New Deal Movement Chronicles Harassment Against Its Members
December 7, 2002
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press; our dear compatriots:
We have invited you here today for us to address ourselves to a number of issues, which, we think, are very critical to our continuous and peaceful cohabitation and survival as a people. We should therefore extend our heartfelt and sincere thanks and appreciation to you for honoring out invitation to attend this all-important press conference.
First, we like to emphasize, as we have repeatedly said, that we are truly committed to and shall pursue to its logical conclusion, the achievement of our ultimate goal, as a genuine alternative Party of capturing state power within the framework of the law, and then embark on the genuine construction of a social democratic society in Liberia. Since we declared our decision to form an alternative political movement, and during the entire process of registering this movement as a full-fledged political party in Liberia, we have consistently demonstrated determination, patience, respect for the rule of law, and tolerance. Notwithstanding, the present regime has and continues to provoke the party to open confrontation. What is the situation?
In March 2000, about twenty men dressed in State Security uniforms and armed with long-ranged rifles stormed our headquarters, brought down and took away the signboard of our party. Similarly, in March of this year, our National Chairman, who was then Acting Chair of the party, was illegally arrested, stripped of his personal effects, and thrown behind bars for over one week following the publication of our partisans list for registration. Furthermore, in July of this year, one of our local officials in Maryland County in person of Gbloteah Colley, was arrested and detained by county security forces on flimsy charges.
In addition, of late, especially following our well-attended, successful Second National Congress, the regime, being terrified by our presence and active work across the Country, has intensified its intimidating strategies of clamp down on the party. To effect these ugly strategies, the regime has decided to use the Elections Commission (ECOM), the Liberia Refugees Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), and men armed by the NPP Government as convenient conduits to harass, intimidate, and, if possible, ban the New DEAL Movement.
The ECOM, dominated by members and/or sympathizers of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) which metamorphosed into the NPP, is being used by the regime to always scare our Party with revocation of its certificate of accreditation. Usually, whenever the New DEAL Movement takes a critical stance on burning national issues, the regime reacts through the Election Commission. Consequently, the Commission is in the constant habits of threatening our party with the revocation of its certificate of accreditation on trivial matters. Does the Elections Commissions think we as a party are unaware as to what constitute sufficient grounds for revocation? Section VI of the Elections Guidelines and Article 80 a & b of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia clearly spell out what constitute revocation. We know this. So the Commission should stop threatening us with revocation of our certificate.
We should tell the Commission at this point that the New DEAL Movement is not one of those parties on which "scare tactics" can work. In fact, the Commission should be told in clear and unambiguous terms that the New DEAL Movement will never be cowed into submission by any force on earth. The Movement has emerged to work resolutely with other democratic forces to rescue our dear country from the hands of political wheeler dealers and con-artists, reactionary, evil and backward in their outlook. No one or group in Liberia nor fear will prevent or side track the Party from realizing this noble, historical mission! This Party, as a radical grassroots movement, with God above us, coupled with our sincere determination and resolve to fight vehemently against and remove every vestige of evil and primitive rule in Liberia, has got a mission to create a tolerant, non-violent, and social democratic order in the Liberian society, where all Liberians, irrespective of ethnic, religious, social, and political backgrounds, will co-exist and enjoy a quality of life befitting human beings.
We should meanwhile caution members of the ECOM to be very mindful in making decisions and pronouncements that affect the people of Liberia. Historically, Elections Commissions over the years have proven to be a part of the political crises in Liberia. Instead of the ECOM demonstrating neutrality and impartiality as well as fighting to ensure the essence of democracy, Elections Commissions under various regimes have acted in connivance with anti-democratic elements to overturn the popular will and decisions of the people. The 1927, 1955, and 1985 Elections Commissions that fundamentally imposed the C.D.B. King, the Tubman, and the Samuel K. Doe Military Regimes on the people of Liberia are graphic examples. The historical consequences of the behavior of the aforementioned regimes are historically documented. For this very Commission, history will either absolve or condemn its members for whatever the Commission has done and continues to do.
As for the LRRRC, we want to again call on the authorities of this agency of Government to put an immediate halt to the harassment and molestation of our party members in the displaced camps. For the past three months now, the LRRRC has continually chosen to discriminate against and intimidate our members and supporters in the displaced camps, particularly in Bong County. In early September 2002, a few days after the Second National Congress of the New DEAL Movement, the LRRRC, through its Regional Coordinator for Bong and Nimba Counties and the various camp Management Teams in CARI and Maimu Displaced Camps, orchestrated schemes geared at molesting our partisans, especially the officials of our party who attended the Congress from the Lofa Chapter. Of specific reference, the Lofa Chapter Chairlady, Mrs. Darboi Kowel, who happened to be the overall Chairlady of all the Chairladies in the camps, was targeted and chased out of the Camp in Maimu. At present, Mrs. Kowel is out of the camp. Her singular crime was her work with displaced women as a New DEALER.
