Pro, Anti CBL Campaigners Storm Capitol

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Pro and anti-Mills Jones campaigners gathered at the Capitol Building Thursday, stalling free movement and human traffic for several hours.

The Legislature recently amended the 1999 Act establishing the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and— among other things— asserted that executives of the Reserve with political ambition must resign three years prior to the conduct of election.

Dr. Joseph Mills Jones is currently the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and was an integral part of the creation of a micro-finance loan scheme that has won him (Jones) many supporters across the country.

Some supporters believe the lawmakers’ action violates constitutional provisions, and as such, they gathered at the Capitol Building in their hundreds to present a petition against the amended act.

Waking up to the unconfirmed news that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had already signed the bill into law, pro-Jones campaigners in over 20 buses converged to express their frustration and dissatisfaction.

In serious disbelief of the President’s unconfirmed action, pro-Jones campaigners chanted anti legislative slogans while dancing in front of lawmakers’ vehicles as they attempted to enter the grounds of the Capitol.

The crowd was heard chanting, “Lawmakers rogue, rogue! You know law your country dirty! You know law your people [hungry]! We don’t want bad laws in our country! Madam President please veto the bill!”

Some of the banners and placards they held read: “GSA Road [Community] says no to bad bill. Put stop to 4G bill. COLINBO says no to CBL Amendment.” The campaigners — from the onset — received little police attention.

The unsupervised atmosphere caused some pro-legislature protestors to accuse Deputy Police Chief Abraham Kromah of taking bribes from Governor Jones not to deploy riot police. The scene was in stark contrast to University of Liberia student gatherings and other planned protests in the country. UL protests, however, are notorious for violence, unlike Thursday's protest at the Capitol, which could be described as passionate but by and large non-violent. Camp Johnson road was free and and clear by 5 p.m. The only sign that a protest had taken place was the clean up exercise underway. The Governor of the CBL could not have benefited from a violent protest anyway.

Kromah was tightlipped regarding the police’s lack of interest, although several hours later, he order the deployment of riot officers on the scene after pro-Jones protesters blocked the main entrance to the Capitol Building before the Executive Mansion.

They managed to present their petition to members of the press but could not meet with lawmakers.

In a counter-argument to assertions by the pro-Jones side, anti-Jones campaigners described the large group as “paid agents.”

A spokesperson of the Anti-Jones group, Satia A. Satia, said his group had gone to the Capitol to show support to their lawmakers for their decisive position.

He argued that the intent of the bill was to promote good governance, particularly in the banking sector of the country.

Now that an unconfirmed reports have it that President Sirleaf has already signed the bill into law, the only recourse for those affected by the bill is the High Court.

Legal experts have told the Daily Observer, however, that in any case, constitutionally speaking, the law cannot retroactively affect officials who took office before it came into existence. As such, it is highly unlikely that Jones, or any of his executives for that matter, would be affected by the amendment.

If lawmakers attempt to apply the new amendment to the sitting Governor of the Central Bank and his executives, then he may take the issue to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, two members of the Supreme Court Bench, Justices Jamesetta Wolokollie and Kabina Ja’nah, are facing impeachment proceedings before the House of Representatives. One political analyst opined that “a [Supreme Court] ruling in Jones’ favor would give the lawmakers an opportunity to reopen the impeachment filed by human rights activist Melvin Page.”

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