By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
Communication is such that sometimes the way and manner, as well as the timing of it, sparks off all kinds of controversies or interpretations. More noticeably, the timing of the communication at times lends credence to prevailing claims, speculations or rumors on a particular situation. At times, it brings about what is known in mass communication as, “NOISE-” anything that interferes with successful communication. The noise could be based on semantics or phraseology in a piece of communication for public consumption.
Additionally, the unprecedented nature of the communication can also raise eyebrows in that what has been traditionally accepted or practiced, would this time around, be disregarded, sidestepped or bypassed for certain unexplained reasons. For this, there is always such public anxiety or curiosity, as to the WHY factor of such communication.
The communicator may have different reasons for the message, but because of prevailing situation, this could be interpreted in a different way, something that was not the intent or objective of the communicator. This is what seems to be prevailing or obtaining in the wake of the proclamation by the family of the late Chairman Charles Gyude Bryant. The family among other things excluded the government of Liberia from the funeral activities of this fallen son of the soil, who is credited for the democratic space the country enjoys today, after serving as interim leader for two years.
Since the announcement about the death of the former Chairman of the transitional government that ushered in the democratic government in 2005, with President Sirleaf, being elected, there have been rumors, pointing accusing fingers at the government for not paying attention to the former chairman, and also an action by the National Port Authority (NPA) management for not awarding him a contract. There are people who believe that this led to the former Chairman’s being frustrated, something they attributed to his death.
Interestingly, just as the rumor mill was widening, the family in what it referred to as ‘PROCLAMATION,” announcing the death and funeral services of their fallen family member, among other things said, wake keeping and funeral interment will be held on May 9th and 10th 2014 respectively, and details for these events will be announced. Of great concern was the part of the proclamation which says, “It was Chairman Bryant’s wish that there be no Panegyric, No Official Gazette issued, No Laying in State, No 21 Gun Salute, No Military Escort, or any State function over his remains. The families intend to carry out his wishes.”
Normally in such a situation, given the status of the deceased, as a former statesman, it is always the government that takes the lead by officially announcing the funeral of a fallen statesman, like the late Charles Gyude Bryant. This is always referred to as “State Funeral.” But unprecedentedly, this time, it is the family, something that has given rise to all of these rumors of mistreatment, lack of care or concern, while the chairman was alive, as well as the issue of the NPA’s failure to award him the contract which he won through bidding.
Indisputably, the proclamation by the family at a time of all kinds of rumors and speculations, tend to lend credence to these, especially so when it has left the government who should be in charge, to be out completely, excluding the usual state honors, like the 21 Gun Salute, is indeed, responsible about the perception that it was because of what is being rumored that the family has decided to act decisively against the Liberian government. That is, as far as members of the public are concerned, the action of the fallen Chairman’s family was basically owing to the “don’t care attitude” reportedly exhibited by the government.
Even yesterday, the FrontPage in a special column, entitled “VOICES,” with headline, “WICKED ACTION,” some members of the public still hold the view that the Chairman died because of the way he was treated by the government and the failure of the NPA to award him the contract. One citizen said, “The late chairman died as a result of utter frustration.”
Others condemned the government, ‘for its lack of concern shown to the late former Chairman Gyude Bryant. “I think the government is in error for the manner and form they treated former Chairman Bryant,” a citizen also said. However, one of them disagreed with these views and said, as a man of God he believes it was time for the Chairman to die. He said, “Even if Chairman Bryant had won fifty million US contract, he would have died the same time that was designated by the Almighty God.”
Now with the proclamation of the family, many questions abound. Is it true that the government did not pay attention to the former Chairman, up to his death? Is it true that the former Chairman had been frustrated over this NPA’s contract issue or is it true that as former statesman he did not get his entitlements for serving in such a position? I asked these questions because these are the same issues that are being discussed in the public, prior to the releasing of the proclamation by his family.
I know, from experience that it has always been a general belief that whenever a former official, like someone who enjoys such status as former Chairman Bryant dies, people always blamed this to lack of concern, care and support by the government. Whether or not this is the case with the former Chairman is something I am yet to believe. But as the family’s proclamation has brought in as new dimension, this is what I am concerned about as a student of communication.
In other words, whether what is being held by the public is what is responsible for the family’s action of excluding the government from the funeral services is something to find out. The Million Dollar Question would be why the government is being excluded from these arrangements or planning.
In view of these, let me say that the timing of the family’s proclamation, coupled with its unprecedented move to sideline or reduce the government to mere spectators in such a matter that should be handled by the government in collaboration with the family, is what is giving high degree of believability to these rumors and public perception.
As I end this piece with disbelief of what is being held by some members of the public on the issue of lack of care, concern or support, coupled with the unprecedented move of excluding the government from the funeral of this former statesman, the family holds it to the public for an explanation as to whether or not its decision was based on what is being circulated or rumored in the public or being held by some members of the public. Anything contrary to this, would continue to lend credence to these rumors and perceptions
Until the family can give further details on its proclamation, subject to all kinds of interpretations, I Rest My Case.
NB: Atty Wesseh, who holds a degree in Mass Communication, is a lecturer of “Effective Communication” at the Liberia Institute of Public Administration (LIPA). He is also a part time instructor in the Mass Communication Department at the United Methodist University.