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Varney Sherman And The Liberian-Lebanese Community

By Nimely-Sie Tuon ~ tuonagain@yahoo.com

After what is being described as an exhaustive search of his background and found nothing to stick on him, the critics and opponents of Cllr. Varney Sherman are using his legal representation of some members of the Liberian Lebanese community to undermine his ongoing successful presidential campaign. They are portraying his legal relations with his Lebanese clients as being in the pockets of the Lebanese people. What many of his critics and their allies are not saying is that Varney Sherman is not the only Liberian lawyer who has represented or is representing members of the Lebanese community, and that Mr. Sherman’s clients also include Liberians and other nationalities.

Cllr. Sherman has made no secret of, nor is he ashamed of the effective representation he has made on behalf of his Lebanese clients or any of his clients in general. This is what a lawyer is supposed to do. To provide his clients with the best defense available. Doing the opposite would violate his professional ethics and responsibility as a lawyer. Another issue that is missing in the argument of his critics is whether Cllr. Sherman ever violated the law during his representation of his Lebanese clients or any of his other clients. None of his critics or opponents dares to raise such an issue because records are available to show every representation he ever made and the records will also show that they were all done within the laws of Liberia before credible courts, including the Liberian Supreme Court, with judges accredited by the Liberian legal system.

By trying to negatively exploit Cllr. Sherman’s legal relation with the Lebanese community, these critics are trying to tap into the huge prevailing anti-Lebanese sentiments that have engulfed the Liberian society. Without providing any evidence of wrong doing on the part of Cllr. Sherman, these so called critics and their media allies are making broad and unsubstantiated statements designed to inflame the passion of the Liberian people that under a Varney Sherman administration, the Lebanese will be in full control of the Liberian economy. One article came up on the Internet suggesting that Cllr. Sherman was planning to make a Lebanese his vice president. This shows how desperate the Sherman opponents are in their ongoing fishing expedition to derail his presidential campaign.

In all what they have said or continuing to say about Cllr. Sherman’s representation of some members of the Lebanese community, his critics and opponents are hiding a very important benefit to Liberia which is the result of this representation, and that is employment or jobs that it provided to thousands of Liberians. After his brief absence from the country, following the attacks on his home, Cllr. Sherman returned to Liberia in 1990, remained there since, while many of his critics, some of them now running for president, left Liberia for abroad, especially in the United States, and took up lucrative jobs.

It was Varney Sherman, and other brave Liberians, who stayed behind and began representing foreign investors, including Lebanese, who dare to do business in Liberia during the very difficult times of our country. The representation that Cllr. Sherman and others gave to these investors provided jobs and continued employment for Liberians through out the war. Investors going into Liberia at that time had two choices, go through the crooked way by bribing government officials to start their businesses, or seek out the representation of a Liberian lawyer who will provide him/her with legal guidance under which to invest in Liberia. Some investors, including some Lebanese, went the other way, but those who wanted to operate within the laws of Liberia sought out corporate lawyers like Cllr. Sherman.

The past 14 years have provided a test for many Liberians to show their true character, what they are really made off. There are those who were providing legal guidance and justifications in support of various violent groups they were supporting. Others used their standing in the international community to provide funds and international support for whichever warlord they were supporting. When it came time for the 1997 special elections in Liberia, we saw many of Liberia’s top professionals selling their souls to the warlords in order to benefit politically and financially from their violent activities.

All the candidates in the Liberian presidential race have never been president, so we don’t know what they will do when elected. But we can rely on clues in their past to get a glimpse of what kind of president they will be. Among the clues we should look for is their past political and professional stability or consistency. This race is filled with candidates with colorful past, some of which include some personal decisions they made when they were not thinking about running for president. Top on the list is what was their role in the Liberian civil conflict, the war that has killed over a quarter of million a Liberians, forced nearly one million in exile as refugees, internally displaced over 1.2 millions, and destroyed all the worldly possessions of many. Let’s see who was for peace, or who contributed to the suffering of our people by supporting the various violent groups for their own political and financial benefits. Let’s compare what they were saying or doing during these past 14 years and what they are saying or doing now because they want to be president, and see if we can spot any inconsistency.

Cllr. Sherman’s record in the past is one that is characterized as being professionally and politically stable. At a time when working for a corrupt government was tempting, Cllr. Sherman stayed away and became a private lawyer. When it became fashionable to join the different violent groups, Cllr. Sherman remained a lawyer representing investors whose investments in Liberia provided jobs and employment for Liberians. An American businessman recently described Cllr. Varney Sherman as a man who will work hard for the Liberian people as he has worked hard for his clients. Make no mistake; the ongoing presidential campaign is not a fashionable event as many are trying to make it. It is a fight for the future of our country, and it is a fight Cllr. Sherman is taking very serious.

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