A MAJOR PRESS CONFERENCE BY HON. C. CLARENCE MASSAQUOI, THE DIRECTOR OF POLICE, ON EBOLA-RELATED ISSUES

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, thank you for your response to our invitation to this Major Press Conference on developments of the Ebola outbreak as it relates to the State of Emergency.

ALLEGED POISONING OF WELLS AND OTHER WATER SOURCES

Over the last few days, our beloved country and people have been engulfed with terrifying news of contamination of wells and water sources in various communities in Montserrado and Margibi Counties in the wake of the prevailing Ebola disease. This latest development has created panic in our people, and in some instances, leading to mob.

1st Incident – Alleged Poisoning of a Well inKpor Town, Margibi County

On August 3, 2014, an individual identified as Edwin Dagbe, aged 27, was rescued by personnel of the Armed Forces of Liberia and subsequently turned over to the Liberia National Police, who was being beaten by community dwellers on suspicion of poisoning and contaminating wells in Kpor Town community dwellers alleged that Mr. Dagbe had in his possession one nose mask, one pair of hand gloves and one syringe. However, due to the large crowd which had gathered at the Police depot in Kpor Town, suspect Dagbe was immediately transferred to the RIA Police Detail for safety.

Following the arrest of the suspect, the Liberia National Police collected water samples from the well for test analysis, while the well was ordered shut down pending the outcome of the test analysis. Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, because of the importance the LNP attached to this grave allegation, sample of the water was immediately sent to the National Standards Laboratory and the LNP Forensics Unit for testing. We want to report that test result from the lab revealed that water from the well contained lower concentration of Aldehyde which is a form Formaldehyde. As a result, the Police Forensic Unit considers the test as being inconclusive in that:

  1. It lacked information on the percentage of concentration of formaldehyde which would render the water either contaminated (poisoned) or not.
  2. It also shows that the water taken from this well had a pH of 6.52 at 24.4 degree centigrade, while normal water pH is reported to be between 6.5 to 8.5.
  3. The test further reveals that aldehyde (an element of formaldehyde) is usually found in water sources closer to swamps and sandy areas.
  4. Also, the test result indicates that all water has its own chemical substances; these substances were however, not mentioned.
  5. Finally, the test result also mentioned a low concentration of aldehyde thereby rendering the water nonlethal and harmless for human consumption.

Hence, the Police does not have sufficient evidence to support the suspicion of the community dwellers that Mr. Dagbe attempted to poison or contaminate their well.

2nd Incident – Alleged Poisoning of the Farmington River

In the second incident report of alleged water poisoning, citizens of Marshal in Margibi County, on August 4, 2014, arrested a 48-year-old man for being in possession of a mineral bottle which contained substances they claimed he intended to use to contaminate the Farmington River. After the suspect was apprehended, he was turned over to the Liberia National Police for investigation. During Police investigation, the accused denied the allegation and claimed that the liquid substance was a herbal concoction prepared by him for his toothache. The liquid was tested and found to contain a high concentration of aldehyde with organic impurities which content was positive with the alcoholic and carboxylic content negative. Also, the pH level was shown to be 4.70 at 25.5 degree centigrade.He is currently detained at the RIA Police Detachment for further investigation.

3rdIncident – Alleged Poisoning of a Well on Lynch Street

The third incident of alleged well poisoning was reported on August 5, 2014 on Lynch Street in Monrovia, involving alleged suspects Arthur Jallah and Tony Gray. Alleged suspect Jallah was rescued by the Police from an angry crowd in the compound of the Anderson Funeral Home after being accused by a worker of the Funeral Home only known as David of attempting to poison or contaminate a well. Alleged suspect Gray for his part denied being on the scene during the incident and stated that he last saw his colleague Jallah only the day before. Upon receiving the report, LNP officers visited the scene at the Anderson Funeral Home. Information gathered during our investigation indicates that suspect Jallah was seen standing in close proximity to the Funeral Home, starring at the back of the building, when his accuser, David, alarmed that he was attempting to poison the well thereby attracting a large crowd which began to beat him mercilessly.

