The Price of Peace Is Inexpensive, But Failure to Pay Can Be Costly

first_img“Let the people march—it is their constitutional right,” Albert Porte told President William R. Tolbert Jr. in Bensonville on April 13, 1979. “And keep the security in the background.” “That,” added the aging pamphleteer “would be a good compromise.”But Tolbert, emboldened by his wealthy and psychologically rigid Attorney General, Counselor Oliver Bright, would have none of that.Bright should have known better, because he was a good lawyer, well acquainted with the Liberian Constitution. But being a rich, ultra-conservative young man, there was a disconnect—“a great gulf”— between him and the ordinary, poor, idle, hungry young masses that passionately followed Bacchus Matthews, the brave and determined young fellow who led them through his Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL).“The government will not compromise,” President Tolbert barked back at Mr. Porte, who nonetheless continued to plead with, even beg, the President to reconsider.For his part, Attorney General Oliver Bright got on state radio, ELBC, and demanded that the march NOT take place, “otherwise we will shoot.”That was enough to provoke the defiant Matthews, great, great grandson of James Spriggs Payne, Liberia’s second President, and his eager and waiting followers. But there was more. Oliver Bright sent his police to PAL’s Gurley Street office, behind which stands the Gender Ministry, where they stormed PAL’s office, breaking up furniture and confiscating documents.By the time the word reached Carey and Broad Streets, the young people, many of whom did not belong to PAL, but had heard and were just waiting to join any trouble, started breaking into and looting shops, overturning vehicles and burning tires. Oliver Bright’s violence against PAL had quickly turned the peaceful march into a full scale riot!By the time the march reached the Information Ministry on Camp Johnson Road toward the Mansion, Police Director Varney Dempster pulled out his Magnum revolver. He later insisted he didn’t open fire, but shots were heard and three people were killed on the spot. The pandemonium escalated, leading to hundreds of deaths and the near destruction of Monrovia, costing US$100 million in damages, which the Liberian government later had to pay!Most government officials, including Oliver Bright, immediately went into hiding as President Tolbert remained besieged in the Executive Mansion. If the 1970s progressives had had a serious plan, they could have taken over the government on that day. But they had none, and many of them, including Matthews, ended up in jail. What is the point of this lengthy historical narrative?Its aim is to appeal to, urge, cajole, even beg, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, her Attorney General, Benedict Sannoh and Police Director Chris Massaquoi NOT to repeat history. Remember that from the 1960s (Togo), just as the Independence Movement had begun, and throughout that decade and the 1970s, there occurred successive coups d’état throughout Africa. But Liberians, enjoying their citadel of peace and stability, always said, “It can never happen here.”In this Editorial, we are NOT asking for another April 14 and its bloody, tragic aftermath. No! We are saying that history is staring us in the face with its “symbols,” which Edwin Barclay is hoping we will not “misread” (See Barclay’s poem, “Human Greatness” published in today’s edition). We do not think that Vandalark Patricks, despite his loud mouth, means any harm. He was only saying what most everyone is rightly or wrongly perceiving. We pray GOL will give a liberal interpretation to the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and deal leniently with him.This is an inexpensive approach to peace. GOL should not choose the more costly option. One last, IMPORTANT thing: President Sirleaf received great international and local acclaim for signing, on July 21, 2012, the Table Mountain Declaration. This Declaration challenges all African governments to commit themselves to repeal all draconian laws on their books against freedom of speech and of the press. Ellen was the second African leader to sign it—an act which was immensely appreciated. Unfortunately, the Liberian media, including the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), and Civil Society, have failed to follow through and ensure that these draconian laws are repealed by the Liberian legislature. True, the President should have made good her pledge by engaging her Legal Advisor andJustice Minister to research these laws and prepare bills to the Legislature for their repeal. The media and Civil Society should have pressed the Executive Mansion to do the follow-up work. We must all now act quickly to ensure that this is done expeditiously.Meanwhile, we pray that the President will remember her Table Mountain commitment and find a way to caution her Justice Minister to refrain from prosecuting Patricks using these same laws. This is a matter of sacred commitment and honor, for which we immensely thank her.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Millinery magic

