Lift the Curfew in Maryland, Mr. President!

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Calm has now returned to Harper and Pleebo in the wake of a massive turnout by citizens, mainly women, protesting what they saw as the inaction or displayed reluctance by the Police to arrest and bring to justice the alleged killers of a young motorcyclist.

The massive demonstration later turned violent when Police fired live rounds into the crowd which resulted in several persons sustaining injuries.

No deaths were reported but the Pleebo home of House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, reportedly valued at US$100,000, was set ablaze by the enraged crowd.

Other actions taken by the enraged crowd included the ransacking of the Harper prison and the vandalization and torching of the Pleebo Police station.

The situation has not failed to claim the attention of leading officials of that county. But it is after the fact. It was an open secret that tension had been brewing in Pleebo and surrounding areas owing to the brutal murder of a young motorcyclist, allegedly for ritual purposes.

But by then, according to sources in Harper and Pleebo, it was widely suspected that big hands were involved in the alleged ritual murder. 

This time around, the women took matters into their hands when they turned out in their thousands, clad in mourning colors.

In the wake of the violence that ensued, President Weah ordered the imposition of a curfew in Maryland County, from dawn to dusk.

Latest news reports from Harper say all five suspects including the Prime suspect have now been arrested and are currently in Police custody.

From all indications and based on sampled views from that part of the country, there appears to be deep mistrust between the people and the government, particularly the Police.

Too often, in such cases, the Police as the first stop in the criminal justice process, have conducted themselves in a less than professional manner, i.e., blatant display of bias and or partisanship.

Speaking to the issue, House Speaker Bhofal Chambers has instead declared the mass action did not represent the people of Maryland, adding that such was the work of infiltrators, presumably, opposition elements who he vowed to bring to justice.

Whatever the case, this newspaper reiterates its call to President Weah to commission an official body to probe the recent disturbances in Pleebo and Harper. This should be done without delay.

He should also consider the lifting of the curfew or the reduction in curfew hours. Already, the biting effects of the curfew are being felt.

Sources have told the Daily Observer that the people are deeply aggrieved, and the prolonged imposition of the curfew will only serve to further deepen growing popular resentment against this government.

As Maryland County Senator J. Gbleh-bo Brown has observed, curfew will not solve the problem in Maryland. What is needed now is speedy investigation and prosecution of the accused currently in custody.

The Police needs to get to the bottom of this latest affair. This is particularly important in view of widely held suspicion of the probable involvement of some government officials.

The prolonged imposition of the curfew in its present form is already causing economic hardships particularly for residents of Pleebo, a city whose economic lifeblood depends heavily on cross border trade between Liberia and the Ivory Coast.

Having stated thus, this newspaper once again condemns the violence attending the recent mass public demonstrations in Harper and Pleebo. 

However, causal factors leading to the violence should not be ignored in the quest to bring perpetrators to justice.

And this is a matter that should be considered exigent and ought to be treated with a strong degree of urgency.

Ritualistic killing and the culture of impunity which have attended it is an age-old problem and is one which has generally stigmatized the people of Maryland, much to their general dislike.

Ritualistic killing for political purposes is not however restricted to Maryland County. What is common to ritualistic killings irrespective of where they occur in Liberia is the thread of impunity which have attended such killings.

What the people of Maryland have not forgotten also, according to sources, is the senseless and brutal killing of citizens of that county by fighters of the Liberia Peace Council (LPC) and the impunity attending their actions. Its leader currently sits in the Legislature.

And this common thread, impunity, according to sources, was the major push factor that spurred thousands of women into the streets of Pleebo and Harper in protest action demanding justice.  

What the people of Maryland need is justice and it should be swift, but free, fair, transparent, undiluted and coldly neutral. President Weah and his officials are urged to remember that there is a danger in pushing the people too far.

The prolonged curfew, in his view, perhaps, may be a demonstration of strength or resolve but in the view of the people of Maryland, it has become exasperating and is severely testing their patience.

The reported arrest of the accused is good but does not go far enough. They need to be brought to trial without delay. According to sources in Maryland, non-compliance with curfew regulations is growing and the longer the curfew remains in place, non-compliance will sooner or later become more of the rule rather than the exception.

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