By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
It is often said that, “man is a selfish being.” This phrase is subject to all kinds of interpretations. Some may interpret it as “only being concerned for one’s interest,” while others may say that it means, “being concerned about what involves a person, group or institution to which a person has some concerns or relationship.”
It is from the latter that I have decided to comment on some issues involving the police and some media institutions in the country. I take interest in this because the head of the police, Col Chis Massaquoi is my foster brother, and so I am very concerned about the “acts” of his men because at the end of the day, the head of the institution would be blamed for “all acts” of his men.
As a lawyer, Director Massaquoi, knows under the doctrine of “Respondeat superior,” a Latin phrase which means, “let the superior make answer,” in these kinds of situations, it is difficult to absolve himself of the acts of his men. In other words, it simply means that the heads must answer to the acts, behavior or attitude of their men. This is why sometimes commanders are always held liable for the acts of their men.
Besides my relationship with the director, my interest in the police also stems from the fact that my mother, Elizabeth W. Blaye served the Liberia National Police (LNP) when it was operating from a warehouse, like a rectangle, in the same vicinity where the present headquarters now is located.
Because of these two, I have a special interest and I’m always concerned about things that may negatively impact on that reputation of the police, as the first line of the county’s security. It is based on that I have decided to deal with some issues relative to the operation of the police.
It can be recalled that few days ago, I wrote an article denouncing the kind of force that was used to close down the National Chronicle Newspaper on Carey Street. At the time, the combat-gear move of the police sent a negative signal to the suburbs of the city, as it was rumored that there was shooting in Monrovia, apparently because of the sound from the teargas that the police reportedly used to scare the employees to leave.
Similarly, over the weekend, it was learned that the police invited the Managing Editor of the “WOMEN VOICES,” Ms Helen G. Nah for a conference for a story in which some officers of the police accused their leaders of not being fair in the distribution of funds intended for Ebola operation. Professionally, the story was balanced, with the side of the police through its spokesperson, Sam Collins, and that the word, “accused” was used which was very appropriate and puts the institution in a neutral position.
Had headline been affirmative, without the use of the verb “accused” then there could have been ground to raise breach of professional ethics, but that was not the case in that particular matter for which the editor was summoned and reportedly harassed and intimidated.
Furthermore, I was even shocked to learn that the police insisted on taking her photo, something her lawyers opposed, but still the police did take her photo, as a matter of a conference tuned into criminal investigation. Frankly, if this is what the police would institute by turning an invitation to a criminal investigation, this has the propensity to discourage people from “assisting” the police in whatever investigation.
Also, I have learned that some police officers were used to escort Public Works Minister Antoinette weeks to a church during which time it was reported that the Minister disrupted a service on grounds that the service was causing noise that was disturbing her peace at night.
I refer to these kinds of situations as the “little things that matter,” not in a sense of triviality, but to show that these are some of the things that may not be taken seriously, but would affect the country’s image. We should not be surprised to see some of these little things catalogued or categorized in the annual report of major international groups as human rights violation.
As I have always said, this government is yet to put its house in order in dealing with issues relative to media. One of the things this government can be vainglorious about is free press and freedom of speech, but these little things have the propensity to undermine this strive.
It is not a hyperbole or an overstatement that this government, especially President Sirleaf has received many laurels or this. Therefore, care must be taken in dealing with media-related issues. Perhaps, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) or the Publishers Association should be allowed to handle some of these issues, rather than using police or other methods that would cause embarrassment to this country.
I am publicly raising these issues so that my foster brother, Chris Massaquoi , who is also a lawyer, can take note and act properly, so that the family, including the “ 0ldMa” in New Kru Town would be proud at the end of the day.
As I end this article, with a deviation from the subject matter,I want my foster brother to also take note of the numerous armed robbery incidents during the curfew hours, some of which victims claimed were done by men dressed in police uniforms.
A hint to the wise is quite sufficient. As it is said locally, “God will not come to talk to you.” I Rest My Case.