Liberia: Armed Security Officers Storm Popular Beach Resort, Seize CCTV Camera Over ‘Weah Step Down’ Protest
Obediah Johnson, [email protected]
Monrovia More than 15-armed security officers stormed the premises of Tropicana Beach and Resort to effectuate a writ issued for the discovery and seizure of ‘drugs, arms and ammunitions, and the payment of checks to individuals’ planning to stage a ‘Weah Step Down’ protest in the country.
Tropicana Beach and Resort, owned by Semir Kaidii, a Lebanese National is located at Thinker’s Village, outside Monrovia.
It comprises of bungalows, pools, bar, villas and restaurant.
“The Ministry of Justice by and thru the office of the County Attorney for Montserrado County most respectfully requests court and Your Honour for the issuance of a Writ of Search and Seizure to be served on the premises of Mr. Semir Kaidii Tropicana Beach, Thinker Village properties, Montserrado County, Republic of Liberia. The purpose of this request is for the discovery and seizure of drugs, arms and ammunition, payment of checks to individuals to support the Weah Step Down Campaign and the CCTV footage”.From Writ issued by the Stipendiary Magistrate of the Paynesville
Armed officers from the Police Support Unit (PSU), Liberia Immigration Service (LIS), Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA), and the National Security Agency (NSA) early Thursday afternoon barricaded the facility and searched rooms and other areas.
The armed officers, led by two (2) court Sheriffs, were acting upon a search and seizure writ issued by the Stipendiary Magistrate of the Paynesville, Magisterial Court, Saygah Williams.
In the writ issued under the signature of Clerk, Henry G. Doelakeh, the Paynesville Magisterial Court disclosed that the seize and seizure of the Tropicana Beach and Resort premises and materials is based upon the ‘application and oath of Marcus D. Zehyoue, Deputy Director for Administration of the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency.
“You are hereby commanded to search from 0600 to 1800 in the premises of Mr. Semir Kaidii -Tropicana Beach, Thinker Village properties, Montserrado County, Republic of Liberia,” the writ maintained.
The issuance of the Writ of search and seizure by the Paynesville Magisterial Court on the beach resort was mandated by the County Attorney of Montserrado County, Counselor Edwin K. Martin.
“The Ministry of Justice by and thru the office of the County Attorney for Montserrado County most respectfully requests court and Your Honour for the issuance of a Writ of Search and Seizure to be served on the premises of Mr. Semir Kaidii Tropicana Beach, Thinker Village properties, Montserrado County, Republic of Liberia” the communication from Cllr. Martin addressed to Magistrate Williams stated.
The writ continued: “The purpose of this request is for the discovery and seizure of drugs, arms and ammunition, payment of checks to individuals to support the Weah Step Down Campaign and the CCTV footage”.
Sources hinted FrontPage Africa on Friday that a number of items including CCTV camera, computer, camp bags, and several dozens of ‘employees t-shirts’, were taken away by the armed security officers.
The latest mandate from authorities of the Ministry of Justice comes just few days after the Chairman and Secretary General of the Council of Patriots (COP) visited the Tropicana Beach and Resort to amuse themselves with family members and friends on December 29 and January 1 respectively.
COP had previously vowed to stage a protest dubbed ‘Weah Step Down’ protest on December 30.
But the group changed gear by postponing and extending the date of the protest from December 30 to January 6, despite numerous efforts and proposals from both International Diplomats of the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United States, among others.
The COP also relinquished its previous decision to call for a ‘Weah Step Down’ protest, but vowed to commence a ‘peaceful assembly’ beginning January 6, until President Weah addressed recommendations contained in its petition presented to government on June 7.
What is Tropicana management saying?
The management of Tropicana Beach and Resort distanced the entity from the COP, and other politicians or groupings in Liberia.
According to the management, the entity is opened to Liberians and other foreign nationals solely for business purposes, and as such, it does not intend to engage or hold interactions with those planning to stage protest in the country.
The management maintained that it has approximately 50 Liberians and others in the employ of the entity, and therefore, it would do nothing to support acts that have the propensity to cause chaos or confusion in Liberia.
While it regrets the incident, the beach resort’s management says it is making efforts to ensure the release of two (2) of its Managers, including Hassan Dhaini, and one Shibu who were arrested during the search and seizure operations.
It remains unclear why the pair was arrested since in fact, the writ issued was for a search and seizure operation to be carried out by the armed security officers, instead of a writ of arrest.
The men remain in custody as this story went to press.
