Liberia: New Agriculture Minister Jeanine Cooper Puts Her Shares in Private Company in “Blind Trust” to Avoid Conflict of Interest

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The Agriculture Minister insinuated that this her action is intended to avoid any conflict of interest with her new role at the Ministry of Agriculture

Monrovia – The newest member of President George Manneh Weah’s Cabinet, Madam Jeanine Milly Cooper, Minister of Agriculture, Wednesday, March 4, announced that she has now put her shares in her Fabrar Liberia Incorporated into what she termed as “Blind Trust.”

The Agriculture Minister insinuated that this her action is intended to avoid any conflict of interest with her new role at the Ministry of Agriculture.

“In this public forum, I like to say something about my company Fabrar, which I was running peacefully before, but which I have now put my shares into a blind trust so that I can focus my attention on the affairs of the Ministry,” she disclosed. 

Madam Cooper introduced her two sons, including Fabio Lavelanet, who is the main person who started the company, as among others who are now going to be in charge of the running of the company. 

Fabrar is a Liberian-owned agribusiness holding company with the social purpose of increasing the access of Liberian farmers to local and international markets.

Madam Cooper spoke at a reception held in her honor after she had been commissioned as Minister of Agriculture by the President of Liberia. The reception was put together by Mr. Stephen A. Tolbert, II and his mother, Ambassador Neh Dukuly-Tolbert.

From among her guests, all of whom she had recognized, she singled out Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah and State for Presidential Affairs Minister Nathaniel F. McGill, for being the two whom she said pitched the offer to her of being Minister of Agriculture.

“At one point during our conversations, I asked them why you guys are double teaming me in this conversation. I told them this thing is too big; I don’t want it,” she said to the amusement of her audience, who included some of the very prominent Liberians. According to her, she took two to three days to consult with her friends and family about the offer. “But even as I was asking, I already knew that this was something that God was preparing me to do.”

“In this public forum, I like to say something about my company Fabrar, which I was running peacefully before, but which I have now put my shares into a blind trust so that I can focus my attention on the affairs of the Ministry”

– Madam Jeanine Cooper, Minister of Agriculture

She further stated that agriculture is in her DNA as her father was an agriculturist. 

Min. Cooper disclosed that after being mentored by some associates, at 27, she established her first agribusiness, which was buying and selling rubber.   

Speaking further, the new Agriculture Minister said she is very honored by what President Weah did to appoint her Minister. 

“I am touched; I never in my life ever, ever dreamt that I would be standing here and somebody would be calling me ‘Minister Cooper’,” she said.

According to her, there are high expectations in the sector. “The high expectations excite me rather than give me cause for fear or worry. I am not worried.”   

She also was full of praises for Amb. Neh Dukuly-Tolbert, whom she regards as her aunt because of the deep friendship that existed between her mother and the Ambassador. 

“Thank you for standing in the place of Mamie. The story goes back even further in terms of generations, when your father, who was Secretary of State, served as bestman to my grandfather, who was Secretary of Public Works, when he got married in the 1950s. They were great good friends; their daughters were great good friends and I really treasure my relationship with Steve. We have become great good friends; that is three generations of doing this. Thanks so much for organizing this,” Min. Cooper told her aunt.

Speaking earlier, Amb. Dukuly-Tolbert narrated that Min. Cooper’s mother and her were school friends from St. Teresa Convent, to Switzerland and many other places. She expressed how happy she is to stand in place of niece’s mother. 

Also speaking, Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah said the President’s journey to fill the vacancy at the Agriculture Ministry was a long and difficult one. It took the President almost seven months to nominate Min. Cooper.

“The President had a particular herculean criteria; he wanted a practical Agriculture Ministry and so several candidates before her were shutdown by the President. Only he knew what kind of Minister he wanted. The resumes he reviewed, he said the practically he wanted was not in them,” Min. Tweah said. 

He further narrated that they were running out of options when Min. Cooper’s name surfaced. “When we sent the resume and name forward, the majestic respond was very overwhelming from the President. It was like ‘This is the practicality that I am looking for.’”

He disclosed that the President had really searched for someone that he could connect with not just on the resume. He added: “He wanted an Agriculture Minister he could feel from the beginning. I believe this Minister will do the job.”

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