The Paradox Of The President’s Birthday

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

One of the things that people who celebrate their natal day is to share with others by making some contributions or identifying with some of their needs in some ways. This was what was demonstrated this week by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf when she, a day to her 75th birthday, identified with motorcyclists by providing several jackets for safety while in the traffic. Equally, the President, despite the observance of the day, with various activities, dedicated the day to the market women of Liberia, a decision that climaxed the celebration with the grand breaking ceremony of the Omega Market in Paynesville.

An Executive Mansion release on the issue of the President’s donation, said, “As part of her 75th birth anniversary celebration, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has made an initial donation of 1,000 reflector jackets to motorcyclists, as her way of promoting road safety for the operators of such vehicles. The President will donate a total of 10,000 safety jackets to the Motorcyclists Union.” The release said the President made the donation on Sunday, in the Slipway Community, where she challenged motorcyclists to see safety as the surest way of continuing their commercial activities.

She went on: “When you wear these vests, you will be promoting safety and, by doing that, everyone will benefit from the operation of these motorbikes,” the President said. She called upon them to join the call for road safety; to be patient and law-abiding in operating on the streets of Monrovia or elsewhere. The Liberian leader also called on relevant government institutions to work with vendors in making sure that motorbikes are not sold without helmets.

Responding, the Secretary General of the Motorcyclists Union, Mr. Robert Sammy, assured the President of their commitment to heed her call to promote road safety. “People call us all sorts of names,” he said, “including suicide bombers because, according to them, we see danger in the traffic and still go there. We did not know that the President was listening and wanted us to change.” The donation of the jackets, Mr. Sammy said, was one of the practical actions taken by the President in seeking the welfare of the common people. He challenged his members to make the maximum use of them.

Interestingly, while the President was climaxing her celebration with the event at the Omega Market, some of the motorcyclists made part of the suburbs of Monrovia bitter when some of them reportedly set ablaze at dusk a vehicle in Chicken Soup Factory vicinity in Gardnersville. I can surmise that the President did make the donation as a way for the motorcyclists to join her in the celebration, and did not “expect” that on such a day when they should be celebrating with her, they would take the law into their hands.

On the same day of the celebration, classes were disrupted on the main campus of the University of Liberia due to late registration and the issuance of scholarship slips. The situation, which continued yesterday also spread to the Fendell of the university, where most of the classes have been transferred because of its sitting capacity. However, I decided to mainly focus on the motorcyclists’ issue because they received gifts to celebrate with the President, but got involved in an act that caused embarrassment in that area, especially at a time when several visitors were in the country as part of the President’s birthday celebration.

According to the story, some motorcyclists set the vehicle on fire after it was involved in an accident in which a motorcyclist was killed. I was even told that a Deputy Director of Police, Darlington George, was injured during the incident. Is this government waiting for more injuries or wanton destruction before taking appropriate action?

Again, I see the behavior of the motorcyclists as a paradox because the President, as I said earlier, did not expect that by giving this gift, such an unpleasant incident would have happened. Etymologically, the term Paradox is from the Greek “paradoxon” that means “contrary to expectations, existing belief or perceived opinion.” And so in this situation of expecting that by making this donation, the receivers would be a part of the celebration, proved otherwise, this can be considered as paradoxical.

I take this seriously because this is not the first time that motorcyclists have taken the laws into their hands. On many occasions, there have been reports, not only emanating from Monrovia, but other parts of the country in which motorcyclists went on the rampage and engaged in similar acts. Sometimes ago on the Robertsfield Highway, it was reported that some motorcyclists set ablaze an ambulance for being involved in an accident with a motorcyclist.

The nauseating thing about this is that whenever these violent or lawless acts occurred, there have always been report of arrest of those involved, but nothing is heard about prosecution. Because of the failure of government to prosecute those involved in these violent acts, it has now become a license for more of these acts of lawlessness on the part of some of these motorcyclists.

As we know, laws are made to guide our conduct and behavior and that these laws go with punishment, sometimes to serve as a deterrent for the commission of similar acts, but because this government has failed to prosecute individuals involved in these criminal acts, it has become business as usual. Now that it happened on the President’s birthday, perhaps, this could create more interest for the law to take its course. We cannot be talking of this country being a “country of law and not men,” when it is axiomatic that this saying is completely diametrical to what is obtaining, as it relates to the behavior of some motorcyclists.

I believe that as a people guided by laws, we should always pursue the rightful path of the law, rather than being involved in arbitrariness, or jungle justice. This is why I hail Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai, for resorting to the rule of law or due process by taking Jefferson Koigee to court for recent allegations made against him. This is what should take place in a civilized society, like ours.

Once more, the unbecoming behavior of some of these motorcyclists should claim the attention of the government. I support the use of motorcycles for transportation, realizing the limitations of public transport system. But at the same time, those involved, should be law-abiding and function in conformity with the dictates of the law. I am raising these little issues because these are some of the little issues, if not handled with utmost care, can snowball into greater things beyond control and imagination. I Rest My Case.

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