31 January 2013

Liberia: Gongloe Descends On Gov't

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

A renowned Liberian human rights lawyer, Counselor Tiawan Gongloe, has descended on the Liberian government over the arrest and subsequent detention of a rights activist. Addressing a news conference Wednesday, January 30, 2013 in Monrovia, Cllr. Gongloe described the arrest and subsequent detention Mr. Vandallah R. Patricks, Executive Director of the Concern Intellectual Association (CIA) as "scaring", saying it has the propensity to undermine the peace and stability of the country.

Cllr. Gongloe told the news conference that he was informed by family sources that rights activist Patricks was arrested 10:00 PM at his Old Road resident by plain clothes security on Monday, January 28, 2013 and placed into a vehicle with license plate RL 52.

The CIA of Patricks was among several civil society and rights groups that displayed placards at the entrance of the Capitol Building on Monday to express their own dissatisfactions about the government. This happened minutes before President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf delivered her Annual Message.

The Capitol Building is the seat of the Legislature.

Upon receiving the information, Cllr. Gongloe further told the news conference that he immediately called on authorities of the Liberia National Police (LNP) on the matter, but they denied ever having any connection with the arrest and subsequent detention of the rights activist.

He said that he also called authorities of the National Security Agency (NSA), which also denied knowing anything about the arrest and detention of Patricks. However, the acclaimed Liberian human rights lawyer stated that he was informed by the NSA on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 that Mr. Patricks was in its (NSA) custody.

Such action by government, the renowned Liberian lawyer maintained, is "scaring", and it has the propensity to undermine the peace and stability of the country. He urged the government to refrain from this, because according him, Liberia is not prepared to return to the "ugly past" when people who spoke against government went missing and only their dead bodies were found.

Cllr. Gongloe pointed out that the action of the Government of Liberia (GoL) to arrest and detain someone for speaking against it (GoL) undermines Article 15 of the Liberian Constitution, which talks about freedom of expression.

The Constitution is regarded as the organic law of the country.

"We no longer want to return to the ugly past where Samuel Dockie and others went missing and only their dead bodies were found. We want to go to the promised land of democracy where everyone would be allowed to freely express themselves," said Cllr. Gongloe.

Speaking further, Cllr Gongloe, who served as former Solicitor General and Labor Minister during the first term of President Johnson-Sirleaf, said any level of development in the absence of freedom of speech and expression is of no value to the Liberian people.

According to the learned Liberian lawyer, the people of Liberia freely and fairly elected the Unity Party (UP) led in a democratic style, and so it must in return live up to the confidence and trust reposed in it by allowing the people to freely and fairly express themselves without any hindrance.

"It is an irony President Johnson-Sirleaf, who gained political prominence through her many advocacies and protests against past regimes will not tolerate others who speak against her government," he pointed out.

"In fact, the placards or press releases issued by this young man have nothing in them that undermine the peace and security of this country. He even in some of his sentences warned Liberians to remain peaceful and calm as they address their dissatisfactions. So, I see no reason why government must have this young man arrested and detained," he amongst other things added.

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