The government of President George Weah has joined Liberians to foot the medical bill of Archie Ponpon, who immolated himself after he was threatened with arrest and termination of employment from the judiciary for leading protests and alleged insults against the judicial leadership over unpaid judicial staff salaries at the grounds of the temple of justice.
The government’s intervention, which comes after opposition leaders Alexander Cummings and Senator Darius Dillon visited the family with assistance, will ensure that Ponpon’s is given adequate medical attention at the JFK hospital.
“We want to thank everyone for their contribution and look forward to future assistance when the need arises. However, we want to thank President Weah, who has now made it possible that my son received adequate treatment at the hospital,” said Archie’s father, Andy Ponpon. “I agree that some help came in earlier but that the bill the government is footing is huge.”
According to the Ponpon family, Archie’s bills at JFK over the last two weeks during the course of his treatment was something that the family could not afford.
“When we asked for the bill, they told us that the President has already taken care of it. However, while the total figure has not yet been given to us, we have been told it was something huge,” Ponpon father added.
Earlier, the Ponpon family disclosed that their financial situation made it impossible for them to foot the cost of their son’s treatment without outside assistance.
Ponpon had promised to set himself ablaze after leading judicial workers in several episodes of protests against the delay on the part of the Judiciary to pay staffers their Liberian dollar salary components. As a result, Ponpon and his co-workers accused the judiciary of owing them 12 months, and even referred to the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court as “criminals and rogues”.
When the Chief Justice ordered that Ponpon be served a writ of arrest amid alleged threat of termination from job, the staffer, seeing that he could find no lawyer to defend him, self-immolated on the grounds of the Temple of Justice as his ultimate form of protest.
The Judiciary’s request to have Ponpon and others arrested and investigated for their actions against the judiciary was contained in a communication from Cllr. Elizabeth Nelson, the administrator of the court, to be implemented by Montserrado County Attorney, Cllr. Edwin Martins.
Before the self-immolation, Ponpon earlier claimed that he approached several lawyers to defend him against the accusation of Chief Justice Francis Korkpor and the associate justices. In his quest for justice against what he termed as “illegal intimidation and threat,” he alleged that lawyers refused to come to his defense for fear of reprisal by the Supreme Court Justices.
But a ranking official of the Liberia National Bar Association had disputed such claims, noting that they had asked Ponpon to submit a written request cataloging his complaints against the Chief Justice, which Ponpon failed to do.
After nearly a week since Ponpon’s self-immolation, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor broke silence, describing Ponpon’s action ‘shocking and surprising.’
According to the Chief Justice, he was in total shock and disbelief upon hearing that Ponpon immolated himself at the steps of the Temple of Justice, which hosts the offices of the Justices of the Supreme Court.
“It shocked me to see a Liberian Citizen set himself ablaze. This is the first time to see such a thing. There is no reason for people to always come to the court to protest at one point to accuse me of planning to kill them,” Korkpor said. “For what reason? I hope this will remain with us as we look forward to a better working relationship in this November term of court.”
Ponpon is no stranger to daring feats. Two years ago, he staged a hunger strike in front of the US Embassy near Monrovia in a bid to force President Weah to declare his assets.
During the protest, Ponpon laid on a single bed sheet on the bare pavement for two days but could not continue the protest after suffering from dehydration.
According to Ponpon, he was being tortured by President Weah’s refusal to declare his assets according to law, after taking state power.
Prior to that, Ponpon became the first known Liberian to stage a protest for gay rights in Liberia. But the protest ended negatively as citizens descended on him for such action. A year earlier in 2011, he burnt the Norwegian flag in protest to former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf winning the Nobel Peace Prize.