Liberia: June 7 Protest Draws Ire as Government Warns against Illegal Assembly, Violence
MONROVIA – If the June 7 protest against the harsh state of the economy and ‘bad governance’ should go on without disruption, organizers would have to seek permission from the appropriate government entities, the deputy presidential press secretary has warned.
Report by Willie N. Tokpah, [email protected]
The protest since announced by talk show host Henry Costa to be led by the ‘Council of Patriots’ last week has been gaining massive momentum with many prominent and ordinary Liberians volunteering to form part of the march.
Representative Yekeh Kolubah, Senator Oscar Cooper, Senator Sando Johnson, Cllr. Pearl Brown Bull and Darius Dillon are amongst prominent citizens who have opted to join the march against what is believed to be the constant violation of the Liberian Constitution.
The protest has been dubbed “Save the State”.
Mr. Henry Costa, host of the popular morning show said Sunday that the protest sole intention is the get the attention of the government to the rapidly declining plight of the Liberian people – and the total neglect by the government in power.
Said Mr. Costa: “President George Weah is taking us for granted; he ignores us, he is behaving as though he is a King, and we are his obedient subjects. He violates our constitution, he steals our money and builds himself luxury properties, flies in private jets with large delegations while the country bleeds and the people suffer. So, this Save the State movement is to slap him hard in a peaceable but powerful manner to wake up.”
Press Secretary’s Caveat
At a press conference on Tuesday, deputy presidential press secretary told reporters that President Weah is concern about the security of the state and therefore encourages all Liberians to remain peaceful.
“The government will not lecture people on civics; people who are requesting know their constitutional obligations and the Government of President George Manneh Weah will not infringe on the rights of people. But there is a laid down procedure to assemble people, especially when you are opting to take a public space,” Toby said.
He added that the government is yet to receive any formal request to stage a street protest, neither has the office of the President been written concerning any protest.
“I’m sure you are hearing it the way we all are hearing it on the social media. The callers of the protest should communicate their request through the Ministry of Justice asking the Ministry of Justice to grant them that request because it is their right to call on their government. The government is equally responsible to protect the peace of the country – that is a bigger picture,” Toby said.
Toby warned that should the protest turns on the “opposite”, the organizers would be held liable.
“The government will leave no stone untouched if the protest or protesters turn violent and the leaders of the protest will account to Liberians for whatever that happens on the contrary,” Toby said.
He, however, added that government would provide security if the protest would remain peaceful.
“President Weah is taking some of the criticisms in good fate and it’s helping in good governance, except that some are very rude and sending bad signals out there to our partners, but the international community is watching the government in term of its good governance,” Toby asserted.
He said President Weah is concern about everything people are talking about but he will not get distracted by those who want him to do things according to their dictates.
Dillon: Blame Violence on the Government
In an earlier comment, Mr. Darius Dillon, Liberty Party’s vice president for operations, said the government will have to be blamed if the protest turns ugly on June 7.
“As for reported counter demonstration on 7th June, we will hold the President, the Minister of Justice, Police Director and the CDC leadership for any recklessness and intrusion into our rally by their surrogates. We will inform the world about this,” stated.
Mr. Dillon added, “The protest on June 7th is being prompted by the gross disrespect for and undermining of our Constitution and other laws, falling economy with huge doubt over “infusion” of $25m USD, bad governance over the state, lack of respect for dissenting views, tampering with the independence of the judiciary, growing wave of insecurity and mob violence across the country due primarily to decreased lack of public trust in the justice system, no accountability and transparency across government including clouded declaration of assets, etc.”
Dillon’s comments were in reaction to Minister of State Mr. Nathaniel McGill who pointed accusing fingers to the leaders of the collaborating Liberty Party, (LP), the Alternative National Congress (ANC), and the All Liberian Party (ALP) for masterminding the planed protest.
“Individuals who lost the election and ran to court believing that there should be re-run of election are still in the mentality of the elections so they are still campaigning and making all these noises. It has become clear to me that our friends in the opposition only development for this country is protest maybe that is how they want to serve the Liberian people we will guarantee that.”
Minister McGill cautioned that the government was elected to protect lives and properties and the peace of the country. So, while their rights to protest is guaranteed, the heads of political parties who are planning on putting people in the streets will be held accountable if the law is broken. They will be held liable.”
McGill said: “The Liberty Party, the Alternative National Congress, and the All Liberian Party and I know they are trying to draw the Unity Party on board are the people making these noises and if there is any confusion in the streets, leaders of these Parties will be held accountable for breaking the law.”