One of Liberia’s oldest opposition political parties, the United People’s Party (UPP) has released a statement what it called ‘A Note To Leaders of Opposition Political Community of Liberia.
Below is the full text of the ‘Note’ by the National Chairman of the UPP, Thomas Harris :
My Esteemed Colleagues:
This communication is not intended as a lecture, but rather as a Note between colleagues, conveying ideas that we – Leaders of the opposition political community of Liberia- should consider when deciding how to assist in managing the novel Coronavirus Pandemic and the National State of Emergency that is currently in effect.
President George Manneh Weah, in keeping with requirements of Chapter IX of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic, has declared a National State of Emergency. His Administration and the Legislature are pursuing specific measures to bring under control the situation which has prompted the emergency. As national leaders, we are obliged, for the common good, to cooperate and call on our party members and the public at large, to fully comply.
While the Government is mobilizing resources to support efforts aimed at ameliorating and eliminating the impact of the pandemic on the population, we, as leaders and members of the opposition political community, should help to lessen the burden on the people by soliciting – through our own initiatives -humanitarian assistance, from people of good will. And, we should devise plans to provide direct assistance for vulnerable groups in various communities of the country. I am pleased to inform that the United People’s Party (UPP) intends to do just that, and will be more than happy to collaborate with others in this regard.
Measures taken by the President under the state of emergency, duly declared and consistent with Articles 85, 86, 87, and 88, of the 1986 Constitution are valid, and, therefore, should be complied with. Let us continue to advise our partisans and foreign friends that: No person within the territorial borders of Liberia should resist the legal and constitutional measures the Government is implementing for the purpose of saving lives.
But, what if measures announced by the President are enforced in a manner that inflict undue pain and suffering on citizens and non-citizens, and cause discomfort within the society? Chapter IX of the Liberian Constitution, Articles 85 and 87, are abundantly clear as it relates to this issue:
Article 85(a): The President may, in consultation with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, proclaim and declare the existence of a state of emergency in the Republic or any part thereof. Acting pursuant thereto, the President may suspend or affect certain rights, freedoms and guarantees contained in this Constitution and exercise such other emergency powers as may be necessary and appropriate to take care of the emergency, subject, however, to the limitations contained in this Chapter; and
Article 87(a): Emergency powers do not include the power to suspend or abrogate the Constitution, dissolve the Legislature, or suspend or dismiss the Judiciary; and no constitutional amendments shall be promulgated during a state of emergency. Where the Legislature is not in session, it must be convened immediately in special session and remain in session during the entire period of the state of emergency; and
Article 87(b): The writ of habeas corpus shall remain available and exercisable at all times and shall not be suspended on account of any state of emergency. It shall be enjoyed in the most free, easy, inexpensive, expeditious and ample manner. Any person who suffers from a violation of this right may challenge such violation in a court of competent jurisdiction.
My Esteemed Colleagues, the primary reason for this NOTE is to encourage not just us, leaders of the opposition political community, but Liberians in general that, in the event we begin to experience the unfolding of two emergencies: (1) the continued spread of the Coronavirus, and (2), the abuse of Human Rights by Government agents who are commissioned to enforce compliance, we must quickly file formal notifications with the relevant agencies.
As it relates to continued spread of the coronavirus notwithstanding efforts to contain it; and abuse of Human Rights by Government Security agents, clear and concise notification must be sent immediately to the Minister of Health, or the Minister of Justice or the Minister of National Defense. Formal notification must provide details and facts as to who, when, where, what, and how. The notification, once made to the relevant agency, should be publicized and copies deposited with the office of the President; the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives; and the office of the President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate.
We present this NOTE, confident that, President Weah, by his declaration of the national state of emergency and measures intended to stop the spread of the Coronavirus, did not in any way intend the use of violence against any person.
I pray that we all will exercise precaution and be safe as we go through these challenging times.