MONROVIA, Montserrado â€“ The justice ministry has requested that organizers of the pending June 7 protest provide documentation establishing their legal status, in order to grant their request for permit and security for protesters.
A group of public officials and private citizens under the banner â€˜Council of Patriotsâ€™ wrote the ministry on April 26 informing the government, through the justice ministry of their intention to hold a peaceful assembly that will commence on June 7 and potentially last for days, in Monrovia.
The letter was signed by Sen. Oscar Cooper of Margibi, Bomiâ€™s Sen. Sando Johnson, and Rep. Yekeh Kolubah of Montserradoâ€™s tenth district, Rufus Neufville, and Liberty Partyâ€™s deputy chairman for political affairs, Darius Dillon. Others are Unity Partyâ€™s assistant secretary for the press, Mohammed Ali, Boakai Jalieba, and Sanjee A. Stepter. The protest organizers also requested that the ministry provide security for their assembly.
The group had earlier disclosed that the peaceful protest was not meant to demand the resignation of President George Weah, but to demand meaningful reforms that will lead to the improvement of the living standards of Liberians.
Members of the group revealed during a press conference held on Tuesday, April 30 that their decision is in reaction to the â€˜wanton neglect of the governmentâ€™ to live up to its promise to the ordinary citizens.
â€œThe Council of Patriots cannot sit idle while accountability remains elusive, corruption at an all-time unprecedented level and integrity institutions face certain death,â€ read Darius Dillon, on behalf of the group.
â€œUS$25 million intended to mop up excess Liberian dollars disappeared in thin air under the watchful eye of the current Economic Management Team while the issue of the L$16 plus billions remain unaccounted for, as indicated in two separate reports.â€
According to the individuals, they can sit no longer afford to wait while their mothers are being turned away from hospitals because of lack of basic medical supplies, and prices of basic commodities are significantly increasing, thus making life unbearable for the ordinary citizens.
They, also alleged that bad international ideals have multiplied, while the governmentâ€™s inability to account for donor funds has also compounded the situation. They called on citizens to join them in demand for good governance.
But the Justice Ministry told the group in its response that, while it agrees on the rights of individuals under the constitution to assemble in an orderly and peaceful manner and presents a petition to the government, it cannot guarantee that right to an institution or organization that is not registered.
â€œWe are under legal obligation to permit institution or association registered and existing under the law of Liberia through it legal office for a peaceful assembly, and we expect same from the â€˜Council of Patriotsâ€™ for their June 7 protest,â€ it disclosed.
The ministry also said the signatures of the advisors and individual members of the protest organizers on their letter of request do not state the names of individuals who head the Council of Patriots, which is executing the â€˜Save the Stateâ€™ protest.
The ministryâ€™s position has, however, been criticized by supporters of the pending mass citizens protest, including University of Liberia-based Students Unification Party. The groupâ€™s leader, Martin Kollie, who has since been a fierce critic of the Weahâ€™s administration. He was one of the organizers of the Bring Back Our Money mass citizens protest, held under the banner of the Concern Citizens United to Bring Our Money Back, following reports that containers of money worth up to L$16 billion were missing.
Dillion, the spokesman for the June 7 protest, also wrote on Facebook that Article 17 of the 1986 constitution which guarantees the rights of citizens to assemble in good manner and petition their government does not call for the presentation of registration documentation or articles of incorporation from protesters.
The Justice Ministry has, meanwhile, welcomed a decision by the Council of Patriots to meet with authorities to discuss the detail of their request.
Featured photo courtesy of Zeze Ballah