MONROVIA – The Liberia Labour Congress was constrained to rescind its decision to make Atty. Samuel Kofi Woods keynote speaker of this year’s May Day (Labour Day) celebration after a confrontation from the Ministry of Labour, FrontPage Africa has gathered. Atty. Woods, a human rights lawyer and activist, is renowned for being vocal in speaking against ills in society and bad governance.
On March 29, 2019, the Liberia Labour Congress extended an invitation to Atty. Woods requesting him to serve as keynote speaker of the May Day Celebration in recognition of immense sacrifices made by workers in both the public and private sectors. “In consideration of your interest and contributions to the workers of Liberia, we wish to inform you of our selection of to serve as keynote speaker for the occasion. The day will be observed under the theme: “Unity, Strength and Solidarity for Economic Empowerment for Improved Standard of Living for Workers in Liberia.”
However, a somersaulting move, the Labor Congress on April 30, again wrote Atty. Woods: “We are constrained to inform you that the Liberia Labour Congress has decided to withdraw the invitation extended to you to serve as Keynote Speaker on the 2019 International Labour Day Program due to some circumstances.” The letter which was signed the Chairman of the Labour Congress, Hannah M. Karbo, did not give reasons for the reconsideration of their decision.
The ‘Real Reason’
FrontPageAfrica has obtained a chain of leaked emails exchange revealing the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) decision not to fund the Labour Congress’ preparation for the May Day Celebration, instead referring them to the Ministry of Labour which would coordinate the day’s programs. Accordingly, the Ministry of Labour, headed by former Lofa County Representative Moses Kollie, is exerting lots of influence as to who becomes the keynote speaker of the day. FrontPageAfrica reliably gathered from sources within the Ministry and from lines within the email exchange that the Ministry cannot tolerate having Atty. Woods serving as keynote speaker as it would not mean well for the image of the government.
The Liberia Labour Congress was reportedly coerced by Ministry of Labour to recall its invitation extended to the Atty. Woods as a bargain for getting financial aid for the celebration of Labour Day. “The fear is that Kofi Woods being who he is is most likely to say some things would not mean good for the image of the government. So, the Minister is not comfortable with him being given such a platform,” a Labour Ministry source said.
Labour Ministry Denies
However, James Kwabo, head of communication at the Ministry of Labour said the allegation is far from the truth. He added that the ministry did not communicate on such issue. “We don’t tell you what do, we only work with them as a party and we do not censor, we don’t do that, anyone who says that
will be saying that out of their minds,” he said. According to Kwabo the LLC can invite anyone to serve as a guest speaker. “It is not true, they can invite anyone, the minister is a liberal minister and the ministry will not dictate to them who to bring,” he emphasized.
Last Year’s Celebration Went Unannounced
The Weah-led administration failed to make a proclamation on last year’s May Day. The Ministry of Labour rejected several invitations to attend program commemorating the day. But Davide D. Sackoh, secretary general of LLC, said at the time that the action of the government to stay away from this 2018 year’s celebration came at the time when the country was facing grave issues with concession companies regarding the rights of workers. He called on workers to condemn the action of the Liberian government, saying the failure of the Minister of Labour to inform the Foreign Ministry about International Labour Day was a move to undermine the interest of Liberian workers.
Sackoh said the George Weah-led government’s pro-poor agenda should be in the interest of the workers union, stressing that any attempt by the government to down play the interest of the workers will be strongly resisted by the Labour Congress. “We want to use this event to condemn, in the strongest possible term the decision of the Labour Minister to boycott the Labour Day celebration in Liberia,” he said.
“For his (Minister Kollie) own blunder and failure to inform the foreign ministry and the office of the President of the Republic of Liberia on the significance of the International Labour Day in order for the proclamation to be declared today as a working holiday.” He termed the government’s action as a contradiction to its pro-poor agenda, adding that “any attempt to tamper with workers right under this administration it will be resisted strongly by the Liberia Labour Congress.” Story: FPA/Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo
Main Pic/Kofi Woods/credit: Oslo Freedom Forum