What was arranged by the campus-based University of Liberia Student Union or ULSU for students of the University to engage House Speaker Alex Tyler on the work of the Legislature turned disruptive Wednesday, 27 January on the UL Main Campus in Monrovia when protesting students from opposing campus-based parties booed and threw stones, disbursing the crowd that had gathered under the famous Palava Hut on campus.
The Intellectual Discourse Committee of ULSU had invited Speaker Tyler, head of the Liberian Legislature, to address the student populace on activities of the first branch of government in the past 10.
But as the Speaker mounted the podium under the Palava Hut and began the intellectual exchange with the students, missiles flew from all directions, sending the audience on its heeds.
Tyler himself, unhurt, was forced to cut his engagement with the students short and was bundled into his official vehicle by aides, and immediately driven out of the campus to his office at the Capitol Building, situated right opposite the UL Main Campus in the fence across the street that leads to town.
One account had earlier said the Speaker was hit and his vehicle attacked, but speaking to O.K. FM via mobile phone subsequently, he dismissed the claim as untrue. “Nobody stoned me”, the Bomi County lawmaker said.
He said even at the national level, there are political parties with opposing views, adding “That’s democracy.” Tyler, who appeared determined, vowed to return to the UL campus in the not distant future to address the students.
“They wanted to know what impact we have made in the last 10 years”, he said, and described the reaction from the students as normal, saying “That is a normal thing at the University of Liberia; where you have opposing views, you must expect that; that’s politics.
Speaker Tyler’s political journey has been characterized by barrage of controversies, particularly after he jumped the boat, announcing his resignation from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s governing Unity Party.
He cited lack of consultation, among others as reasons behind his resignation. But critics say the move was an act of betrayal to the party on whose ticket he was elected to the House of Representatives and subsequently becoming Speaker.
However, Tyler seems not to be despaired by reactions from critics. He has gone ahead and organized his own party, Liberian People Democratic Party or LPDP with eyes on the Presidency come 2017.
By Jonathan Browne