopsy on the remains of their loved ones and relatives by pathologists who gained their education on government scholarships and are still in the employ of the government.
The autopsies on Gifty and Albert were conducted in the full glare of few media practitioners, civil society actors, and officials of the Ministry of Justice and the Liberia National Police (LNP).
The Women-in-Peace building Network (WIPNET) was represented by its Head of Advocacy, Madam Bernice Freeman, while Mr. Maxson S. Kpakio. Founder and Executive Director of Justice Forum Liberia represented his group.
Autopsies are also expected to be conducted on the remains of Mr. Fahnboto and Mr. Nyeswa by the two Liberian pathologists on Tuesday.