With Or Without Stay Order, Mass Gatherings Banned

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It is now clear that there will be no more mass campaigning activities in the ensuing senatorial elections if even the stay order placed on all electoral activities by Justice in Chamber Philip A.Z. Banks is lifted.

This is because President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has exercised powers vested in her as President and banned all rallies, parades and demonstrations throughout the country for the next 42 days.

The Liberian leader’s decision may be in furtherance of the preventive measures instituted by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with global health experts in the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease that has ravaged the country. One of these cardinal measures has to do with the avoidance of physical contact among people.

The restrictions on these basic civil liberties are contained in Executive Order No. 65 issued in Monrovia yesterday by the Liberian President. According to the Executive Mansion, the Executive Order was signed by the Liberian leader on Wednesday.

President Sirleaf, in her Executive Order, stated that all concerted mass movements of people on the streets of Monrovia during the ensuing special elections, including in particular rallies, demonstrations and parades are prohibited. The President also mandated that ban is effective for 30 days after the results are announced by NEC.

Few weeks ago the President communicated with the National Legislature, requesting what many then termed as more power to put measures in place that would lead to the successful combat of the dreadful Ebola virus from the country.

This request received barrage of criticisms from the public, which highly influenced opinions of the National Legislature thereby denyingthe Liberian leader’s request.

But President Sirleaf made use of this other means through which she can exert her power, especially when it is in the interest of the state.

She has earlier used her constitutional power to institute a state of emergency and curfew; this time it is an Executive Order.

The Liberian President said her action is intended to strengthen the efforts of the government to contain the spread of Ebola, protect the security of the State, maintain law and order, and promote peace and stability in the country.

The Executive Order No. 65 notes that the existing law requiring persons desiring to march or demonstrate to obtain prior permits from the Ministry of Justice have proven ineffective to address rallies, parades and concerted mass movements on the streets of Monrovia and its environs.

It further states that “the Government has noted with concern the increasing number of incidents of concerted mass movements of people on the streets of Monrovia and its environs, including in particular rallies, demonstrations, and parades, which have led to persistent and frequent violations of the Vehicle and Traffic Laws of Liberia, obstruction of the free flow of traffic and the movement of peaceful citizens, the disruption of economic activities, and concomitant panic in the city with total disregard of the consequences thereof.”

Executive Order No. 65 states that to allow the said conduct to continue with impunity and without control, will frustrate efforts to contain the virus in Liberia, undermine the security of the State and the maintenance of law and order, and negatively impact the economy.

Some believe this new move might be a little bit late, suggesting that “the damage has already been done”, with many now fearing a surge in the outbreak in the next few months as a result of the deliberate disregard for the rules that govern the fight against Ebola.

Many Liberians now fear the worst in the fight against Ebola in the wake of what they saw as a blatant violation of preventive measures by supporters of politicians who had gathered at various campaign rallies across Monrovia and other parts of the country.

The scene of masses of supporters surging together along several streets of Monrovia and moving en masse to their destination left observers in total bewilderment as to who could be responsible for this outright defiance of Ebola prevention measures just when the country is gaining an upper hand against a virus that has killed thousands in the past nine months.

Meanwhile, the Full Bench of the Supreme Court is expected today to begin hearing the matter concerning the stay order on election-related activities, which was issued on Friday, November 28 by Justice in Chamber Philip A. Z. Banks, as requested by some eminent citizens and political parties.

The Concerned Group of Eminent Citizens, the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) and Leaders of Political Parties had filed a suit before the Court through their  Spokespersons Blamoh Nelson, Rev. J. Emmanuel Z. Bowier, Nathaniel Barnes and others.

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