“I am not, and have not supported anyone who is planning to protest. I can only see the man the people are talking about on Facebook; when he post some of his things, I can see it because other people I am friendly with are his friends too,” Mr. Samir Kaidii, CEO of Tropicana Beach and Resort stated briefly in a chat with FrontPage Africa.
The search and seizure operations were carried out between 2pm to 5pm when the Tropicana Beach and Resort was hosting scores of customers at its premises.
Eyewitnesses said the armed men, most of who were PSU officers and plain-clothes security officers, disembarked three (3) separate vehicles and trooped into the facility.
They noted that the armed officers entered the facility, took strategic positions, and asked questions to staff and others that were in the compound during their arrival.
The Fear Factor
“We do not hold any secret meetings. We have no secret. Everything we say behind closed doors, we say it in the open. And we are not soliciting funds from anywhere. Assembly does not require much money. I would like to call on the Government to reopen the beach, release the properties and pay for damages that they have done to Tropicana Beach”.Mr. Mo Ali, Secretary General Council of Patriots
Fear reportedly gripped employees, contractors, customers and nearby residents of the Tropicana Beach and Resort and its vicinity during the search and seizure operations of the Joint Security Team of the Liberian government.
Customers had to vacate the premises for fear of being apprehended or interrogated by the armed security officers.
Other customers staying for a prolong period of time at the villas of Tropicana were compelled to stay exact hours in their respective rooms by refusing to step out, on grounds that the place was not secure at the time.
The Council of Patriots (COP) believed that the latest incident shows that key executives of the group are being allegedly targeted by state security.
The group’s Secretary General, Mohammed Ali, in a telephone interview with FrontPage Africa on Friday described the incident as a total ‘harassment.’
He noted that the move was a ‘draconian’ act that intends to hamper the smooth operations of commercial activities, and efforts being applied by foreign nationals to boost the country’s economy.
Mr. Ali stated that the rights of peaceful Liberians are being infringed upon on a regular basis, while officials of the COP are being allegedly tailed by state security actors.
“Costa and I visited the beach because we were stressed up and we wanted to ease the tension. We left after one hour thirty minutes. On Wednesday, which was New Year Day, I went there with some friends and brothers to keep the time out in the evening,” he stated.
Mr. Ali maintained: “People are out of jobs because of the action the government took. This is an act of harassment; where ever we go, they will go there to harass the people. They are now tailing us everywhere we go. It’s also infringing on our rights to freedom of movement and association; it’s also hampering businesses. This is draconian and this is something that should not be done in a country where there is democracy or freedom”.
Hunting and threatening COP officials
Ali claimed that COP officials are being hunted and threatened on a regular basis since the pronouncement of another round of protest against the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led-government of President Weah.
The COP official indicated that Liberians should not be judged or made to face punishment base upon their political views or ideology, but rather by their actions toward the rule of law. “People should not be hurting us because of our views. Everybody does not have to be in the same political party or support the government. Everybody has to support the rule of law, including the government”.
Ali added: “We are being threatened every day. But let me tell you this-people think that when these things are coming out it is because we want to seek political asylum. I will not seek any asylum anywhere. We will not leave this country; this country belongs to every Liberian. We will stay here, fight the vices of the society, and we will all work together to make Liberia a better place for everyone.
Nothing to hide
Mr. Ali says he believes that the government was misled to effectuate a search and seizure writ from the Ministry of Justice based upon ‘hearsay’ that the owner of the entity was hosting and sponsoring the COP.
According to him, the COP does not intend to solicit funds from foreign nationals or anyone to stage its January 6 protest, and it has nothing to hide to engage in the holding of secret meetings.
“Apparently, they miscalculated and misinterpreted. The place was pack and one of the managers there, a Lebanese guy helped one of the waitresses to serve our table because he was moving around checking” he noted.
He denied speculations that the COP has been holding secret meetings to solicit supporting from Lebanese and other foreign business tycoons for the successful holding of the protest.
“We do not hold any secret meetings. We have no secret. Everything we say behind closed doors, we say it in the open. And we are not soliciting funds from anywhere. Assembly does not require much money.”
Added Mr. Ali: “I would like to call on the Government to reopen the beach, release the properties and pay for damages that they have done to Tropicana Beach”.
The latest action by government appears to scare away or instill fear in potential investors and those undergoing immense challenges amid a fragile investment climate.
Ahead of the much anticipated January 6 protest, the storming of the Tropicana Beach and Resort and the seizure of its materials by armed national security officers on suspicion of aligning or supporting the COP would also scarce or prevent other foreign or Liberian-owned businesses from opening their doors to officials of the group from doing business with them.