Float conveying the casket bearing the mortal remains of Honorable Adolph Lawrence from the Samuel Stryker Funeral Parlour in Sinkor to the Capitol Building on Capitol Hill
The state funeral for a falling member of the House of Representatives, Thursday, April 25, turn out to be a chaotic situation as the wife of the late Representative Adolph Lawrence of District # 15Montserrado County made a quick and timely decision to divert the coffin bearing the mortal remains of her late husband.
The commotion started when the Chairman of the opposition Liberty Steve Zargo was prevented from entering the Capitol by people believe to be rival to the Liberty Party. According to eye witnesses, people wearing t-shirts bearing inscriptions of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) allegedly humiliated and physically attacked Chairman/Senator Steve Zargo and prevented him from entering the Capitol.
The late Representative Adolph Lawrence was a member of the CDC up to his demise. However, in his last days, he varied on policy differences with his party (CDC) and became heavily aligned with the opposition block.
Rep. Lawrence won the District #15 Montserrado County seat twice on the ticket of the Coalition.
The controversial CDC chairman, Mulbah Morlu, once threatened to suspend Rep. Lawrence’s membership with the party for views he (Morlu) believed was not supportive of the CDC policy and norms. It was reported that he (Lawrence) had evicted the party from its district headquarters in the district.
In his last days, Lawrence was a strong critics of the President George Weah’s leadership. He was one of the brains behind the formation of the Independent Legislative Caucus, a group of lawmakers who have complained House Speaker Bhofal Chambers for unfair legislative practices.
These lawmakers usually criticize the Speaker in their views for not adequately providing the needed leadership.
In response to the incident, the head of Independent Legislative Caucus, Rep. Larry Younquoi (Nimba County District #8), blamed the Thursday situation at the Capitol to the failure of the House’s leadership to take control.
Rep. Younquoi lamented that this is the first time in the history of Liberia that the state has lost control of a state funeral, something that he described as a complete embarrassment to the nation.
“For us to sit down here today without him is something that we really have to worry about. It is a leadership problem. I was Chairman on Saah Fofee Bemba’s funeral. We got down at the Monrovia City Hall and [former] Speaker [Alex] Tyler made sure that everything was in place. When we saw that there was conflicting demands, we could have nailed it right in the butt. We all could have gone behind the body, everyone stopped at the gate and the Legislature performs her ritual and gives the tribute that our fallen colleague deserves,” said Rep. Younquoi.
Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, wife of the late Representative, had earlier told the government that besides the moral support, she did not need financial support from the government as she and her family were prepared to underwrite the financial cost for funeral arrangements and home-going of her husband.
Another member of the Independent Legislative Caucus, Rep. Francis Dopoe blamed Speaker Chambers for allowing partisans of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) to troop in the Capitol Building with chants of party slogans and praises directed towards President George M. Weah instead of posturing to honor the dead.
Rep. Dopoe noted that the Cidians’ action was provoking and it shouldn’t have been condoned by the House’s leadership headed by Chambers. He characterized it as “embarrassing and shameful”.
“We came here to praise the dead, not somebody who is living. Why should you praise the President? Is it the President, who is dead? No, it is Adolph, not the President. We should be singing a song for Adolph. So their actions suggested that they didn’t support Adolph; they don’t know Adolph. If you want to force your way in, it is wrong. While it is true we respect the decision of the family, we regret that our brother’s body is not in the Rotunda.”
As funeral home staffs were about to bring down the coffin of Adolph from the float, which conveyed it from the Samuel Stryker Funeral Parlour in Sinkor to the Capitol Building so that it can lie in state, confusion broke out over whom to carry the coffin into the Rotunda of the Capitol. It became an issue of ownership — the CDC and the opposition Liberty Party, which his wife heads as Political leader.
The battle for supremacy led to a serious scuffle that lasted few minutes preventing funeral home staff from doing their work. As the situation grew tense, Senator Karnga-Lawrence, the deceased wife diverted the float to take her husband’s remains to a safe zone to prevent the coffin from being destroyed in the melee.
The situation left many people including family members and dignitaries, who had trooped in to pay their last respect to the fallen lawmaker, in a total state of confusion.
Rep. Lawrence died on March 25 in a tragic motor accident on the Robertsfield highway. Some members and supporters of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change took to social media celebrating the death of the lawmaker.
Prior to his death, Rep. Lawrence was vocal on what he perceived as misrule and ills under the Weah-led administration.
At his last session, he urges his colleagues in the House of Representatives to make the Inspector General of Police appear before them concerning the mysterious death of senior staff of the Central Bank of Liberia, Matthew Innis. There are reports that Mr. Innis had extensive knowledge on the alleged missing L$16 billion and the questionable infusion of the US$25 million that was intended to mop up excess Liberian dollars from the market.
Rep. Lawrence was concerned why citizens having knowledge of major corruption issues mysteriously died during the course of investigations.
He referenced the late Michael Allison, who allegedly died by drowning and the late Harry Greaves, who also allegedly died by drowning. Both men died when there were ongoing alleged corruption investigations.
According to some members of the House of Representatives, when the float left the yard of the Capitol Building, it took the deceased coffin to the district’s headquarters, for supporters and residents to pay him their last support. Up to press time, there was no official statement from the House of Representatives about the disruption.
In response to the situation, the Chairman of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Mulbah Morlu said, the CDC’s participation in the state funeral was authorized by the late lawmaker’s wife, Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence.
He further claimed that the LP and UP, led by Steve Zargo, “violently disrupted Adolph’s funeral to deny him a dignified funeral at the Capitol Building.
“The weak and acrimonious opposition needs to stop being disingenuous and make haste to explain the actual facts of the disruptive acts of violence they staged with their own hands, right before the eyes of the media and the public.”
“We were already peacefully seated in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building awaiting the arrival of the mortal remains of our late partisan, and then heard that partisans of the Liberty Party, backed by Sen. Steve Zargo, had tried to violently bulldoze their way into the Capitol Building, leading to exchanges with the Police.
“Once more, all this took place while we already sat waiting inside unaware that the opposition was fermenting violence, delivering disruptive skirmishes at the entrance of the Capitol Building.”
Morlu continued: “This unruly action on display at the Capitol Building didn’t start there. They had carried out similar provocation at the Samuel Stryker Funeral Parlors, preventing CDCeans from coming anywhere close to the hearse/vehicle bearing the mortal remains of Partisan Adolph Lawrence.”
According to him, throughout the procession, he along with other leaders calmed partisans and conceded to the LP and UP collaboration, letting them have their way.
“This is the way they wanted it and had planned the whole thing to generate the result they now have. As always, the CDC remains a party of love and tolerance, which explains the huge attendance of our partisans in a genuine outpouring of grief and sympathy to the bereaved family as we continue to mourn the death of comrade Adolph Lawrence. He warned the opposition to stop politicizing the loss of a statesman. “They cannot be inhaling the smoke of their own exhaust, getting high on it, while at the same time trying to shift blames to a grieving party. This isn’t politics, its wickedness, desperation and insensitivity to the pains of others.”
At his final journey, the leadership of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) including House Speaker did not show up at the funeral and burial site, a situation which baffled many Liberians.