Liberia: Speaker House Speaker Claims Innocence in Manhandling of Businessman
Monrovia – The office of House Speaker Bhofal Chambers has denied the involvement of the speaker in the beating of Mr. Guss Winn, a painter who stormed the seat of the legislative branch Tuesday, demanding US$26,000 in debt.
Report by Henry Karmo, [email protected]
In a statement Wednesday, the Speaker’s office said stating, that at no time did the Speaker order the beating and inhumane treatment meted against Mr. Winn a local contractor who worked for the Legislature and is yet to receive his arrears.
Video of Mr. Winn’s humiliation has gone viral on Social media, attracting the interest of many international and local human rights organizations and activists.
Mr. Winn was humiliated and beaten by Security guards of the Speaker during a sit-in action in demand of payment of his money owed him by the House of Representatives.
Mr. Winn says his payment is four-months behind deadline in keeping with the agreement.
The statement from the Speaker’s office said: “At no time did the Speaker order any act of excessive force against anyone because it is not his character.”
The Speaker’s office, however, noted that the unfortunate situation involving Mr. Winn whom he himself acknowledged as “a contractor to the House of Representatives” was strange and attracted the attention of state security along with the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives, who professionally persuaded Mr. Winn to leave the premises of the Capitol Building, as his behavior was not in line with what would enhance the sanity and sanctity of the House.”
“In short, Mr. Winn’s action was harmful to the running of the House of Representatives.”
The amount owed the local contractor is in the tone of US$25,000.00. The security guards assigned on the Speaker’s security detail attempted to force Mr. Winn out of the premises when he had just entered with the lids of two cooking pots, banging them together in protest for his payment.
In tears, Mr. Winn explained that he borrowed US$19,000 from GN Bank to pre-finance the work and is now being harassed by the bank for payment. This, he said is causing him to lose sleep as he has been threatened with jail by the bank.
“I prefer to be sent to jail by Speaker Chambers than to go to jail by the Bank. Because when I am in jail or dead, they wouldn’t pay any attention to my wife because I have been here many times and they are paying me less attention,” he said.
He also told journalists that on many occasions he has been asked out of the office of the Speaker by the Speaker and threatened to be sent to jail by Representative Marvin Cole of Bong County who is co-chair on the House of Representative Rules and Order Committee.
Human right abused
“What happened to Mr. Winn yesterday is a gross violation of his rights. When I saw that video yesterday, I got so mad that after twelve years of democratic rule, government actors will violate the rights of a Liberian Citizen in that form and manner they did yesterday. Right now, the issue is beyond the debt owed him by the House of Representatives, what he went through is a gross violation of his rights we are trying to see whether what happened yesterday can be applicable to the ECOWAS court.”Cllr. Augustine Toe, Human Rights Lawyer
Cllr. Augustine Toe a human rights lawyer and activist has told a local radio that he and other human rights lawyers are exploring the possibilities with their colleagues in the region to take up the matter to the ECOWAS court but said they will need the consent of the victim, Mr. Winn.
In a telephone conversation with Joy Fm, Cllr. Toe said: “What happened to Mr. Winn yesterday is a gross violation of his rights. When I saw that video yesterday, I got so mad that after twelve years of democratic rule, government actors will violate the rights of a Liberian Citizen in that form and manner they did yesterday. Right now, the issue is beyond the debt owed him by the House of Representatives, what he went through is a gross violation of his rights we are trying to see whether what happened yesterday can be applicable to the ECOWAS court.”
Cllr. Toe promised to stand up for Mr. Winn just as he did for Speaker Bhofal Chambers with the backing of the late Archbishop Michael Francis during the regime of former President Charles Taylor when he (Chambers) was being chased out of Liberia. “It is unfortunate that the once oppressed would be swallowed by the arrogance of power to turn into an oppressor.”