Senator Raises Looming Security, Public Safety Concerns

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Lofa County Senator Stephen J. H. Zargo: "My role is to provide a leadership that will work selflessly with the new government in answering to the calls of our people."

— Requests Senate Citation of MoPT, MICAT, LTA, PUL, 

The Sub-committee chairman on Security and Intelligence of the Liberian Senate, has submitted a strongly worded communication to plenary, requesting the appearance of four information-related public institutions to provide explanation or clarity on the role hate speech plays in promoting violence in the Liberian society.

In a communication dated September 24, 2019, Lofa County Senator Stephen J. H. Zargo reminded his colleagues of the issues of violence which, he said, have plagued the country in recent times, “particularly bordering on acts of hate and speeches of hate, against perceived enemies of the Liberian state, under the watchful eyes of the Liberian security architecture.”

Equally so, Senator Zargo noted that it is the role of the Press Union of Liberia, the Ministries of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, Post and Telecommunications, and the Liberia Telecommunication Authority should to regulate the mushrooming of media outlets, “especially the electronic media [which] remains critical to our national security interests.”

This, he noted, will require the appearance of the named institutions to provide explanation s so as to provide clarity on the role hate speech plays in promoting violence in the Liberian society.

“Considering the sustained wave of misinformation and disinformation permeating our society, which has the propensity to put one group of people against another, and eventually put the country into flames, there is a need for security actors to exercise caution in the discharge of their duties; the request of the Defense, Security, Intelligence Sub-committee of the Defense, Intelligence and Veterans Affairs Committee, stems from the behaviors and attitudes exhibited by the Liberian security, especially the Police and the National Security Agency (NSA), in the face of all of these developments.

The Senator, who was once a police officer, cited instances of hate speech in recent times, including Freedom FM, owned and operated by the NSA deputy director for special services, which played host to a radio program, “Freedom Morning Rise” which he noted is hosted by Sekou Sheriff and Austin Kawah. According to him, they “are in the constant habit of bringing and broadcasting hate messages, and/or hate speech. To have a deputy NSA boss for special services to own and operate a radio station that propagates hate messages, undermines the very peace he was appointed, confirmed and commissioned to keep, is considered a national security breach, to say the least.”

The communication further noted that more importantly, the Minister of Justice, National Security Adviser, the national security apparatus, especially the National Fire Service, the Liberian National Police, crime services division and the public safety divisions, should “come to brief this August body the fire incident that left about thirty of our peaceful citizens dead, in the Bassa Town community in Paynesville; this will help us to know what went wrong and lessons learned so as to put in measures to avoid recurrence of the situation.

The Senator’s communication also wants the publicized allegation, arrest, search and seizure and intrusion in the home of the former Passport Director on the allegation of passport theft by the NSA, and the subsequent diplomatic implication about Liberian passports being stolen and in the hands of the wrong people, needs to be sorted out and made clear; “we requests that the Senate committee on Defense and Intelligence, Security and Veterans Affairs, demands a comprehensive report so as to allay the fears lingering within diplomatic circles, that the Republic of Liberia passports are in the hands of international criminals, to include terrorists, drugs and child traffickers.”

The letter also references the violence in the society, informed by hate messages “propagated by radio stations and especially Freedom FM, and Roots FM are in such habits, the PUL, MICAT and LTA, and the Minister of Post and Telecommunications, “should appear before this August body to show cause why these radio stations propagate hate messages to promote violence in the Liberian society, in order to assist this body handle the looming security concerns.”

The Lofa County lawmaker, who also represents the Liberian Senate at the ECOWAS Parliament, also described as worrisome, the increase in the act of violence perpetrated by non-state security actors against state security actors without any investigation to know the motive behind them is a security concerns, that should claim the attention of the Senate.

Senator Zargo gave as a classic example, the flogging of the Deputy Inspector General of the LNP at the entrance of the Coalition for Democratic Change.

“These above listed counts, including several others that the Honorable House of Senate is aware of, calls for the exercise of Constitutional duty to oversight, represent our people and make the appropriate laws to curb these wanton and lawless acts, I look forward to your concern to invite the national security architecture of the Republic of Liberia, to include the Ministers of Justice, National Security Adviser, LNP and the NSA to meet with the full plenary, in order to explain to us why they can not be held liable for the recent wave of violence in the country, and how, and what happened that led to the death of our peaceful citizens, nearly school going kids. In so doing, this letter serves as your legal reliance to cite these agencies and their bosses to the full plenary for inquiry into the wave of violence in the country…”

Through a motion by Lofa County Senator George Tengbeh, the communication was sent to the committees on Defense, Intelligence, and Information and report to plenary this Monday, September 30, 2019.

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