Teahjay's Tangles Multiply

By Tom Kamara

The Perspective

April 25, 2001

Two weeks have passed since President Taylor's loyal media consultant, and former deputy Minister of Information, Milton Teahjay, mysteriously disappeared. Since then, Teahjay's political party leader, G. Baccus Matthews, has succeeded in burying concerns about his fate - whether he is dead or live. Through bizarre and unsubstantiated assurances, there are now doubts as to what has happened. This clever gamesmanship, however self-serving, has removed the burden of responsibility on Government to produce their missing minister since they have admitted arresting him.

The UPP's public relations stunt benefiting a regime with a record replete with secret executions and denials is understandable, since the UPP and Taylor's NPP have become Siamese twins, with suggestions from one of its rewarded members on the Taylor team, (Sam Jackson) that the two groups should merge because, and rightly so, they are not distinguished by political differences or programs.

Matthews' PR position with Malaysian timber sharks, the Oriental Timber Corporation, along with his position as influential and infinite party leader, place him in a perfect position to rescue the Government from demands that they must produce the missing man. But surprisingly, since Matthews said Teahjay is alive, he has not seen it honorable to reveal Teahjay's whereabouts in this crude and ongoing spin at the service of a butchering regime.

A note dated 16 April, and circulated by a UPP partisan, said, "I spoke to two UPP comrades in Monrovia this afternoon and was given the good news that, 'Milton made it across...he's alive.' My thanx go to the UPP progressives 'inside-inside.' Please do not ask me for 'more details now".

However, details are just what could make such claims believable. But despite Teahjay's friends' zealousness to extinguish the flames of uncertainty, they remain burning around the vanishing of a man who has defended many horrors against Taylor's real or perceived opponents, including the imprisonment of British journalists last year. At the time, a fanatically loyal Teahjay said the team's imprisonment was justified because the men had plotted to implicate President Taylor in diamond smuggling, adding that although the they were licensed, it was criminal for the journalists to film certain areas and interview security officers. Such "PR", defending the indefensible, made Teahjay an indispensable player in the house of horrors, that is until recently.

The credibility of such a note is based on the fact that, indeed, there are many "UPP "progressives inside-inside." There is the Director of the Cabinet, Blamo Nelson, who acted as president when Taylor was out of the country until the tyrant discovered it is safer to leave his family member, Jonathan Taylor - Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, in charge of the "family business". There are Johnson Gwaiklo, Sam Jackson, and many UPP partisans serving as Taylor's operatives, and this leads to several questions of their role in this mystery. Could it be that these people smuggled Teahjay out of the country? If so, why are they harassing the man's family to produce him? Why did Taylor announce that Teahjay had been arrested? Why did the Police confirm the arrest? Why did they deny it later? And then there are several factors and questions yet not understood.

Factor one: President Taylor was the first to announce that, "one of those bent on destabilizing the country has been arrested while attempting to leave the country secretly."

Factor two: The Police corroborated the President's claims, saying Teahjay was held for "preliminary investigation" since he had committed a "crime" of attempting to secretly flee. Taylor and his police later changed their minds, saying leaving the country was no longer a "crime." But since arrests are conducted without arrest warrants, there is no record of the man been arrested and this leaves room for deniability that is taken seriously by those who do not know how the Taylor's government functions.

Factor three: Teahjay's brother told journalists that after they were blocked from crossing the border into Cote D'Ivoire, they returned home to Monrovia. He said he dropped Teahjay home. The following day when he arrived at his brother's house at Matadi estate, he said he discovered it had been sealed by state security. Worried and frightened neighbours, he said, warned him to leave because security was searching for him.

Factor four: In all their denials and subsequent stories, the police have not denied sealing the man's house, which some reports say was looted, as is the custom with declared enemies of the state.

Factor five: The police immediately changed their story of arresting the man. Police Director Paul Mulbah issued a statement saying they never arrested the man they had earlier announced was in their "custody for preliminary investigation". Taylor told journalists Teahjay, who he said was a criminal for attempting to leave the country secretly, was a man he loves very much and had "taken personal care of."

Factor six: Confusion intensifies, with reports of a body found in Firestone with eyes plucked out. The reports end. No further information on the alleged man found nor his identity.

