The New Dawn (Monrovia)

Liberia: "We Dare You" - Police Tell Demo Planners

Police Director Chris C. Massaquoi has warned here that police will pursue and arrest those, he said, are in the habit of inciting motorcyclists, using the radio airwaves should there be any event that would disturb the peace in Monrovia.

Director Massaquoi issued the warning Thursday at the Police Central Headquarters when he held a meeting with a delegate of five heads of various motorcycles and tri-cycle unions in Monrovia amidst threats attributed to Cyclists Federation spokesperson Robert Sammie to assemble his colleagues today before the Foreign Ministry Office of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to demonstrate.

"Because if you come on the air and incite motorcyclists, it violates the law; and if something bad happens in this town, we will come to you; you will be held accountable- trust me. So please abide by the law," Direcotr Massaquoi warned yesterday.

All five representatives at the meeting with Director Massaquoi and principal deputies yesterday, distanced their respective motorcycle unions from Robert Sammie's call for a demonstration against the government, describing such alleged public pronouncement as a unilateral decision and undermining of the peace here.

However, Mr. Robert Sammie could not be reached through his mobile number, as it did not ring on several attempts to get his comments. But Director Masaquoi reaffirmed the police's position that it will not back-off with the regulation; because, according to him, the regulation was in the interest of the country- the public, motorists and other road users.

The Police Chief further said that the regulation will remain enforced until probably the intervention of the Legislators or the President, since they were the authorities of the Government of Liberia.

"It is in all of us interest. People have had motorcycle accidents, and they have not regained consciousness; people died on the spot- we are helping you to live well and not to be injured," he said.

"Do not follow others. People that want to be politicians, come on the radio and try to undermine the effort of the government; undermine the effort of the police; I hope you know how you're doing it," said Mr. Massaquoi.

The President for the United Motorbike Transport Union of Liberia or UMTUL, Mr. Christian D. Brownell, said his union has not received any complaint about police confiscating and selling motorbikes, contrary to Robert Sammie's claims.

"The idea that our colleague will call for demonstration- to put on the street motorcyclists to go to the Foreign Ministry, I think it is intended to undermine the peace process, most especially the Christmas festival," Mr. Brownell said accusing Sammie of jeopardizing an ongoing negotiation last year with the police to extend the 10pm ban to 12am, when Sammie appeared on the radio and incited cyclists to return to business as usual while he, Brownell, was making a significant push to reach an agreement with the police for extension.

"They told us January 15 [2012]; in February, while I was negotiating with the Justice Ministry- thru the Chief of Traffic, Robert Sammie came on the air in the name of the cyclists' spokesperson and said that the ultimatum had expired and that all motorcyclists should go about their normal business.

And then immediately that day, there was a press conference by the Police Director and there was a strong enforcement. In fact, that day, enforcement started before 10pm. We shifted the blame on Sammie because he did not do a proper negotiation," Mr. Brownell narrated.

Quite recently, Brownell claimed that when GIZ, along with the Red Cross sent a communication on Wednesday, informing the motorcyclists' union authorities that they wanted to train motorcyclists before the festive seasons, Robert Sammie, on Thursday, held a press conference in which he allegedly gave police ultimatum.

"Our position is clear that any decision that we want to take, it will be channelled through the Transport Ministry," Brownell concluded.

Also speaking, the Vice President for Operations of the Union of Safe Motorcycle Operators of Liberia or USMOL, Mr. Amos T. Nyumah, said his union was a peaceful institution, and was not supported Robert Sammie's call for citizens' demonstration.

Jenkins K. Zayzay, Secretary General of the Liberia Tricycle and Motorcycle Association or LITMCA said his union believes in peace, differing with Sammie on his unilateral statement, he said, will have some covert impact on all motorcyclists.

Deputy Police Director for Operations, Mr. Abraham Kromah said the police's quest to enforce the regulation as per the director's mandate, remains unbending.

He cited a situation wherein a fellow had hidden his boss' motorbike, and took him to central, accusing the police of confiscating and selling the bike. However, Mr. Kromah said, after the bike could not be found in the basement at Central Headquarters, they further conducted a search- only to find out that the cyclist had, himself, taken the bike somewhere else- something Kromah said was retrieved.

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