–3 left unconscious
Riot police in Monrovia have dragged protesting judicial staffers, leaving protest leader Archie Ponpon and two others unconscious at the Temple of Justice on Capitol Hill Monday, 12 October.
While a program marking the opening of the Supreme Court was ongoing, the aggrieved judicial staffers in extension of their weeks of protests for Liberian dollars component of their salaries allegedly cut, assembled outside the court, beating drums and chanting Chief Justice Francis S. Korpor’s name.
In the process police forcefully dragged the aggrieved staffers out of the premises of the court yard, leaving three people unconscious.
The state securities that were assigned at the Temple of Justice for the opening of the Supreme Court managed to push the protesting judiciary staffers from their first point of gathering. Later the security forces used force and dragged the protesters outside the fence of the Temple of Justice. Some of the protesters were seen lying flat on the ground.
Prior to falling unconscious, the aggrieved staffers’ spokesperson Archie Ponpon argued that it is unfair to them as family heads to be mistreated by an institution that is supposed to provide justice to people within the country.
According to Mr. Ponpon after all their negotiations indoor with the authorities at the Judiciary have failed to yield good results, the aggrieved staffers saw the need to continue assembling at the grounds of the Temple of Justice.
He says they did so to seek the attention of the public and the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led – government to pay their Liberian dollars salaries.
“This is the Temple of Justice where people residing here in Liberia come to seek justice, but it will surprise you the media and the world at large to know that at this same Temple of Justice, staffers are being treated like modern day slaves,” Ponpon laments.
According to him, there is no justice for them and it is time they put aside the diplomacy and tell the Chief Justice that they have families at home, school is about to open and their children need to be in school.
“So in this light, we’re kindly requesting our unpaid salaries this court has owed us for the past 12 months,” Mr. Ponpon alleges.
During the protest marred by anti- Chief Justice Korkpor slogans and drumming with gallons and pot tops, renowned Liberian lawyer Cllr. Pearl Brown-Bull appeared on the scene to hear from the protesters, and later took along with her one of their placards to the office of Chief Justice Korkpor.
“I am going to the office of the Chief Justice. I’m taking one of your placards with me so the chief justice can see it because it’s really bad when you work for twelve months and you don’t take pay. My husband used to all of you here, I started working here as a cadet when I was attending the University of Liberia and we used to get paid,” Brown-Bull tells the aggrieved staffers.
Minutes after she left with the placard, the Minister of Justice Cllr. Musa Dean told the aggrieved staffers that the Government of Liberia is concerned about their plight, saying he had called the Minister of Finance Samuel Tweah to come to the Temple of Justice.
Following a brief meeting with the Chief Justice and the Justice Minister, Finance Minister Samuel Tweah told the huge gathering that Chief Justice Korpor in no way has money for any judiciary staffer.
Instead, Minister Tweah says the Government of Liberia owes the Chief Justice some unpaid salaries.
He explains that after the salaries harmonization exercise was introduced, the component of the Liberian dollars salary was removed, suggesting that there is no employee from any government ministries or agencies who has been receiving the Liberian dollars salaries since the harmonization process started.
The Finance Minister continues that on Tuesday, 13 October, the Ministry’s technical team will arrive at the Temple of Justice to explain the harmonization process and all other things they need to know about how the harmonization process has affected their Liberian dollars.
During the opening of the Supreme Court Monday, the Chief Justice urged the judicial staffers to refrain from further protest, saying their action is disrupting court processes and deprives party litigants of unhindered right of access to justice.
He notes that the protesters are under the illusion that the deductions made in their salaries are being deposited in the account of the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court.
By Ben P. Wesee–Edited by Winston W. Parley