The wake-up call to the Senate by former Grand Kru senator Cletus Wotorson to “calm the state” as reported in the May 2, 2019 edition of the Daily Observer has claimed the attention of this newspaper.
According to the story written by Legislative reporter Burgess Carter, the former senator, apparently troubled by growing political tension in the country, paid an impromptu visit to the Senate in plenary where he made an impassioned plea for its urgent engagement with the Executive to douse rising flames of passion on both sides of the divide — Government and Opposition.
Senator Wotorson put it squarely to the senators, reminding them of the urgency to act to avert what portends to be looming disaster if left unchecked. The reaction of Justice Minister Musa Dean to the letter written by protest organizers strongly suggests that the Minister is clearly out of his element, acting in apparent violation of Articles 1 and 17 of the Constitution of Liberia which is the organic law of the land. Both Articles are quoted below for reasons of clarity:
“All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require. In order to ensure democratic government which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the right at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments”
“All persons, at all times, in an orderly and peaceable manner, shall have the right to assemble and consult upon the common good, to instruct their representatives, to petition the Government or other functionaries for the redress of grievances and to associate fully with others or refuse to associate in political parties, trade unions and other organizations”.
The Minister’s action is unprecedented and at best laughable for it simply reveals that he is out of touch with reality. That the tension in the air is palpable is clear and obvious but, apparently, not to him and that could probably explain his disposition.
The Daily Observer, being cognizant of history, is constrained to warn Justice Minister Dean that he is playing with fire because he is fully aware that protest organizers will not submit to such shenanigans. And based on sentiments being expressed by callers on various radio talk shows for and against the June 7 event, it appears that confrontation may likely ensue and in such a situation, violence cannot be ruled out.
The current situation, in the opinion of this newspaper, is strongly reminiscent of the April 14,1979 “rice riots” whose effects left the Tolbert government hanging by a thread, only to fall a year later. The late Albert Porte’s warning against the use of force and even his pleading on bended knee before President Tolbert to avoid the use of violence, went unheeded as Mr. Porte would later recount in his “The Day Monrovia Stood Still”.
Today, this government finds itself in similar straits as did the Tolbert government in 1979. And government officials appear to be acting more by heart than by mind (reason). Utterances on what should otherwise be official policy are coming from several sources, adding even more confusion to the mix.
President Weah’s overtures to former Vice President Boakai may have been in good faith; however, the tone of the Executive Mansion press release was rather bland, conveying little beyond pledged mutual commitment to respect for the Constitution and laws of the country.
And that raises a concern that, utterances by public officials suggesting that the planned June 7 protest is unconstitutional and illegal, could serve to prep law enforcement officers into acting unlawfully as witnessed in 2011. On a video of the incident, posted on social media, Nigerian UNMIL soldiers can be seen struggling to restrain a Police officer from shooting at the crowd.
On June 7 there will be no UNMIL soldiers around and all security will rest in the hands of the Liberia National Police. Based on reports of LINSU officials and other elements carrying arms and justifying same without perceived Police intervention is worrisome especially, in view of the strident rhetoric one sees and hears on various media outlets including popular social media platform Facebook.
Thus, Senator Wotorson’s call to his colleagues is but a reminder of duties imposed on them by the Constitution as spelt out in Chapter V Article 34 b and c. They read as follows:
b. to provide for the security of the Republic;
c. to provide for the common defense, to declare war and authorize the Executive to conclude peace; to raise and support the Armed Forces of the Republic, and to make appropriations therefor provided that no appropriation of money for that use shall be for a longer term than on year; and to make rules for the governance of the Armed Forces of the Republic.
As the Senator rightly observed, the Legislature does not only have a moral responsibility in this regard, they also have a Constitutional duty and responsibility to provide for the security of the state and, as he rightly maintains, they cannot shift that responsibility to the Churches or the Mosques.
In the final analysis, the bird is in President Weah’s firm grip. Whether it is dead or alive is a riddle which only he can solve. He should above all remember that he is the head of this nation and its fate rests in his hands. Should he become unmindful of history and roll to the brink, it may become very difficult to pull back and the consequences could be damning!
Of course, the “Baghdad Bobs” would be screaming “doomsday analysis” but what else do or should the nation expect?
In deed Mr. President, “It is your national responsibility to calm the state”.