Liberia: Archie Ponpon Expresses Frustration over Government’s Failure on Promises Made toward His Advanced Medical Treatment
Monrovia – Leroy Archie Ponpon is known for his bizarre form of social rights activism but little did anyone think he would have set himself ablaze after repeated demand for the 17-month salary arrears of him and workers at the Temple of Justice after several futile protests.
The result of that self-immolation, however, did too little change the story of the Judiciary workers, but has done more to him – leaving him with a burnt face, almost destroyed eyes and a disfigured mouth. And while he is still nursing the wounds, he says he is now compelled to leave the bed at the state-run John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center, otherwise known as JFK Hospital.
On Monday, he would be going to his home in West Point – Liberia’s biggest slum. Unfortunately, he is going back to a family that has no means of fully catering to his needs, least to say his medical requirements.
When contacted for comments on Ponpon’s recovery and whether he is fit to go home, the Administrator of the JFK Hospital, Dr. Jerry Brown, told FrontPageAfrica that he could not disclose any information pertaining to Ponpon’s status as he is under oath to protect his patient’s confidentiality.
“All I can say is that I have treated him and he’ll be discharged tomorrow. Whether he is fit to go home or not, I cannot speak to that now. That’s the patient’s confidentiality. If he gives me the permission to talk about it tomorrow [today] I can. So, come to the hospital if you want to know,” Dr. Brown said.
But Ponpon had informed FrontPageAfrica he cannot remain the hospital when the only treatment he has been getting is treatment for the burns on body – his face and hands for the past two months he has been in the hospital.
Father Forced to Acknowledge Govt. Help
Three days after Ponpon’s self-immolation, his father, Andy Ponpon, was invited by Julius Jeh on the OK Conversation, a radio show on OK FM, where he called on all well-meaning Liberians to come to his son’s aid and help him get proper medical treatment for the degree of burns he sustained.
However, according to Archie, just when some individual Liberians from home and abroad were about to start sending help, the government “forced my father to release a statement to the public that the government was going to fully shoulder the responsibility of getting me out of the country for an advanced medical treatment.”
His father during that press conference said, “We have come to say a heartfelt thank you to His Excellency President Dr. George Manneh Weah for his intervention in underwriting the cost of the surgical procedure that was done by doctors at the nation’s referral hospital led by Dr. Jerry Browne.”
But according to Archie, there has no advanced treatment given him since the promise was made by the Liberian government, besides the dressing of the burns on his face and his hands.
“The actual treatment was not the face dressing. Dr. Jerry Brown even made it clearer that sore dressing is not the issue, so JFK would do that, so he took charge of it, now is the time for the advanced treatment and the government is drawing back,” Ponpon said.
He added: “When people decided to rush to help, my father was pushed to the wall to make a statement in favor of the government, now every worry now stands on me – the children, every day my mouth is closing, my eyes are getting worse, I am in tears.”
Ponpon says he was given a passport by some government officials to travel for advance medical treatment.
“Officials of the government made me to know that I needed a passport for advanced treatment and the government could take care, they got me an express passport, and now they backing off,” he said.
He added, “The actual problem is not about sore dressing, anybody could have done that; taking advance treatment with plastic surgery is what I got my passport for and the government has abandoned their promise. Advanced treatment is what was promised, not to come and be at JFK.”
Ponpon said despite he is far from being well, he rather vacates the hospital for his residence in West Point than to accumulate charges he cannot afford.
Blurry Future for Children
The social activist also lamented that the Mayor of Monrovia, Jefferson Koijee, had promised to keep all three of his children in school through scholarship, however, the Mayor only sent him US$400 for their schooling.
He disclosed that the money could only pay for their registration fees as their tuition payment is still pending and they could be thrown out at any time.
“Major of Monrovia said he was providing scholarship, but until now nothing. We ran after it, only 400usd he (Mayor Koijee) gave. I am thinking right now about my children’s tuition and how they will eat,” he said.
What Has the Judiciary Done?
Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, the man whom Archie was protesting against, has made two visits to him at the hospital. They, however, could not talk to each other because of his inability to speak at the time, Archie disclosed.
However, he said, despite those visits, he has not received any assistance from the Judiciary.
“Chief Justice Francis Korkpor visited me two times but we did not discuss. They (Judiciary Branch) promised but in the end they said nothing was in the judiciary budget for the cost of my hospital bills, and they called on government (Executive Branch).”
But when contacted for comments, the Public Relations Director at the Temple of Justice, Atty. Darryl Ambrose Nmah told FrontPageAfrica that he is aware that the Temple of Justice presented US$2,000 to Archie’s father to help cater to the cost of his treatment. According to Atty. Nmah, though he is aware of the Chief Justice’s two visits to Archie at the JFK Hospital, he cannot speak to his personal contribution there if was any.