Minister Goodridge Caught Red-Handed, Visa Revoked
June 17, 2002
For many years now The Perspective has reported how the Taylor regime's only concern is entrenching itself in power. The regime has no regard for the welfare of the Liberian people. And while the average Liberian is struggling to survive, Taylor and his cronies are stealing Liberia's natural resources to enrich themselves.
President Taylor has all but ignored the paradigm of progress, which consists of good governance, democracy, liberty and freedom. Instead, Taylor has chosen to run Liberia as a personal fiefdom, ignoring critical needs of the people, and he is using the natural resources for his personal benefit.
In order to further his objectives, Mr. Taylor has employed all kinds of sinister schemes and autocratic tactics, including brute force and banditry to intimidate the ordinary citizens, the press and opposition politicians.
Beside the thugs of ex-fighters that often terrorize perceived enemies, there are two key agencies of government that Taylor also uses against the Liberian people. One of those agencies is the Ministry of Justice whose police department regularly harasses, arrests and tortures journalists and human rights defenders under the guise of national security.
The other is the Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism. The name is misleading as the function of this ministry is primarily spreading propaganda and suppressing information in its true content. It regulates the activities of foreign journalists through a process that requires foreign journalists to state in advance their purpose for coming to Liberia, and the regime's right to conduct background checks on such journalists. It also sets rigid conditions for local media institutions that have forced local journalists into self-censorship in order to survive, thus reducing the local media/press to an extension of the propaganda network. No critical analysis of policy issues is allowed. The ministry's primary focus is on controlling information. There is little cultural activity. Of course, there is no tourism at all.
The point man in charge of this propaganda apparatus is E. Reginald Goodridge, the sanctions-busting spokesman for the maniacal Liberian ruler. His main role is to sugarcoat and rationalize bad governance, including human rights abuses, abridging press freedom, civil liberties, antipathy to democratic practices, and official corruption.
For instance, when the regime arrested human rights lawyer Tiawan Gongloe and tortured him while in police custody, Mr. Goodridge was asked by the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) if Mr. Gongloe had been tortured, he said, “there are no torture chambers in Liberia.”
But sources in Liberia indicated it's a common practice for security personnel to disguise themselves as prisoners for the purpose of torturing people arrested for being in opposition to government policies.
According to our sources, Mr. Goodridge came to the United States on a special mission to try to convince U.S. policymakers that the regime in Monrovia is committed to the U.S. war against terrorism. He is in America to assure U.S. authorities that President Taylor is an ally when it comes to fighting terrorism.
However, the irony of all this is that Mr. Taylor epitomizes everything that President Bush has characterized as “terrorism with a global reach.” It was Taylor who helped organize the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the nefarious limb-chopping terrorists, that nearly destroyed neighboring Sierra Leone. And he used various schemes and deception to conceal his involvement in that conflict from the world community. Today, remnants of the RUF are reportedly living in Liberia with Taylor's approval.
It is the same kind of chicanery that E. Reginald Goodridge used to obtain a multiple-entry visa to enter the United States.
Though Mr. Goodridge said he was in the U.S. for medical reasons, functionaries of the government knew that his trip was for more than just a medical check-up. Several days before his arrival on 1 June 2002, our Washington Bureau Chief received a call from the Liberian Embassy requesting The Perspective to conduct an interview with Minister Goodridge. We are certain other media outlets were contacted as well.
Clearly what we are seeing is that a group of individuals running a criminal enterprise using frauds and con game tactics to achieve its aims. Sometimes, such a group runs the risk of exposing itself sooner or later as was in Mr. Goodridge's case.
He got caught red-handed trying to spread his boss's propaganda in the United States. As it turned out, according to the Washington Post, “State Department officials got wind of his political activities from Capitol Hill staffers and revoked Goodridge's visa on the grounds that he was ‘abusing his presence in the U.S. to propagandize.’ We requested he cease… and told the INS.” What a shame!
This brings us to the warning we gave the United States in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, DC that it should be mindful that there were people among us who would use the tragedy for their own political purpose. We identified Liberia's Taylor as chief culprit among such people who were shedding crocodile's tears.
While this West African war criminal and common thief is slick in using doublespeak to conceal his real intentions, no doubt, the marks of his actions are etched indelibly in the Liberian psyche. As he was telling the Americans “Your losses are our losses, your grief is our, where you go there we will go, where you stand there we will stand, your God shall be our God, your people shall be our people”, Taylor was also cracking down on independent media outlets in Monrovia.
Evidently Taylor has seized the opportunity of the war on terrorism by branding those opposed to his misrule of Liberia as terrorists. Some people say he sounds like President George W. Bush but behaves like the terrorists that Bush abhors. Taylor is a political opportunist who is crafty in exploiting U.S. war on global terrorism.
As Washington is prepared to stem out global terrorism in all its manifestations, we urge the Bush administration to take a critical look at the village tyrant in Monrovia. By any definition Charles Taylor is a terrorist who has demonstrated his disdain for democratic values. He is dangerous to West African peace and stability. And terrorism will continue to incubate and infest in West Africa as long as men like Charles Taylor are allowed to rule.