Is This the Purpose of the State of Emergency?

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Liberian security forces have given conflicting accounts of the events that took place in West Point on Wednesday, August 20, 2014. Defense Minister Brownie Samukai denies that his forces ever shot protestors in the quarantined West Point community.

Samukai told a local radio station that no gun was ever fired into the crowd during the West Point standoff. The Defense Minister explained the injuries sustained by three young men as having been caused by a barbwire posted at the entrance of the township for security purposes.

But his denial contradicted Deputy Police Chief for Operations, Abraham Kromah’s assertions that yes, shots had been fired, but that the police (LNP) had not been not responsible.

Kromah confirmed to Sky FM Thursday, August 21, that someone had been allegedly shot, but said an investigation was ongoing. A tape recording of the West Point standoff by another station clearly confirms that several shots were fired.

Whatever happened or did not happen, three young men were injured, one of whom bled to death on the floor of Redemption Hospital. His name was Shaki Kamara. He had been sent by his mother to buy bread and tea. A video recording of his painful ordeal shows him writhing in pain, calling for sleeping tablets, pain medication and his mother, while medics tended to his wounds. “My mother is not aware of this,” he cried.

Shaki’s family said he was first taken to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital and refused treatment before being taken to Redemption. Both hospitals refused to treat the teenager, and he bled to death on the floor of Redemption Hospital.

Why did two major hospitals refuse him treatment? What happened to the Hippocratic oath? What is happening to Liberia? Could they not have at least administered some pain medication and made him comfortable?

After the young man died, security forces then took possession of the body from Redemption Hospital under tight security, telling the family they were going to give Shaki a ‘state burial’. It almost sounds like a mockery.

In a Flag Day in-studio discussion Monday morning, State Radio executives accused the Liberian media of spreading “bad news” about Liberia in the midst of the Ebola epidemic. Host Ambrose Nmah said that a young man had reportedly been killed, and that this story would undoubtedly “go on and on” in the news because the news media believes that bad news sells.

We have a question for Mr. Nmah. Is it because he was not your son that you so callously dismiss what has happened to him? It is not our job, Mr. Nmah, to be the mouth piece of the Liberian government. We are not its public relations machine. No, that’s your job.

And this has nothing to do its patriotism. It has to do with the truth. In fact, we count ourselves most patriotic when we tell the truth, especially on behalf of the voiceless and downtrodden — like the people of West Point — like Shaki Kamara and his family.

Why establish an Ebola center in any community without consulting with the people? Why attempt to enforce a curfew operation before it officially goes into effect? Why barricade a community of 75,000 without a care in the world for how they will feed their children? Why bury Ebola infected bodies near drinking water sources as occurred in Johnsonville? Again, when young men from the community tried to intervene, they were flogged by the heavy security that accompanied the nearly 50 bodies to Johnsonville.

Is this the purpose of the State of Emergency? To allow the government to manhandle its citizens after blundering so miserably in its handling of such a major crisis?

Yes, this government has made a series of major errors and should not expect the independent media to be complicit in covering up that fact. Definitely not this particular publication.

We call upon well meaning Liberian counsellors-at-law to come to the aid of Shaki Kamara’s family to ensure that justice is served. Some questions need to be answered on the part of security forces, the leadership of the Defense Ministry and the medical centers that refused him treatment. The family’s attorney(s) need to call for an independent autopsy on the young man’s body so that the debate over the cause of his death is ascertained once and for all, and the grieving family can have some closure.

We call upon the Liberian people to stand with the family to ensure that they are not neglected and that they receive all the support they need at this time of tragedy in their lives. We call upon the Liberian government, headed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, herself the mother of four sons, to take responsibility for the young man’s death and do what is right by his family.

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