The Liberia National Police has charged 23 suspects in Sinoe County in connection with recent violence that resulted to destruction and looting of property of the concession company, Golden Veroleum Liberia in Butaw District.
Police authorities say after thorough investigation in Sinoe County, they have arrested 30 persons for their alleged involvement in the recent riot and turned them over to the Greenville Magisterial Court.
However, police say seven of the suspects have been released on grounds that they have no connection with the riot.
According to the police, those arrested have been charged with multiple charges, including “Rioting and Failure to Disburse, Economic Sabotage, Armed Robbery, Criminal Attempt to Commit Murder, Aggravated Assault, Terroristic Threats, Criminal Mischief, Criminal Conspiracy, Theft of Property, Burglary, Kidnapping, Felonious Restraint and Disorderly Conduct, all in violations of Chapter 17, Sections 17.1 and 17.3; Chapter 11, Section 11.6; Chapter 15, Sections 15.5, 15.32, 15.20 and 15.51; Chapter 10, Sections 10.1 and 10.4; Chapter 14, Sections 14.20, 14.24 and 14.50.”
On May 26, 2015, youth of Sinoe County particularly Butaw District converged at the entrance of Golden Veroleum Liberia, demanding to meet with a visiting senior official of the company, who was in the county to put forth their concerns, but they were denied, prompting violent protest.
Briefing reporters Tuesday, June 9, 2015 at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism on Capitol Hill, Assistant Police Director for Operations, Gregory W. Coleman, said the police were informed about the violence by Sinoe Superintendent Romeo Quiah and county police commander G. Alexander Mooney about civil unrest at the premises of Golden Veroleum Liberia, in Butaw District about 30 kilometers outside Greenville.
Col. Coleman said one Terry Panyonnoh was identified as president of a group calling itself Butaw Youth Association (BYA), which claimed ownership of the land occupied by GVL.
He said the association informed the police commander in the county that it had written the management of GVL earlier, requesting for a meeting with the CEO of the company, Mr. Pak Dauo, to further discus the land issue between Butaw citizens and GVL but they were denied entrance by GVL security into the company premises.
The deputy police chief continued that after the CEO departed the area, defendant Terry Panyonnoh, used a loud speaker and summoned all youths of the community; within a short period, a tumultuous crowd, consisting of both males and females, converged at the main entrance with machetes, stones, sticks, and single barrel short guns in their possession.
He said predicated upon an order of aggression issued by defendant Terry Panyonnoh, the group began to attack police officers and the company security guards manning the main entrance.
According to him, immediately some Operational Orders were issued to quiet the incident. “A Five-Fold Mission was immediately ordered which includes the following: Restore law and order; Search, seizure and arrest; Investigate; Prosecute; Community Policing”, Col. Coleman added.
He said the deployment of team of officers under his command was issued to the county commander, and search and seizure exercises conducted by the County Sheriff assisted by the Crime Services Division (CSD), whilst the police Emergency Response Unit covered the outermost perimeters and the Police Support Unit deployed within the perimeters; and GVL Security Officers were also present only to identify the company’s properties.
Meanwhile, the Liberia National Police has denied reports of torture, rape, and looting of citizens’ properties by police officers in Butaw.
Col. Coleman said contrary to the reports, the police backup team arrived after the initial vandalizing of GVL facilities and did not partake in any torturing or raping.
“We are, however, still calling on members of the community, who have accusations concerning the allegations to come forth with their claims but have not received any such information as at yet, because the officers remained on standby until the team Leader arrived with their instruction”, he defended.
“With regards to the allegation of looting, the LNP arrived in Sinoe with CLIF Energy Bars, Gatorade and Fuse energy drinks, as well as bread and water, recently donated to the police by the United States Army. Local community members, having seen the officers with these items, concluded that the items had been stolen from GVL Warehouses. GVL authorities have categorically denied being in possession of the aforementioned foods and beverages, neither in their warehouses nor anywhere on the GVL premises for that matter”.
Col. Coleman described as a cultural shock, for residents of Butaw to have seen huge presence of police officers in their locality, performing their statutory functions.
He added that measures have been put in place to educate the residents on police-community relations, taking into consideration that the police are friends to the community.
He stressed that the importance of community policing is to create a cordial relationship between GVL, residents of Butaw and the Liberia National Police as well as ensure that peace and security are maintained. By Lewis S. Teh – Edited by Jonathan Browne