29 January 2013

Liberia: Protests Mar Ellen's Message

Photo: AllAfrica
Riot police quelling a protest. (file photo)

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's annual massage to the 53rd Legislature Monday was marred by series of protests outside the Capitol, involving students of the University of Liberia, resisting rumors on the UL Main Campus of plan by the administration to increase credit fees to US$5.00, and employees of the former Bong Mines Company, demanding salary arrears.

The protesting students converged on the entrance to the Capitol directly opposite the UL campus, waving posters, denouncing the alleged plan. They called on President Sirleaf, who is a Visitor to the University, to intervene in the reported plan by the UL Administration to increase tuition fees from L$175 to US$5.00 or its equivalent.

The President's Annual Message is compliance with Article 58 of the Liberian Constitution, which states, among others: "The President shall, on the fourth Working Monday in January of each year, present the administration's legislative program for the ensuing session, and shall once a year report to the Legislature on the state of the Republic. In presenting the economic condition of the Republic, the report shall cover expenditure as well as income."

At the same time, former employees of the Bong Mines Company surrounded the Capitol with placards, demanding salary arrears, while another group of protestors with placards called on the government to remove insane people from the streets of Monrovia.

The group said the presence of insane people in the streets of the oldest African Republic indicated neglect of its citizenry, especially those mentally impaired as well as other less fortunate members of the society.

President Sirleaf under heavy security, apparently due to the series of protests, spoke to the nation for about two hours, promising to introduce series of bills to the Liberian Legislature for enactment into law.

She named the Anti-Drugs Bill, New Police Bill, and a bill to establish a Special Court to directly handle corruption cases, adding that the passage of these bills will make significant impact on good governance.

President Sirleaf also urged members of the Legislature to speedily pass the Decent Work Bill, Children Protection Bill, and the Gender Equality Bill into law, respectively.

However, while the President was addressing the lawmakers, acting Monrovia City Mayor Mary Broh, was chased out of the William Richard Tolbert Joint Chamber, where the ceremony was held by the Sergeant-At-Arm, General Martin Johnson for disorderly conduct.

According to eyewitness, Mayor Broh was engaged in hot exchanges with Protocol Officers assigned at the main entrance of the Joint Chamber in the Capitol. The controversial Mayor allegedly attacked one of the Protocol Officers physically for alleged failure to usher her into the chamber.

Upon receiving the information, Montserrado County Electoral District #8 Representative Acarous Moses Gray, ordered General Johnson to throw Mayor Broh out of the Chamber.

Speaking to reporters after the President's address, Rep. Gray said the behavior of the acting Mayor was embarrassing both to the Executive and the Legislature.

Hon. Gray also pointed out that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf violated the Constitution by failing to comment on progress made in implementing recommendations contained in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. According to him, it is by law that the President reports to the Legislature quarterly on progress achieved from the TRC report.

He threatened to write the Plenary of the House of Representatives on the alleged violation, something, which he noted, has the propensity to undermine the peace process of the already fragile country.

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