The Council of Patriots (COP) has disclosed that it is going to protest if President George M. Weah succeeds in a surcharge to increase fees on a voice call and mobile data bundles through Orange Liberia and Lonestar MTN.
Speaking to the media recently through live audio, the head of COP, Henry P. Costa, said increasing charges on voice calls and mobile data bundle is a clever attempt by the government to deny the already suffering masses access to information and to suppress their voices.
Costa said this time around, the COP’s protest will not be announced, neither will they be restricted to a particular location as was done in the past, nor write the Justice Minister for any permit before going into the street.
He said just as the blacks in the United States demonstrated against the murder of George Floyd while the country is battling the COVID-19 pandemic, so will they gather in their numbers to demand access to information.
“We will move from street to street because information is very important for any democratic society,” Costa said.
Costa said the COP is already set and ready for the protest but is only awaiting the government’s pronouncement, adding, “This is not about me but about every Liberian who cannot afford to pay US$5 for data bundle that costs US$2.00 now. That is why you should join the COP to reject that decision.”
Costa said this time around, they will not leave the street until their demands are met because Liberians elected Weah to work in their interest, and not to torment them.
The COP leader said even though Orange GSM Company lost the initial petition filed with the lower court and was awaiting a hearing into the appeal filed by the Supreme Court, they have also filed another Writ of Prohibition upon receiving an invoice from LTA that the implementation of the surcharge took effect in March this year.
According to the COP Chairman, this situation will not only deny access to information but will take many Liberians out of job if the GSM company desires to leave the country as a result of the harsh regulation.
Costa said the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) boss, Ivan Brown, has written an invoice to Orange Liberia to pay US$2.5 million dollars under the surcharge regulation while a similar invoice was sent to Lonestar MTN for US$1 million; but both companies refused to pay such money because they did not implement the surcharge and believe that customers cannot afford the cost that will be charged.
It may be recalled that President Weah in an Executive Mansion statement last Friday suspended the LTA Chairman, Ivan Brown, with immediate effect for time indefinite and without salary.
President Weah said Mr. Brown is being suspended for ‘conspiratorial and unethical activities’ as chairman of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority.
He named one of the authority’s commissioners, Edwina Zackpah, as Acting Chairperson of the LTA until otherwise directed.
The LTA boss’ suspension came at a critical time when the government has been engaged in an intense battle with cellular company operators to pay taxes.