Laws And Violence:Is There A Way Out?

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW) anarchy

One of the simplest definitions of laws is that they are regulations or rules made to guide our conduct and behavior. Laws are the antithesis of “anarchism,’ which is tantamount to chaos, disorder or lawlessness. One book defines laws as rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority.” like the government. These laws, whether in the form of regulations, rules, decrees, canons, precepts, statutes, and ordinance, tell us the dos and don’ts of the society.

To make them binding, these laws carry with them certain punishments for any violations or deviation. These punishments are intended to serve as deterrence, so others would avoid getting involved in such or incarceration, to get the doer from the rest of society. Sometimes people argue that there have been people serving long jail sentences or who had been punished for violating laws; others continue to indulge in similar acts for which people have been arrested and imprisoned to serve as deterrence.

While this argument may sound true, it should in no way suggest that laws are not important for any society. There would always be deviants and miscreants in the society. What matters is the complete enforcement of the laws to the letter or what is something said as the enforcement of the “full weight of the law.” This is where the due process or the rule of law comes in. This starts from the police and then ends up in the court.

But the issue here in today’s Liberia is whether or not the government really absorbed these processes to ensure that people who violate the laws are held liable for their acts? I say a BIG NO. It is because the government has refused to prosecute, that has given rise to the continuous acts of violence in the society today. Many times whenever these violent acts or acts of lawlessness take place, there would always be report by the government of the arrest of such violators, but nothing is heard about prosecuting them.

As a result, many persons, especially the young people see violence or lawlessness as the way out of any situation. This act or anarchy showed itself again yesterday when young people, including motorcyclists went on the rampage, burning down a police station, damaging cars and even taking away items in the Red Light Market following report that a police officer allegedly killed a motorcyclist. Consequence thereof, normal activities at that bustling market came to a standstill.

According to the story following the news of the boy’s death, “motorcyclists at the ELWA Junction, Du-port Road, Redlight and surrounding areas immediately mobilized, set up road blocks at the GSA Road Junction, Benson Hospital Junction to stop any moving vehicles mainly police vehicles before moving to Redlight to disrupt normal business activities.

“The motorcyclists who were in huge numbers reportedly overpowered the few police officers assigned at the Redlight Depot, freed the few prisoners in detention, made away with vehicles and bikes that were parked there before setting the depot ablaze.

The story said that after setting the depot ablaze, the motorcyclists who were then joined by other criminals in the area got on a looting spree moving from tables to another as marketers took to their heels for their dear lives something that resulted to serious looting of their businesses by the criminals.

After nearly two hours of violence the fracas was brought under control when a re-enforcement of the Police Support Unit (PSU) moved on the scene to calm the tension but prior to their arrival, the police depot had already been razed while many business owners lost their hard-earned businesses. Despite the frantic efforts by fire fighters who later went to extinguish the fire, they could not help the situation as the entire building that hosted the police depot had already been razed to its foundation by the uncontrollable afternoon fire.

As usually said, the police after the violent incident, has announced the arrest of some individuals in connection with the Thursday violent act. I even listened to Police Director Chris Massaquoi, on LBS Super Morning Show last Friday, talking tough on the act of violence.

But the million dollar question is: Will those involved be prosecuted? Is this another business as usual or a mere show, as, I, based on part experiences, do not see any prosecution from last Thursday’s violence? I say this by reflecting on one of the most serious incidents in this country that led to measures taken against motorcyclists plying only around the suburbs of the city.

The measures against the motorcyclists at the time came about after some aggrieved motorcyclists set ablaze a bus in the Gardnersville ( Freeway Area). Following the incident, it was reported that some individuals were arrested for that act. Today, nothing has been heard about this, thus giving rise to similar lawless acts, as was seen last Thursday. In fact, motorcyclists were still being seen in the streets, contrary to the regulations.

In his reaction to last Thursday’s incident, Justice Minister Benedict F. Sannoh stressed that government will not condone impunity and disruption of the peace and security of the state. He said the attention of the Ministry of Justice has been drawn to three incidents over the past two days involving motorbike riders, which directly or indirectly may have contributed to the violence that took place in the Paynesville area and its environs on Thursday, April 16.

In a special statement, quoted by LINA, regarding the violence in Paynesville, Minister Sannoh said he was informed that a motorbike rider, who was fleeing from the Police after he allegedly assaulted one of them at the GSA Road intersection, fell from his motorbike and was rushed to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead. According to him, this was the third motorbike rider’s death in two days.

With this statement from the Attorney General of the country or Government’s Chief Prosecutor, the public is waiting to see as to whether or not this would not be business as usual. Perhaps, this might be his first encounter of such a violent action since he took over the leadership of the ministry.

In all fairness, I blame the government for these continuous acts of violence that the young people continue to perpetrate in the society because no action such as prosecution has been taken to serve as deterrence. Every time we talk of this country being a country of law and not men, but many times have failed to march words with actions, in keeping with the justice system.

Frankly, the issue of being a country of law can only be effectuated if people who take the laws into their hands are made to face the full weight of the law. But to continue as it is today, we should expect the burning of more police stations, vehicles and properties which has now become the order of the day in this country.

Let me not be misconstrued as suggesting that it was right to take the life of a citizen. NO, this is wrong: there is no argument about this. This is homicide, which is forbidden by law; therefore, anyone responsible or culpable MUST face the law. But to act in such a way and manner last Thursday, is completely against the rule of law or the due process of law. This is my concern.

Again my concern is the behavior and attitude of those young people by taking the laws into their hands. Can you imagine what kind of society it would be should everyone who feels aggrieved or injured reverts to lawless action? Certainly, it would be what is locally referred to as, “dog-eat-dog” society, where there is no rule of law or the due process of law.

If this country is to alleviate these acts of violence, as was seen last Thursday, then, let this latest incident serve as a litmus test for would-be trouble makers, or else, the nation is bound to see more of similar acts of lawlessness.

Unarguably, if the laws are not enforced by the authority (the government) that is charged to do that, then, this would serve as a license for more violations and such lawless acts. The situation in Liberia is becoming too scaring as people habitually take the laws into their hands, without any action against them.

The government should begin to take action against individuals involved in such lawless acts. The government should not only be concerned about corruption cases, but also these acts of violence because its continuation would definitely result to instability and chaos, thereby affecting normal activities. IT MUST STOP!

Lest we forget that the days of lawless are over. What I saw last Thursday reminds me of the days of the civil crisis, where there was no law and order. Those days are over, therefore, individuals who want to take us back to those ‘might-makes right’ days, should be made to know that this is a country of laws and not men.

Indeed, as the headline of these inquiries, the way out of violence is the due process or the rule of law, or else, people would continue committing crimes with impunity. I Rest My Case.