— Inspector General of Police, Patrick Sudue,
Patrick Sudue, Inspector General of the Liberia National Police (LNP) has informed journalists and the public that the much publicize planned assembly by organizers of the Council of Patriots (CoP) will end at 3:00 p.m. on June 7, contrary to earlier claims by the organizers that the gathering will last for days beyond the start date, until the Government can meet the demands of the protesters.
In a statement issued this afternoon (June 6) on a local radio talk show in Monrovia, Sudue said that the planned protest would come to an end at the stipulated time after the group shall have presented its petition to the Government through the Vice President of Liberia, Jewel Howard-Taylor, at her office at the Capitol.
Sudue clarified that what will take place on Friday, June 7, will be a peaceful assembly as guaranteed by Article 17 of the Liberian Constitution and not a protest or march, assuring the public that “the police will ensure that the assembly ends in peace.”
Police Inspector Sudue expects that when the demands have been received by the Vice President at 3 p.m., the protestors would disperse.
Unity Party spokesman Mo Ali told the Daily Observer via a telephone interview Thursday afternoon that the 3PM stipulated time is actually when Vice President is expected to receive the petition from the Council of Patriots.
At first, the CoP insisted that they be allowed to hand-deliver their list of demands to President Geroge Weah himself. They also insisted that President take immediate action on certain items on their list of demands, such as the immediate dismissal and prosecution of Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel D. Tweah, Jr. and CBL Executive Governor Nathaniel Patray.
However, according to Ali, ECOWAS and the United Nations advised that where security is concerned, they would not encourage the President to come out to receive the petition. The CoP agreed to this reasoning but is insisting that the protest will be sustained until their immediate action points on their list of demands are met.
Article 17 of the Liberian Constitution states: “All persons, at all times in an orderly and peaceful manner, shall have the right to assemble and consult upon the common good, to instruct their representatives, to petition the Government or other functionaries for the redress of grievance.”
Since the proposition of the assembly by members of CoP, which comprises mainly opposition political parties, there have been arguments in the public sphere over the constitutional interpretation as it relates to specifics in Article 17.
Some have argued that by citing the word “assemble,” the Constitution is in full approval of only a gathering in a single or several locations and not a march, which entails the movement of people on the streets.
While the Supreme Court is responsible to exercise final appellate jurisdiction on constitutional issues as enshrined in Article 66 of the Liberian Constitution, sources close to organizers of the planned June 7 gathering affirmed that the constitutional provision at Article 17 is unequivocally clear and incontestable, citing, however, “that an amendment thereto will be laudable.”
Reacting to inquiries on whether or not the assembly by members of CoP will extend to rural areas as being speculated, IG Sudue cited that there will be no assembly, protest or march in rural Liberia on June 7, and added that those wanting to partake in the peaceful assembly can come to Monrovia.
He indicated that the LNP will turn out massively to provide full protection for the assemblers, warning that the LNP will take serious action against anyone who elects to cause trouble at the assembly.
“The LNP encourages the CoP to adhere to the laws cited to them by the Ministry of Justice, and the CoP has also asked the Police to remove any suspicious person(s) from the group,” Sudue said.
Meanwhile, the Police Chief has urged all Liberians as well as members of the business community, among others, to remain calm and go about their normal affairs.
According to him, officers of the LNP will be deployed at the Duala, Freeport and Red-light markets to ensure that business people go about their normal activities without fear.