-Following worst -ever protest
Justice Minister Cllr. Frank Musa Dean and Police Inspector General Col. Patrick Sudue visited the Temple of Justice Tuesday, 3 November with reports that they allegedly held a closed door meeting with Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr., barely 24 hours after judicial worker Archie Ponpon set himself ablaze in protest in the courtyard.
It is not clear what may have been discussed among the officials as none of them accepted reporters’ request for an interview following the visit.
Mr. Ponpon set himself ablaze at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia on Monday, 2 November in an Arab-style protest, having accused Chief Justice Korkpor of allegedly using all draconian means to hunt, suspend and relieve aggrieved staffers of their positions due to their protest.
The judicial workers started the protest roughly four months back in demand for the Liberian dollars component of their salaries that had been outstanding for about a year, but it escalated recently and their leader Mr. Ponpon threatened to set himself ablaze after judicial authorities indefinitely suspended, transferred and placed some of the protesters under investigation.
Following Monday’s incident, a small group of young men led by Kelfala A. Kanneh gathered outside the premises of the Temple of Justice Tuesday, 3 November in protest, demanding Chief Justice Korkpor’s resignation.
Security was tight at the Temple of Justice Tuesday, riot police were deployed and the iron gates at every entrance leading to the facility was sealed and guarded by officers. “Our quest is that … we want him to resign immediate and effectively and we want other Liberians to join us in the process,” Mr. Kanneh says in an interview.
In what may be the first of such terrible style of protest in Liberia, Mr. Ponpon appeared to have concealed gasoline and fire litter to make his way into the premises of the Temple of Justice on Capitol Hill ahead of November 8, the day he publicized that he would have set himself ablaze.
Ponpon and few of his fellow aggrieved judicial workers had just been served some writ of arrests Monday, 2 November by court officers when he suddenly walked up the stairs outside the building hosting the Supreme Court and pulled out a bottle filled with gas from under his double clothes with coat on top.
He placed the writ by his side, lied on the floor while he spilled the gas over his body, mainly on his chest and then pulled out a fire litter, setting himself ablaze as those around him yelled and cried out for his life. The courtyard went wild as Mr. Ponpon’s “Arab style protest” sent a shock to almost everyone seeing him burnt in flame on the sunny Monday.
In an effort to save Mr. Ponpon, some of his colleagues used water reserved in an anti – coronavirus bucket to extinguish the fire. But the fire left his skin peeled and wounded. His colleagues suddenly took him away using a motorbike to seek medication.
On Monday, some of the judicial workers assembled at the scene where Ponpon set himself ablaze and staged a protest, demanding justice and the resignation of Chief Justice Korkpor.
They have vowed to parade with caskets at the court’s premises. Riot police were deployed at the scene, with no latter incident.
Prior to leading his fellow workers into this sustained protest at the Judicial branch, Ponpon has been in different protests as a student and as a campaigner following different issues, including his advocacy for same sex union, something which is a taboo in the Liberian society.
Ponpon’s move to campaign for gay rights in Liberia resulted to the burning down of a house rented by his mother after he set up the Movement for the Defence of Gays and Lesbians in Liberia in January 2012 to defend the rights of homosexuals in the country.
He survived other attacks that were related to his homosexual campaign before he finally aborted the move. He took part in student politics at the state – run University of Liberia before coming out to take on issues on the national level.
In December 2011, Ponpon was sent to court by the Liberia National Police along with one Oliver Siaty for trial for burning the Norwegian flag.
By Winston W. Parley