In Sinoe, Confusion on How to Implement State of Emergency

GREENVILLE, Sinoe – The chairman of Sinoe’s joint security team has apologized to citizens for misinterpreting how the state of emergency would apply to the county’s residents. Charles Mataley had initially demanded that all businesses be closed by 3:00 p.m., but the county attorney later admitted that Sinoe was not affected by the stay home order.

Last Wednesday, Pres. George Weah had declared a state of emergency to battle the spread of the Coronavirus. The state of emergency is expected to last for three weeks. He also instituted a two-week stay home order for four counties: Grand Kru, Nimba, Margibi, and Montserrado. However, the measures were not entirely clear and the Ministry of Justice did not issue a more detailed list of regulations associated with the state of emergency.

Health authorities have reported a total of 50 confirmed cases now, in addition to 5 deaths. None of those cases have been recorded in Sinoe.

Apologizing for his error, Mataley said anyone could be outside anytime and that “normal business should go ahead to run their business, including bars and night clubs.”

“Again, I want to say sorry to our people for the enforcement action carried out today by the police,” Mataley noted.

A major businessman in Sinoe, Ojuku Jallah, was particularly annoyed by the confusion among the county’s leaders over how to enforce the president’s state of emergency.

“We welcome the state of emergency announced by Pres. Weah, but some of our people don’t know what state of emergency, lockdown, and quarantine [mean] and our government officials who [are] supposed to be explaining to us are the ones who are giving us the wrong information,” Jallah said. “And if this continues, it will not be good for us.”

 Businessman Ojuku Jallah said he was frustrated over mixed messages from authorities. Photo: Teahwleh Clarke Geeplay

The joint security team chair’s apology came after the presidential press secretary, Isaac Solo Kelgbeh, appeared on a radio talk show in Greenville on Saturday to clarify some details about the state of emergency.

Kelgbeh said the 3:00 p.m. closure of all businesses should not affect Sinoe and counties that have not yet registered any Coronavirus cases. Instead, those other counties should enforce regular handwashing and social distancing.

However, even after the acknowledgement that the president’s order for businesses to close at 3:00 p.m. did not apply to the county, Sinoe’s superintendent, Lee Nagbe Chea, decided that all businesses would close at 5:30 p.m. daily.

“We want to call on our people to observe their daily movements, understanding the current situation in Liberia and the rest of the world,” Chea said. “Be careful who you interact with on a daily basis and also report unusual happenings in your area in order to be safe.”

Chea called on all sectors of society to work together to enforce the mandates.

Meanwhile, Charles Mataley has committed the security sector to respecting the rights of Sinoe residents during this time. He told The Bush Chicken that there had not been any reports yet of misconduct by security personnel since the state of emergency was declared.

He nevertheless committed to ensuring that the state of emergency was enforced: “We will make sure that throughout this period of the state of emergency, no one will leave Sinoe to enter another county, as well no one will leave another county to enter Sinoe.”

Despite logistical challenges, he said his team would “do everything possible in making sure that the mandate is enforced.”

Featured photo by Teahwleh Clarke Geeplay

Teahwleh Clarke Geeplay

Teahwleh Clarke Geeplay started his journalism career at the Elizer Davis George Memorial Baptist School in Greenville, Sinoe as a press club reporter in 2012. He currently serves as Farbric Radio’s county correspondent for Sinoe and is the vice president of the Sinoe Journalist Association. He works for Liberty FM as a station manager.

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