Marketers staged a non – violent protest outside President George Manneh Weah’s office on Monday, 8 October, to draw his attention to an alleged “rebellious act” of armed personnel forcefully removing their elected organization president.
“I believe that this is a rebellious act. We cannot just come up to take and pluck out the president or the vice president. It will not be constitutional,” says Deddeh Saybah Kollie, USAID Market Superintendent.
Madam Kollie and other market superintendents led scores of members of the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA) Monday in a peaceful protest outside President Weah’s office against Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor’s alleged use of force to remove LMA president Alice Yeebahn from office due to alleged corruption.
Under Alice’s administration, Sup. Kollie says she thinks Vice President Taylor felt insulted by LMA leadership’s refusal to appoint the VP’s sister and cousin to superintendent positions, claiming it may have prompted Alice’s forceful removal.
“Because the Vice President Madam Jewel Howard – Taylor now sends people from Lofa County and people from Bong County so we can make them superintendents … she asked us to now appoint her sister and her cousin in Lofa County and Bong County respectively and we refused to do that,” she alleges.
Madam Taylor’s office says she suspended the officials due to alleged perennial allegations of corruption, financial mismanagement, misappropriation of resources and other acts inimical to the existence of the Association. She set up an interim leadership at the LMA.
But Sup. Kollie accuses Madam Taylor of “making the rebellious act,” saying it is constitutional that the LMA gets its president in to allow her serve for the four years that she was elected for.She warns that if President Weah cannot come in and help the aggrieved marketers in solving the situation that Madam Taylor has put them into, they will take their children from school “and we will have numbskull people in the city.”
“So I believe that with this act, we are going to take our children from school because it’s what we use to get our children into school,” Sup. Kollie warns.According to Sup. Kollie, she knows that Vice President Taylor lose the battle in Bong County so she now wants to regain strength by asking the LMA to appoint her sister and her cousin in Lofa and Bong Counties, respectively.
When Vice President Taylor allegedly sent her sister and cousin for superintendent positions at LMA, Sup. Kollie claims that the LMA told her that before one gets a top official job at LMA, they must first begin working with the organization from the least position as a sweeper and rise to collector.
According to her, the essence of going through this is to afford the person the opportunity to know the terrain of the market.She says they investigated the people whose names were allegedly forwarded by Madam Taylor to establish how long they have worked with the LMA and to know if they had rapport with marketers.
“When the people came, they never had any marketing ID card. That means they have not been contributing to the Marketing Association. So we couldn’t just take them,” Sup. Kollie adds, failing to state the names of those allegedly sent by Madam Taylor for appointment.She claims that Madam Taylor’s intervention was more of a personal interest rather than handling marketers’ issue.
She pleads with President Weah to come in and investigate because she believes that those suspended by Madam Taylor committed no wrong to be removed.Further, she says they want President Weah to reinstate Madam Yeebahn into office, warning that if President Weah doesn’t act immediately, marketers will take their children from school.
According to Sup. Kollie, it is the LMA’s assembly that is made up of representatives from the 15 counties here that elects the president for four years.She says VP Taylor’s action was very unconstitutional, harsh and needs to be revisited by President Weah.
Earlier speaking, Barnersville Market Superintendent Sonie Paasewe says they are protesting to draw President Weah’s attention because their elected [LMA] president “was forced from office” by armed officers.“So we came to our father today to ask him to intervene,” she says.Sup. Paasewe claims that Vice President Taylor’s office forced Alice out of office on grounds that she was being suspended so that an audit could be conducted at the LMA.
“She says she suspended her because she wanted audit, and up to this time we haven’t heard about any audit,” Sup. Paasewe alleges.According to her, Madam Taylor’s action violates the LMA Act and the Constitution, arguing that it is only the LMA Assembly that that has the right to suspend the institution’s president.
“We elected her, we put her there, we got right to impeach her or suspend her but not the Vice President’s Office,” Sup. Paasewe argues.According to her, Vice President Taylor set up an interim leadership at LMA that is made up of the same people that carried complaints against suspended president Yeebahn.
The suspended LMA president and the averse party had a case at the Civil Law Court seeking Judicial review following Madam Taylor’s action suspending Alice and other elected officials.But Sup. Paasewe says Judge Yusuf Kaba threw the case out on grounds that Alice should have sued as an individual, but not an entity.
Paasewe complains that the suspension of Alice is causing LMA workers not to get their salaries, forces some marketers to abandon the markets because they believe that the leadership is not settled, among others.
She says she wants President Weah to reinstate Alice into office, before any audit can be conducted.In a peaceful protest outside President Weah’s office, marketers held placards with different inscriptions reading: We want our LMA president back; Your Excellency please intervene and save the LMA.”Others read: “Mr. President you are the father of peace, please give us peace – LMA,” among others.
By Winston W. Parley