Upon his rescue and search conducted on his person by the Police, no suspicious substance was found on the accused.Nevertheless,the Police suspected him to be either a drug addict or probably suffering from some mental imbalance, as he made several incoherent statements during his interrogation. Meanwhile, the accused sustained serious injury to his head as a result of the mob violence and is currently undergoing medical treatment. Suspect Gray however, continued to maintain that he was not present on the scene nor was he involved in any alleged attempt to poison the well.

4th Incident – Poisoning of a Well in Barnesville, Old Folks Community

On August 6, 2014, at about Noon, suspect Lewis Teah was turned over to the LNP by members of the Bardnersville community Watch Team who rescued him from some community members who were interrogating and attempting to mob him on suspicion of poisoning a well. When the Police searched him, suspect Teah was found in possession of a plastic bag containing some tablets and a brown powdery substance. During our investigation, the suspect claimed that the tablets were antibiotics and the powder was used to medicate fungus on his toes. The powdery substance and tablets have been turned over to the LNP Forensic Unit for laboratory testing.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, you will note that from the test results and statistics that were conducted by all the above mentioned testing centers, there was no evidence to substantiate the widespread speculation that water sources, such as rivers and wells, were ever poisoned. We do not know the origin of such scaring information which engulfs the city a fortnight ago that resulted to mob violence against some of our citizens howbeit innocently. The Police are therefore, warning rumormongers and negative talebearers to refrain from putting other citizens in harm’s way through their wagging and poisonous tongue, for the Police will not hesitate to arrest and charge to court all such persons when caught.

DOLO’s TOWN INCIDENT

In recent times, there was widespread speculation that the death of twenty-five (25) persons in Dolo’s Town, Margibi County, was as a result of poisoning. However, following Police investigation, we found no evidence to support these speculations; rather, our investigation revealed that the dead persons died one month after participating in the funeral of two persons who allegedly died as a result of the Ebola virus. Therefore, and in keeping with the Health Ministry’s advice, the Police has resolved to treat all deaths as Ebola-related until cause of death is established otherwise by the Ministry through the Health team of the National Ebola Taskforce.

HIKE IN TRANSPORTATION FARE, etc.

The Liberia National Police (LNP) has observed with a great deal of concern the sudden hike in the prices of essential goods and services, especially transportation in and around Monrovia and elsewhere in the country. This is regrettable, disheartening and very alarming to see that some unscrupulous business owners, both local and foreign, will use a crisis situation such as the Ebola outbreak to profiteer at the expense and detriment of the general public, especially our poor citizens.

We would like to caution and/or warn those engaged in this wicked and selfish practice to immediately desist, especially those in the commercial transport sector, as the Police will enforce to the letter the Vehicle and Transport Laws, especially as it relates to “Improper Carrying”, whether it is passengers or goods. We want to remind the driving public, particularlyregular commercial drivers and those using their private vehicles to transport passengers and goods, that we are in a State of Emergency in the fight to control and eradicate the deadly Ebola virus from our country; and as such, the Police is calling on everyone to strictly adhere to all pronouncements by the Ministry of Transport regarding the number of passengers to carry in their vehicles.

Any person failing to adhere to the Transport Ministry’s pronouncement in this regard, when caught, will be arrested, vehicle impounded and forwarded to court for prosecution. As you may be aware, only three (3) persons are allowed to ride in the back seat with one in the front. This is a means of preventing the rapid spread of the deadly Ebola virus which is contracted mainly through body contact. Also, but more importantly, the issue of violent protests and riots where groups of citizens for one reason or the other decide to infringe upon the rights (free movement) of commuters is now becoming very alarming and must therefore, stop now!