first_imgThink of Isabella Blow and the image of a woman in an elaborate headpiece immediately comes to mind. An English magazine editor and international style icon, Blow was convinced she was ugly and hence almost always wore a hat to obscure her face. She died in 2007, still wearing the,Think of Isabella Blow and the image of a woman in an elaborate headpiece immediately comes to mind. An English magazine editor and international style icon, Blow was convinced she was ugly and hence almost always wore a hat to obscure her face. She died in 2007, still wearing the complicated creations designed for her by milliner-friend Philip Treacy (who even designed a black feathered hat for her cortege). Blow’s style has since been picked up by another Treacy club-member, Lady Gaga. The Poker Face hit-maker has been seen sporting the most eclectic headgear designs, including an extraordinary telephone-shaped piece and a lobster hat. Every time she makes an appearance, eyes pop.Rumour has it that Gaga now wants to intern with Treacy, who, incidentally, learnt the chops from iconic milliner Stephen Jones. The latter opened his first millinery salon in London’s Covent Garden in 1980 to immediate success. From rockstars to royalty, Boy George to Lady Diana, everyone saw Jones as the man who could help them grab eyeballs. And he did. Jones made millinery seem modern and compelling. In materials that were radical, and in designs that ranged from refined to whimsical, his exquisitely-crafted hats encapsulated the fashion mood of the moment. Thirty years later, Jones’ edgy creations continue to draw celebrities and his creations include showgirl head-dresses for Kylie Minogue and the tiniest of tricornes for burlesque super-star Dita Von Tesse.Hats have been considered wearable art since the late 17th century when they were embellished with ribbons, flowers, leaves, feathers and gauze trims. Through the centuries, they have risen (and fallen) to the occasion, adapting the size and style of the brim, crown and adornments to the mood and need of the times. At the turn of the 20th century, hats were essentials that no one left home without. In the 1930s, Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli created headpieces in funky shapes. The war years saw the popularity of hats receding but a 1968 photograph of a Balenciaga runaway model wearing a giant basket hat tells us of their return-with a vengeance. They became especially popular in the 1980s, courtesy Lady Diana (who wore a lot of them when she first came into the public eye) but faded again after that. Most young women rejected them for being too conformist.But not any more. Hats, from boyish berets to pert pillboxes, are no longer being reserved for polo matches and horse races. The turnaround began in SS 2008 when Oscar de la Renta’s models sported tiered feather hats at New York Fashion Week. Then Sarah Jessica Parker wore a Philip Treacy number to the premiere of Sex & the City, and hats jumped onto the heads of young women looking to make a statement. Both Jones and Treacy can take credit for the trend, having created some of the edgiest and most era-defining hats seen in recent times. For Dior’s Spring couture 2010 show, Jones’ giant snoods, veils and hats were a spectacle worth witnessing. Treacy, meanwhile, has been showing exaggerated headwear with feathers, flowers, crystal-embellished veils and coquettish bows in the minty fresh colours of purple and pink.They’re not the only ones in on the act. Designers across the board offered ample options-in styles, material and colours-on Fall runways this year. Anna Sui, Tory Burch, Rochas and Michael Kors offered hats with busy prints, neutral tones and creamy textures while variations of the fedora were seen at Yohji Yamamoto, Salvatore Ferragamo and Kenzo. Knitted hats were big everywhere but few things created more razzmatazz than the fur hats from Jean Paul Gaultier, de la Renta, Marc Jacobs and Diane Von Furstenberg (who also showed an interesting beret embellished with floral details). To those who like things simple, Paul Smith doffed his newsboy cap and Herms its bowler hat.The scene is hotting up in India too. Shilpa Chavan of Little Shilpa, who apprenticed under Treacy, is making a mark with elaborate headgear fashioned out of a mlange of bangles, feathers, acrylic flip flops, plastic, old military badges and 3D plastic pieces. Last year, Nida Mahmood’s High on Chai collection featured hats made of items used at tea stalls while Nitin Bal Chauhan had his models wearing telephone-sets, fans and books as headpieces. As designers worldwide turn the trend on its head, it is only a matter of time before funky headwear garners mainstream attention.advertisementlast_img read more