Liberia: Why Deputy Police Chief Attempted Arresting Opposition Lawmaker Yekeh Kolubah – Reckless Driving or Show of Power?
Monrovia – What began as a traffic violation on Tuesday, July 21 turned into a standoff between Representative Yekeh Kolubah (District #10 Montserrado County) and Deputy Police Commissioner for Operations, Melvin Sackor.
Report by Henry Karmo, [email protected]
The incident, which took place minutes away from the Capitol Building, created a scene that resulted into a huge traffic congestion with video footage on social media showing the two men in a fierce verbal altercation.
In the video, Deputy Police Chief Sackor was seen ordering his officers to impound the vehicle of the Montserrado County lawmaker. That prompted a war of words between Representative Kolubah and Deputy Police Chief Sackor, which almost sparked into a fist fight.
According to eyewitnesses, the standoff between the two officials began when Sackor, known as ‘102’ [based on his rank with the LNP] attempted impounding Rep. Kolubah’s vehicle because it was bearing a single license plate and was driving on the opposite lane.
The action of the driver, Sackor said, was in violation of the traffic law and was endangering lives of other motorists.
But Rep. Kolubah, who was not in the vehicle, later arrived on the scene and insisted that the vehicle will not be impounded. The lawmaker argued that his driver had been running an errand for him so he could prepare to go for session.
At one point, Sackor ordered the arrest of the lawmaker for obstructing police function. The stalemate continued until Representatives Fonati Koffa of Grand Kru County and Marvin Cole of Bong County intervened.
Tuesday’s incident has renewed the debate that lawmakers misuse their legislative privilege provided by the Constitution to avert arrest.
Article 42 of Constitution states: “No member of the Senate or House of Representatives shall be arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried as a result of opinions expressed or votes cast in the exercise of the functions of his office. Members shall be privileged from arrest while attending, going to or returning from sessions of the Legislature, except for treason, felony or breach of the peace. All official acts done or performed, and all statement made in the Chambers of the Legislature shall be privileged, and no Legislator shall be held accountable or punished therefor.”
On the other hand, there are criticisms against the police action aimed at the lawmaker, with some saying that the act was a witch hunt against Representative Kolubah, who is staunch critic of President George Weah and his ruling party.
Recently, there have been public criticisms about the use of the opposite lane by government officials. But there has also been justification that the vehicular and traffic law has been amended to allow government officials use the third or opposite lane.
Meanwhile, while several lawmakers stood in Rep. Kolubah’s defense, Rep. Acarous Gray of Montserrado County’s District #8 said the police has done nothing wrong.
In an interview with Spoon Fm, Representative Gray backed the action of the Deputy Police Chief. According to him, the lawmaker was in breach of the law and he exhibited disorderly conduct.
“If I were 102, I would have arrested the lawmaker for disorderly conduct which is breach of the peace because he wasn’t going to or returning from session. If my vehicle is plying the street with one plate the police has the right to arrest it,” Gray said.
He also frowned on his colleagues who intervened and took the vehicle to the capitol, because according to him, the grounds of the Capitol is not an area for settling such cases and that the Deputy Inspector of police doesn’t work for the legislature.
“The police have the right to investigate disorderly conduct. It is a matter of curtsey and not law to accept intervention from lawmakers while effecting the arrest. I called the 102 I believe he should have listened to the lawmaker. The Capitol was not the right place to bring the vehicle,” he said.
But Representative Kolubah said the incident is the work of Reprehensive Gray and the ruling party to disgrace him.
“I had sent my car for fuel so I can be able to go to work. My car took the third lane along with other cars, but they singled out my car amongst all the cars and threatened to take it to the Police headquarters of the police,” the Montserrado County District #10 lawmaker said.
Kolubah claimed that because he is a critic of the President and the ruling party, “the government is after his life”.
“I am under tension from this government I have been provoked, on many occasions the Liberian National Police have surrounded my house on many occasions. 102 Is after my life under the instruction of the President and Acarous Gray,” he said.
“I know they are after my life and I will defend myself, the gun they have today if I take possession of it, I will defend myself. Gray has posted in our chart room that the Police Director was right to insult me because I usually insult the President.”
Mr. Sackor, commenting on the incident, said his action was triggered by disrespect from the lawmaker.
According to him, besides the single plate on the vehicle driven by the lawmaker’s driver, there was nothing to identify the vehicle as belonging to a lawmaker and all he wanted to do was to investigate.
“I felt disrespect because my order to the officers was to take the vehicle to the police headquarter but it was being thwarted by Representative Marvin Cole. On many occasions I have seen lawmakers taken the third lane and I don’t arrest them. I can defend my action today and any day because that vehicle endangered the lives of many people,” Sackor said.