Violent clashes erupted on the grounds of the Capitol Building yesterday when President George Weah’s elite guards, the Executive Protective Service (EPS), forcefully removed a group of students who had gone to present a petition to members of the legislature.
As invitees went to grace the dedicatory ceremony of the new Capitol annex awaited the arrival of the President, a group of students and youths under the banner, “Movement Against the Senatorial Election of Sitting Lawmakers (MASESL) in both Montserrado and Bong Counties,” quickly moved in to, according to them, present their petition to the Legislature but were prevented from doing so by riot police and EPS officers deployed on the grounds of the Capitol.
The students had called on sitting lawmakers to refrain from contesting the July 31 Bong and Montserrado counties’ senatorial by-elections so as to help the pro-poor agenda of the CDC-led government succeed.
Representative Saah H. Joseph of Montserrado district #13, J. Marvin Cole of Bong electoral district #3 and Yekeh Kolubah of Montserrado district #10 are the lawmakers who have announced their intentions to contest for the county senatorial seat.
The tussle between the Police and protesters erupted when EPS Director Trokon Roberts and Deputy Director Henry Wolo told a Police Support Unit (PSU) officer to have the protesters evacuate the grounds of the Capitol because he felt that their protest action would have created security risks for the President who was due to arrive in a short while.
EPS deputy Director
When the PSU officer tried to calmly usher the protesters away from the President’s expected arrival area, Wolo and Roberts ordered EPS personnel to use force to remove the protesters from the grounds of the Capitol. While pushing the protesters out, a full fledged tussle ensued as both Director Roberts and Deputy Director Wolo destroyed the placards as the students began to resist the police.
The students fought back, reminding the EPS about President Weah’s days in opposition when his supporters were always parading the streets with coffins and were hardly ever beaten up by state security officers including the police.
“It is our right to assemble and petition our lawmakers. Article 1 and 17 give us the right to seek redress from our lawmakers; security cannot make us afraid and no number of armed men can take us from here. When you were in opposition, you paraded the streets with caskets; Madam Sirleaf did not stop you or used EPS to put you out, so allow us to excise our constitutional rights,” the protesters declared.
MASESL Secretary General Kaiballeh Conteh’s petition called on the chairman of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) legislative caucus to immediately withdraw two of its sitting lawmakers from the senatorial by-elections because, during the President’s state of the nation address, he openly acknowledged to the World that his administration inherited a broken economy, adding that the broken economy stands little chance of being fixed when there are repeated by-elections in the country.
Conteh said the money that will be used to conduct recurring by-elections can be invested in education, health, electricity and more roads that will benefit the common people.
Charles Brown, former Representative Candidate of the just ended 2017 general and presidential elections, expressed disappointment in the CDC-led government for the violent action by the police on grounds that CDC loyalists went beyond the students’ actions when they were in opposition.
Brown said it is not the function of EPS to beat on students simply because they choose to exercise their constitutional right in a democratic nation.
He furthered that when CDC was in opposition they protested and took coffins around Monrovia but, the past government allowed them to exercise their rights. “Why is it now they are hassling students because they presented a petition to their direct representation? It is their right, the reconstruction of Liberia calls for that! I will write the President officially to complain of the action of the EPS,” he said.