Factor seven: One of the Government's sponsored newspapers prints a story that Teahjay was at the American embassy. The embassy denies the claims, insisting they had not heard from or seen Teahjay, neither do they know his whereabouts.

Factor eight: Enter G. Baccus Matthews, the UPP leader who is a Taylor-appointed public relations officer for the notorious Malaysian logging Oriental Timber Corporation. He tells journalists that he had met with Teahjay wife and other family members who told him the man was alive. He gives the worried family a 3-day ultimatum to produce the man. Meanwhile, Taylor told journalists in the Gambia that he had information Teahjay was well and alive somewhere in Liberia. This contradicts the UPP "inside-inside" operatives who said the man "made it across". Who informed Taylor? Why hasn't he uprooted Teahjay from "somewhere in Liberia?"

Factor nine: The family denies Matthews claims and calls upon Teahjay to break his silence "if he is alive." Why has Teahjay not obeyed his family's call to shout as he usually does? Why is he endangering their security by keeping silence since he is alive as the UPP says?

Factor ten: The Government claims victory, accuses critics of intentional bad publicity.

This is the scenario. Now let us look at other circumstances.

Since Matthews and his partisans' claim that Teahjay is alive and that they know where he is, why have they intimidated the family believing they could reveal his whereabouts? Taylor and his security apparatus have given more than sufficient assurances that Teahjay is a free man with liberties to leave the country anytime he wants. If so, why have Matthews and UPP soldiers, all key members in the Government, not told Teahjay to emerge from his alleged hiding place which they know?

Let us assume that Teahjay "made it across safely". What explanations are there for how he escaped from the Police that arrested him? Was he arrested by UPP Policemen in the Government? How did he make it across a border from which he was turned away and accused of a crime? Why has the Government, in possession of information of where he is, not revealed his hiding place to vindicate itself? Why is the family threatened with arrest?

The Ministry of Information sources have not denied Taylor's announcement of the capture of "one bent on destabilizing" his Government. They only said that Taylor was "misinformed" in making the announcement. Misinformed on what, by whom and why? Why no rebuke for giving the President such a deadly "misinformation"?

Nevertheless, the Teahjay case accentuates the fluidity and uncertainty of politics in Taylor's "presidential pepperbush." In 1998, Teahjay stormed the BBC's London studios to indict Washington and London for spearheading an international conspiracy to unseat his boss. Now, he is slapped with the same charge, "attempts to destabilise the state." Prior to this, this thundering loudspeaker for terror was dismissed for "acts inimical to the security of the state"

The labyrinths of factual contradictions in his disappearance continue. But one fact is assured: Matthews has truly earned his PR fees from the plundering Malaysian company that is depleting the rainforest on Taylor's behalf. Otherwise, what PR Matthews is undertaking for a group of plunderers who have earned global notoriety? If the OTC really needed PR, it is now. To the contrary, the other UPP missing PR consultant miscalculated in biting the hand the feeds.

The Teahjay mystery indicates improved schemes in cover-ups. In 1998, opposition politician Samuel Dokie and his wife, along with two family members were arrested by presidential guards, executed, mutilated and burnt beyond recognition. The missing link in the cover-up was that there were too many witnesses, too many loopholes. The Gbarnga Police, left out in the plot, annoyingly kept records of the arrest. One of Dokie's relatives traveling with him immediately left the scene to inform family members in Nimba that Dokie and others had been arrested. Taylor's security chased her taxi, but since they didn't know her, the woman's life was spared to give details of the horror. In the end, under public pressure, the Government was compelled to arrest some security men who were swiftly acquitted with promises to find the real killers.

Meanwhile, as Taylor struggles with the Teahjay burden, another mysterious death - that of the minister of Sports - surfaced, leaving many unanswered questions. If the Government believes dissidents killed the minister, why has it appointed a Commission to probe the death? Why hasn't the pilot of the helicopter spoken to the media? How is it possible that dissidents reined several bullets at the helicopter hitting only one man - the minister? How many persons were in this helicopter? Why haven't they given their own accounts of the shooting and the death of the minister?

In Teahjay's case, Matthews will provide the missing links and answer the unanswered questions in time to come. But not even Taylor's, and OTC's looted dollars, can prevent the truth from emerging in these mysterious killings, which have continued since Taylor's election.

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