Similarly, in early November 2002, the Chairman of the Lofa Chapter of the Movement, Comrade Jack Flomo and another official of our party were arrested and detained for two days by "State Security Men".
This time, the harassment has been elevated to abduction! Accordingly, on Sunday, December 1, 2002, Comrades Jack Flomo, Varney Gbeyan - the Chairpersons of the Lofa and the Gbarpolu Chapters of our Party respectively, plus another member of the Lofa Chapter were abducted and reportedly taken to the "battle front" in Lofa County by "Militia men" under the command of one "General Sando Diggs" of Sergeant Kollie Town (SKT) in Bong County. As we speak to you, our members are still in the hands of "General Diggs" and his men. We have received credible information that our partisans in question are being tortured by their abductors.
On account of these provocative developments, as a party, we've chosen not to be drawn into provocation. Instead, we have written letters of protest to the Elections Commission, the Defense Ministry, and the LRRRC, complaining about these acts of terror against our partisans. We want to state here again that we take exception to these acts of savagery and therefore call on the regime to halt the provocation of our Party. We must sound a caveat to the regime that the New DEAL will not sit supinely and see its members being bullyragged. We are prepared to fight with our blood and sweat for our rights! Our rights to exist and function as a party will not be begged nor negotiated for. In view of this, therefore, we demand the immediate release of our members abducted by "General Diggs" and his men, who we believe acted upon instructions. We will not only hold the NPP Government responsible for whatsoever that happens to the lives of our members, but we will certainly hit back (no matter how long it takes) at the abductors of our members, if harm is done to them!
Regarding the recent pronouncement by the Executive Director of the LRRRC, Mr. Samuel Brown, that "no other Political Party should engage in politics in the displaced camps," we challenge the LRRRC and maintain that the New DEAL Movement will continue to work with and amongst all Liberians, including most especially those of our people who have been forced, as a result of the undemocratic attitudes of the NPP Government, to live in displaced camps in their own Country. Mr. Brown should understand clearly that just as his Party, NPP, is currently working very actively with Liberians in the displaced camps, the New DEAL Movement will equally work with the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) wherever they are located. Does the LRRRC think we are not aware of the presence and active work of the NPP in the displaced camps? Does Mr. Samuel Brown think we are unaware of the fact that his party, the NPP, is forcing our suffering people to obtain NPP membership cards before they can receive a few cups of the 300,000 bags of rice donated to the Liberian Government by the Libyan Government? As we have said repeatedly, we will work to establish ourselves everywhere our people are. No one or group, including the LRRRC, can restrict us. The LRRRC has specifically established as a rule that the IDPs should not "engaged in politics". May we then ask: who should be more concerned about and politically involved in fighting to improve the current political crises? If it is not the IDPs, who are direct victims of political manipulations and the ongoing military crises in Liberia, then who?
Besides, the Liberian Constitution provides for free association and peaceful assemble for the people of Liberia for their common good. Thus, any guideline (s) or law (s) of any agency of government that are inconsistent to the constitutional rights are considered illegal and must be resisted.
In the meantime, we now like to address ourselves to the question of the 2003 General and Presidential elections in Liberia, especially conditions necessary for the holding of free, fair, transparent, and competitive elections in Liberia.
Firstly, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, we want to remind the NPP Government in general and the Elections Commission in particular that we are now in the year of elections! This means that all that is required to engender and ensure a fair and transparent process in which Liberians can unrestrainedly express their popular will must be put into motion.
Notwithstanding the fact that we are now about ten months to elections, the NPP Government is yet to concretely demonstrate that it is prepared to hold National Elections come October 2003. Up to now ECOM is yet to release the elections guidelines. It has not even begun voters' registration and education. The National Legislature has even reneged on its constitutional responsibility to ensure the holding of national census. All of these are very critical to the entire electoral process. We are quite concerned and want something done about them now.
On this note, we call on the NPP Government, based on its constitutional obligation, to commence disbursement of funds and make other needed support available to the ECOM promptly so that the commission can begin the process leading to the holding of the 2003 elections. Moreover, we demand the Government to do an official request to the United Nations as well as other international bodies (such as the EU) for financial and logistical supports to the Commission. The Government should not delay further in appealing to the UN and friendly foreign governments for support to the Commission. Failure on the part of the NPP Government to provide funds or seek support for the ECOM shall indicate a lack of moral and political will to hold the pending general and presidential elections.
