-- Says Justice Minister Dean, denies the group permit to protest on December 30
The government has accused the leadership of the Council of Patriots (CoP) of 'treasonable' act as the group mobilizes across the country, and in the diasporas to call for the resignation of President George Weah for the "despicable" manner in which he is leading the country.
CoP leadership and members are organizers of the pending December 30, 2019, nationwide protest. The group has since launched the "Weah Step Down" campaign, calling for President Weah to step down as the country experiences extreme economic hardship since he ascended to power almost two years ago. The group is also demanding good governance from the ex-footballer who, they say, has no regard for the rule of law, especially the Constitution.
But the government, through the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) says the CoP's pending action is "unconstitutional, and bespeaks treason." Justice Minister, Frank Musah Dean, in a letter to the CoP's Acting Chairman Mo Ali, on Monday, December 2 in Monrovia, stated: "Your mobilization of individuals, and resources to execute your "Weah Step Down" campaign is unconstitutional and bespeaks treason, an offense against the internal security of the state."
The letter was a response to an earlier communication from the CoP demanding permit, and state security protection for its December 30 mass protest.
"You will note that Weah was duly elected by the Liberian people for a six-year term, and therefore, any removal prior to the expiry of this term may occur only by impeachment as provided under Article 62 of the Constitution," the Minister wrote.
Article 62 says: "The President and the Vice-President may be removed from office by impeachment for treason,
bribery and other felonies, violation of the Constitution or gross misconduct."
CoP, on the other hand, is using Article 1 of the Liberian Constitution as the reliance for its planned assembly. Article 1 states: "All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority, and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require. In order to ensure democratic government, which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the right at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments."
The government, however stated that the Supreme Court has interpreted the above constitutional provision, specifically as it refers to the inherent power of the people to decide the leadership of the nation through elections; therefore, there is no provision for "Weah Step Down" campaign in the Constitution, and statutory laws of the country.
Minister Dean however failed to state when such interpretation was done and at what instance.
The CoP was also the planner of the June 7, 2019 protest, the biggest anti-government action that saw thousands of Liberians taking to the streets to demand reforms in government. That protest, which received a huge international coverage, practically defaced the Weah led government, bringing upon it barrage of global condemnations.
The MoJ acknowledged receipt of the CoP's communication for permit. "Your letter of November 11, 2019, relative to your request for security protection to hold a "Peaceful Assembly" in Monrovia beginning December 30, 2019, is acknowledged."
The Ministry said that it is cognizant of several public pronouncements emanating from hierarchy of the CoP, characterizing the assembly as the beginning of a "Weah Step Down" campaign.
"We are further aware that in preparation to execute your planned objectives, you have solicited and received funding from individuals, both within and outside of Liberia, some of whom may not be Liberian citizens," Minister Dean said. "We hasten to assure you that the Weah administration remains committed to the protection of the rights and liberties of all citizens as enshrined in the Constitution."
The Minister however said that given the "facts and circumstances described above, we are without legal authority to grant you permit, protection or approval to undertake an act which is, indisputably, a clear violation of the Constitution and statutory laws of Liberia."
Accusing the CoP of treasonable acts, the minister made emphatic reference to points 4 and 5 of Article 76 of the Constitution, which states: (4) attempting by overt act to overthrow the Government, rebellion against the republic, insurrection and mutiny; and (5) abrogating or attempting to abrogate, subverting or attempting or conspiring to subvert the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other means, which attempts to undermine the Constitution.
Dean then warned the CoP against taking the streets to demand the removal of an administration that was constitutionally elected to a six-year term.
"Ultimately, may we warn that any individuals comprising the leadership of the CoP will be held personally, individually and collectively culpable and liable, under the laws for the consequences associated with their actions," the Justice Minister's letter said.
In a Facebook post, Henry Pedro Costa, host of the Henry Costa Morning Show and lead planner of the pending protest, referred to Minister Dean's letter as an "empty bluff".
"Musah Dean says we will be committing treason when we gather on December 30th to demand Weah's resignation," Costa said. "You better get ready to arrest tens of thousands of people. The suffering masses will turn out. We do not fear you! Empty bluff!"
Meanwhile, the government had earlier announced plans to arrest Costa when he arrives in Monrovia on December 19, ahead of the planned December 30 "Weah Step Down" campaign. The announcement was made by Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon, who said that there is a writ of arrest awaiting Mr. Costa upon his arrival.
"Just as there was a writ out to have Costa station closed, there was also a writ for his arrest," Min. Fahngon declared.
Minister Dean later dismissed the Fahngon's pronouncement, who said that there is "no writ of arrest" from the Court, neither has the MoJ has given any such order of arrest.