President George Weah appeared a bit peeved by the vicissitudes of “free speech” as enshrined in Article 15 of the Liberian Constitution, when he warned Liberians, particularly those who he claimed were in the constant habit of insulting him, to desist or else they will face the consequences of the law.
Article 15(a) of the Liberian Constitution states:”Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression, being responsible for the abuse thereof. This right shall not be curtailed, restricted or enjoined by government, save during an emergency declared in accordance with this Constitution. The (b) part says: “The right encompasses the right to hold opinions without interference and the right to knowledge. It includes freedom of speech and of the press, academic freedom to receive and impart knowledge and information and the right to libraries to make such knowledge available. It includes non-interference with the use of the mail, telephone and telegraph. It likewise includes the right to remain silent, etc.
With this on the books, the President said his government will not tolerate lawlessness and insulting words from people anymore.
“If you think you can insult this President and walk in the street freely, it will not happen. And I defy you,” Weah said while his supporters applaud him.
He made the statement on Thursday, June 6, 2019, during the dedication of the newly constructed Duport Road Market in Paynesville. The market, according to insiders, was constructed to the tune of US$20,044, thus contributing to the economic empowerment and growth to “Liberian marketers.”
The market project was personally financed by President Weah as a gift to the marketers, especially the women. The market contains about 350 tables, storerooms, bathrooms, and parking lots.
“If you have your views, you can express them, but any expression that will contain insult that citizens issue against me, we will deal with such person(s) under the law. It can be whoever,” the President said, without calling anyone by name.
“So, I advise all citizens to be cautious; you have your freedom of speech, and that goes with responsibility. I am the one of the persons that signed the law of the freedom of speech. If you have your grievances, you can do it in an honorable way, but not to the contrary,” he warned.
Having cleared his chest, President Weah then stressed the important role market women have played in the development of the society.
“Market women have the ability to change the society, and should therefore be supported,” Weah added.
Without further question, anyone would think the President’s statement is against the backdrop of the many taunting remarks, especially on social media. Some of the vulgar language are sometimes directed at the president and or some members of his cabinet.
Shortly before cutting the ribbon to the structure, the president promised to continue giving facelifts to all local communities, noting that all Liberians deserve better.
Weah said his focus and interest to build Liberia remain unchanged, despite current challenges facing the nation and its people, “because my desire to develop the lives of marketers is a promised I made to my late mother to serve my people and develop the nation.”
He has meanwhile disclosed plans to construct the Duala and Old Road markets anytime soon.
Paynesville City Mayor E. Pam Belcher-Taylor, lauded President Weah for the construction of the market and on the marketers to keep the facility clean.
Meanwhile, the marketers have extolled President Weah for the new facility, describing him as a “talk and do President.”