If I Could Meet President Sirleaf…

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

Few days ago, I wrote an article entitled:”Avoiding Mistakes Of The Past: The Case Of Cyril Allen And The Essence of Freedom Of Speech,” in which I reacted to report that the Liberia National Police had invited the former Chairman of the ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr. Cyril Allen for consultation on a recent statement he made.

In his comment, Mr. Allen called on the President of Liberia, Madam Sirleaf to resign and give way to Vice President Ambassador Joseph Boakai to complete her second term because she “failed” the Liberian people. Additionally, Mr. Allen, reportedly threatened that if she does not resign, he would be constrained to achieve his goal.

As I said in that article, initially, I got to know about Mr. Allen’s utterances when I listened to the Truth Breakfast Show that the former NPP Chairman, Mr. Allen, who sometimes is referred to as “’Chief Allen,” called on President Sirleaf to resign, and allow Vice President Joseph Boakai to end her second term as President.  What was more disturbing was his reported comment that he called on all “former combatants” and political parties to join him in his effort.

Because of the sensitivity or security implications of his comments, I wrote an article, mainly differing with the former party chairman for threatening to use ex-combatants because of the security implication. In fact, his party’s Chairman Cllr. T. C. Gould, who was contacted by the main host of the program, Mamade Diakite, distanced the party from its former chairman’s utterances.

In that article, I noted that Mr. Allen was not the first person calling for the resignation of President Sirleaf.  But my main concern at that time was the call by the former chairman to former combatants to join him in his efforts to have the President to resign because I saw that as an attempt to take us back to the ugly past, where lawlessness and constitutional breach was the order of the day.

In the two articles on the issue, I disagreed with Mr. Allen on the issue of using ex-combatants. But my concern was the invitation of the police to hold “consultation” with Mr. Allen on the comments because these were some of the tactics of the past that President Sirleaf and others then in the opposition frowned against, as they saw them as attempts to silent critical views.

Considering the experiences of the past, I pointedly said in the precious piece that in all sincerity, this government, whose leader, President Sirleaf,  once suffered from some of these stupid (sorry again for the word) mistakes, cannot be seen making the same mistakes because someone said something that we disagree with. In the exercise of freedom of speech we do not necessarily have to agree with what people say, but must respect their rights to speak out. Sometimes we have to swallow the bitter pills. Even if it is nonsense or irrationality, as we may see it, we have to swallow these pills to move forward and for freedom of speech to flourish.

Disappointingly, despite this humble appeal to the Liberian government to leave Mr. Allen alone, I continue to hear that the government is still inviting him for the same comment. Some of us, may not have the opportunity or chance to meet the President daily to discuss some of these issues; we can only do so through news stories or articles in the newspaper, being fully aware that the President reads and contributes to national development through the media, which is considered as the market place of ideas.

Just yesterday, we gathered that Mr. Allen has been reporting at the police station, along with his lawyer on the issue. I feel disappointed on this move by the government because these were some of the serious mistakes by these past leaders that created unnecessary heroes, heroines and politicians. Besides these arrests and detentions, as well as trials, gave unnecessary, undue and undeserving publicity and popularity to individuals, institutions and groups.

At the police station yesterday, our reporters who covered the event saw Mr. Allen along with his lawyer in the office of the Director of the Criminal Investigation Division (CID). After his lawyer Cyrenus Cephas prepared a written statement, Mr. Allen was released to his legal team with the understanding that he will return to the LNP Headquarters today at 3 p.m.

Again, as I said before, while I do not agree with Mr. Allen’s reported threat to use former fighters, I respect his right to speak out. Once again, let me emphasize that we must not respect some of the mistakes of the past such as charging people unnecessarily with treason.

Today, there is another headache of a Liberian journalist, Rodney Sieh of the FRONTPAGE Newspaper who is in jail for libel. Whether this is a civil matter or not, it is affecting the “image” of the country as we have boasted that there is no journalist or political prisoner in jail.

I hope I would not be misconstrued as suggesting that the government is part of this civil action. Against the journalist and his newspaper, but one thing I know is that the government is also embarrassed about the image of the country on this matter. With this, is the government trying to take action to affect the country’s image, by charging a citizen with treason for speaking out on the issue that other citizens have even disagreed with him? If this government is not concerned about the country’s image, I am.

For a second time I say in the Liberian way; leave Cyril Allen alone yah! A hint to the wise is quite sufficient. I Rest my Case.