The Demonstration In The United States: My Only Disappointment

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

For sometimes now there have been reports in the local media that some Liberians residing in the United States have been planning a mass demonstration against the government of President Sirleaf, during her visit to that country to attend the annual General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.

Truly to their plan, these Liberians gathered yesterday to carry on the demonstration or protest. One of the reasons cited for the demonstration or protest, during which they also called for the resignation of Madam Sirleaf is that her administration has not been able to fight corruption, as promised, in her inauguration speech during her first term in 1997 that “Corruption Will Be Enemy Number One.”

Apart from these Liberians residing in the United States, there has been a campaign locally by some Liberians against the government for similar reasons. Some are even calling on her to resign, but other Liberians have rejected this, insisting that such calls were unconstitutional, as the Constitution provides reasons and causes, as ways and procedures by which such action could be taken.

Demonstration or protest, as we know in a democratic setting is one of the ways that citizens express their grievances to their leaders. This is why countries that espouses to democratic tenets provide in their organic laws, their constitutions, provision, guarantee such rights to assembly to petition their leaders on issues of national concern. In the Liberian Constitution of 1985, this provision is succinctly and unambiguously clear.

Article 17 of the Liberian Constitution states, “All persons, at all times, in an orderly and peaceable manner, shall have the right to assemble and consult upon the common good, to instruct their representatives, to petition the Government or other functionaries for the redress of grievances and to associate fully with others or refuse to associate in political parties, trade unions and other organizations.”

Rightly so, it is this provision that Liberians, no matter where they find themselves, always capitalize on to gather to petition their leaders or give their positions on issues of national concerns. Unarguably, it was in this light that these Liberians in the United States, which has an ordinate number of Liberians in the Diaspora, gathered to petition the government.

This provision of the Constitution is important as it is crucial to the issue of participation of the people in the decision-making process. While it is true that the people are represented in the government, it is equally important for them to at times gather to address themselves to prevailing challenges and problems.

While I welcome the demonstration or protest in the United States for whatever purpose I am equally disappointed that the issue of  Ellen Cockrum, former Managing Director of the Roberts International Airport (RIA) and her boyfriend Melvin Johnson, who have been indicted of taking away huge amount of government’s funds and have fled to the United States.

Sometimes ago, the Ministry of Justice recently indicted and ordered the arrest of Musa Bility, Chairman of the Board of Roberts International Airport; Ellen Cockrum, the former Managing Director of RIA; Muamar Dieng, and Managing Director of Diaspora Consulting LLC of the United States.  The boyfriend of Cockrum and his law firm in the United States, Melvin Johnson and Associates, were also indicted. But both madam Cockrum and her boyfriend fled the country before the indictment was released by the government. They are now residing in the United States. They are accused of illegally transferring more than US300,000, through these local banks.

Furthermore, the reports said others indicted were the presidents of two local banks, principally in line with the legal doctrine of “Respondeat Superior.”  Etymologically, the phrase comes from a Latin term meaning “let the superior reply, or ‘let the superior make answer.” This kind of situation in which the employer is held liable is also called “vicarious liability.” The Black’s Law Dictionary (8th edition) defines Respondeat Superior  as, “the doctrine holding an employer or principal liable for the employee or agent’s wrongful acts committed within the scope of the employment or agency.”

Indeed, if these Liberians in the Diaspora see corruption as one of the problems this government is yet to address properly and adequately it should accordingly show their commitment to fight this cancer by making sure that such individuals accused of corrupt practices are made to face the full weight of the law. These Liberians cannot be talking against corruption, when there are individuals before their “nose” who have been accused of this and are comfortably residing in that country.