And the regime should be told in no uncertain terms that we are on the watch for any reactionary, undemocratic and cunning tactics of delay! If the NPP Government thinks it can consciously delay support to the Commission under the guise of "no money" and "war" and then at the eleventh hour organize a kind of hotch potch process for the legitimization of the continuous stay in power of this Government, then it is making a serious big mistake. The leadership of the New DEAL Movement, with all the training acquired in school coupled with the experiences accrued during the long, bitter years of struggle for social justice and peace in Liberia, will work very strategically to ensure that never again, after almost thirteen (13) years of genocide, looting, gangsterism, and misrule, marked by the indescribable sufferings of Liberians in and outside of the Country, will any group ever hold Liberia and its people at ransom!
Again, the NPP Government must be reminded that it now has less than a year to shamelessly boast of the "popular will and mandate" of the people. If the current regime really won the 1997 Special Elections and even now enjoy the popular support of the people, as they always claim, then we challenge it to ensure that the following conditions exist to guarantee free, fair, transparent and democratic elections come October 2003:
1. The unconditional cessation of hostilities between the NPP Government and the forces of LURD; through a negotiated settlement. For you see, by August 2, 2003 when the mandate of this government shall have expired, war will never be accepted by the people of Liberia as an excuse for not holding elections. We therefore call on the International Community, particularly the contact group on Liberia, to take the pending elections very seriously and act swiftly, lest we find ourselves in more complicated crisis after the expiration of the mandate of this present government;
2. The creation and maintenance of an enabling environment in terms of security. This means that all irregular, factional and militia forces must be disarmed by an international stabilization force. This is crucial because it will engender a feeling of security in the members and officials of political parties, most especially those of the Opposition Parties; and
3. The resettlement of all our compatriots currently in displaced centers.
These conditions are indeed critical to the holding of transparent and democratic elections in Liberia. We therefore contend that if free, fair and transparent elections should be held in Liberia in which the New DEAL Movement should partake, these preconditions must be satisfied.
Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, to close this conference without commenting on the arrest and detention of Human Rights Advocate and Defender J. Aloysius Toe will certainly make the entire exercise of the Press Conference totally incomplete.
Certainly, the New DEAL Movement considers the arrest and detention of Human Rights Advocate and Defender Aloysius Toe as part of a grand strategy of the regime to unashamedly run critics of the regime out of Liberia. The Movement, of course, condemns these acts of the Government and meanwhile calls for the unconditional, immediate release of this renowned, true fighter for social justice, peace and democracy in Liberia.
It should be further noted that the "charge" of treason levied against Mr. Toe for his alleged links with the LURD is not only laughable and absurd, but is artificial and trumped-up. Without any fear of contradictions, the Movement wants to go on record to declare that prior to his ascendency to his current position as Project Officer of an Amnesty International Project of the Human Rights Center, Aloysius Toe was a Founding member of our party. This is an open secret. Our leadership roster on the New DEAL Movement's website and other official public documents of our party attest to this. We should stress here that neither Aloysius nor the New DEAL Movement owes anybody any apologies on this matter.
Admittedly, Aloysius Toe is a bonafide citizen of Liberia and, under the laws of Liberia, has the right to freely associate. He however resigned from all his official party activities, including payment of membership dues, prior to his official assignment with the Amnesty International. Evidently, owing to the ideals and principles for which Aloysius Toe stands and believes in, he could never be a member of LURD nor the NPFL, now the NPP! Logically then, to accuse Aloysius Toe of being a member of LURD based on a public document of LURD sent to numerous Liberians via the internet is an unsophisticated mischief! What is the real situation then?
By his orientation and work, Aloysius is being feared by the regime. Aloysius is fearless and investigative in his work; he always goes for the truth! During his illegal imprisonment at the Police Cell with the then Acting Chairman of our Movement (Nigba Wiaplah), Aloysius came across scores of fellow Liberians who were illegally detained. We should also note that Aloysius embarrassed the government by the exposure of the appalling conditions of the said detainees as he ensured their release through the filing of a writ of Habeas Corpus. Aloysius Toe has further exposed numerous human rights violations by state securities, including the Gbarnga Student uprising, which occasioned the death of innocent student and the subsequent removal of Police Commander Isaac Railey from the Police Detachment in Bong County. All of these have developed hatred in the regime for Aloysius. Unlike others some of whom now enjoy state power, Aloysius has not gone to jail for criminal acts! So then, it is clear that Aloysius is a prisoner of conscience! We believe that Aloysius had one hundred and one means of leaving the Country while in hiding and the state had no intelligence means of apprehending him. Notwithstanding, he refused to run away and leave the Country because his conscience was and remains clear, as such, he had no need to chicken out like others. The regime should understand that tendency that Aloysius Toe belongs to a political tendency that stands up to tyranny and does not run from it. No matter how long Aloysius Toe will be freed. What the regime should understand is that we will not beg for justice; we will fight for justice!!
Long live Liberia and its people. Long live the New DEAL Movement,
We thank you.