While the Police in conjunction and collaboration with other agencies are deeply involved in the fight against eradicating the Ebola disease from Liberia, there are some citizens, especially the youth, who have elected to be non law abiding and have elected continuously engage in wanton violent rioting by setting up roadblocks at various locations at the expense of peace citizens. The Police will like to emphasize and reemphasize to all of our citizens that on August 6, 2014, the President of the Republic of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, declared a state of emergency in keeping with Article 86 A & B of our constitution. In that declaration of a state of emergency, the President said, among other things, that certain rights and liberties under the constitution will be suspended in the interest of public health and national security.

In keeping with the Act and Statutes creating the Liberia National Police (LNP), the Police has the authority to protect life and property and to maintain law and order. Therefore, the public, especially the youth, is hereby strongly warned to immediately desist from all forms of rioting and/or mob violence and setting up roadblocks anywhere in the Republic of Liberia. Any one or group of persons caught rioting or engaging in any act of mob violence will have themselves to blame when the Police arrives on the scene. Let the word go forth that effective immediately, the Police will deal robustly with anyone caught setting up roadblocks in any part of the country, especially in Monrovia, as a form of rioting and/or engaging in mob violence. Again, you will have yourself to blame.

The Government will not tolerate people engaging in unlawful acts which challenge its authority to govern. A state of emergency means nothing else but a state of emergency. You must all therefore, remain very law-abiding during the period of our state of emergency. Therefore, please do not test the resolve of the Police to be very robust and uncompromising in maintaining the peace and protecting the safety and security of the state and its people. Accordingly, there will be no demonstration and/or rioting. You have been warned!

MOB VIOLENCE

Another point of serious concern to the Liberia National Police is the sudden increase in mob violence, since the outbreak of the Ebola virus. In recent times, the Police have received and responded to several reports of mob violence in and around Monrovia and elsewhere in the country. To date, the Police have rescued five (5) accused persons from such situation. In addition, in perpetrating these mob violence, roadblocks are erected, which obstruct the free flow of traffic, including ambulances that are taking Ebola suspects and other patients to the Hospital.

POLICE ACTION

In order to combat and contain this public menace, and in the face of the escalation of the Ebola causatives, the Police have developed a special operational plan codenamed “Operation Rescue 1 & 2” whose functions are to: 1. provide protection for health workers and ambulances going to collect patients and dead bodies, as well asto protect the cremation team from the ministry of Health; 2. Containment: Erect necessary barricades (roadblocks) and checkpoints – restricting movements (human and vehicular) to communities declared Ebola-infected.

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT

The Liberia National Police would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to the Government of Liberia for its support to the special operations plan. We would also like to congratulate the gallant men and women of the force who continue to demonstrate a high degree of commitment, dedication and patriotism to their profession in the face of this national crisis.

INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT

We also extend our gratitude to the U.S. Embassy for making available some urgently needed personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), including hand gloves and nose masks, for the immediate use of the Police. In addition, we have made personal contact with several of our colleagues in the United States for assistance which they have kindly consented to do some of which assistance are already expected to be airlifted and will be arriving soon. We say a big thank you to them for this kind humanitarian gesture in helping us fight the Ebola disease in our country.

LOCAL SUPPORT

The Liberia National Police (LNP) wish to recognize and extend deepest appreciation to the following local based business entities who made available the following initial items:

  1. Arcelor Mittal Liberia ——————– 250 gallons of fuel oil
  2. Trust Incorporated, Vai Town ———- 1 gallons of Chlorine (pending delivery)
  3. Oreus Mining Company — 54 sets of PPEs, 5 Thermometers for Testing (pending delivery)
  4. City Builders ——————————- 12 Spray Cans
  5. Fresh Frozen Food ———————— 100 bags of Rice (25kg) & 75 cartoon of Frozen Food

We ask all Liberians and our friends residing in our country to heed to the advice of the Ministry of Health and the National Ebola Taskforce headed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to join in one united front to kick Ebola out of Liberia. In these very difficult times in our country, let us use as a rallying battle cry these words of our national anthem which say “…In union strong success is sure, we will overall prevail…”.

God bless Liberia and safe the state. Thank you!

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