These two patriots, Simeon Freeman and Vandalark Patricks, could not keep their mouths shut in the face of the public anger and dismay over the mysterious and untimely deaths of one of our most talented sons, Harry A. Greaves, and also Michael Allison.
So angry, suspicious and even frightened were these two men that they went beyond the pale (limit) in their utterances, accusing the government of Liberia (GOL) of an apparent witch hunt. Simeon Freeman bluntly accused the government of having a “hit list” made up of critics of the government to be assassinated. The Ellen government got angry, tried to arrest him and filed a seditious libel case against him. But he got away before they could arrest him.
The late Allison knew a lot about the US$1 million which the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex Tyler, got from NOCAL for his nationwide tour. Then suddenly after he started talking, he disappeared, only for his naked body to be found on the beach behind the President’s office.
That is where a government can be really helped by competent, cautious and reticent (restrained) legal advisors—advisors who do not rush to action, but carefully weigh each situation and advise their bosses accordingly.
And some of our saner and more levelheaded compatriots, notably Counselor Tiawan Gongloe and Attorney Kofi Woods, moved quickly to urge caution and restraint on the part of GOL.
Following orders for their arrest, the Daily Observer editorially urged GOL to leave them alone, in the exercise of tolerance.
But oh, Liberian Attorney Generals (AG), who think they can do anything in the name of “protecting” their President and safeguarding the country’s “security,” and get away with it.
Remember that in 1953 Sammy Richards, publisher of The Friend, a weekly, published an article, “Why a Third Term?”
The Tubman government angrily reacted with a series of attacks against Mr. Richards, published in the Daily Listener, owned by staunch TWP partisan C.C. Dennis. The final attack against Richards was written by Attorney General Cassell himself, entitled, “Whom the gods destroy . .
.” That same night, thugs entered Mr. Richards’ printing press and broke up his printing machines!
Remember, too, it was C. Abayomi Cassell who, following the alleged “plot that failed,” an alleged attempt to assassinate President Tubman at the Executive Pavilion on June 22, 1955, arrested, imprisoned and prosecuted hundreds of members of the opposition Independent True
Whig Party (ITWP). The party was founded by former President Edwin Barclay, Counselor Nete Sie Brownell, S. David Coleman and Counselor S. Raymond Horace, who were challenging President Tubman in that year’s elections.
Alas! The real “plot” was masterminded by Tubman’s supporters, notably Simon Simonovitch, a Russian Jew who was an official of the Liberia Chamber of Commerce. He is said to have told the President, “If you want to win that election, let’s concoct a plot to assassinate you and blame it on the opposition, in order to discredit them.”
An aftermath of “the plot” was the arrest and shooting to death of S. David Coleman and his young son John, who had just returned from the USA with a degree in civil engineering. Their bodies laid for several days on heartrending display at the Barclay Training Center (BTC).
While members of the opposition languished in prison, the elections were held and Tubman was “elected” to a third term of office.
But in 1961, when he was no longer AG, Counselor C. Abayomi Cassell delivered a legal address in Lagos, Nigeria, criticizing the Liberian justice system. While Cassell was yet in Nigeria, President Tubman angrily had him disbarred from the practice of law!
Cassell’s successor was Counselor Joseph J.F. Chesson. Chesson served another stint as Attorney General following the resignation of Oliver Bright after April 14, 1979. Again, an inept and overzealous Attorney General Bright had ill advised President William R. Tolbert. Instead of advising the President to let Baccus Matthews and his Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL) march in the exercise of their constitutional rights, Bright took the hardline and demanded that the march not take place, otherwise “we will shoot.” And shoot they did, as the demonstration
passed the Information Ministry, killing three people. But the pandemonium had already hit Broad Street after Bright and his Police Director Varney Dempster had raided PAL’s office, breaking up furniture and hauling away documents.
Oliver Bright, realizing he had misled the President, with catastrophic consequences, quietly bowed out, went to London, where he later died and was buried.
Shortly thereafter, Cllr. J.F. Chesson succeeded Bright, maintaining the hard line. In early 1980 he made a remark to reassure President Tolbert that things were now fully under control. “When we get finished with them, President Tolbert will be able to dance from the Executive Mansion to Hotel Africa!” he said. It was only a few weeks later the April 12 Coup occurred. Chesson, like many other topmost officials, were caught up in the melee. We all know the rest.
Once again, Attorney General Benedict Sannoh, too, behaved like the typical Liberian Attorney General—he rushed to action, leveling spurious (bogus) charges against Freeman and Patricks and, in the process, embarrassing his President and government.
Perhaps realizing this, he quietly bowed out.
We know not whether Ellen’s new Attorney General, Cllr. Frederick Cherue, had anything to do with the charges against Freeman and Vandalark Patricks being dropped. Was that one of Cherue’s conditions for accepting the job? We may never know. But we applaud GOL for dropping the charges against the two men. It is a most welcome development.