GBARNGA, BONG COUNTY –Police in Gbarnga have charged and sent to court Representative Josiah Marvin and eight others for allegedly beating the Officer-In-Charge (OIC) of Gbonota Clinic in Senoyea District 4, Bong County.
The Bong County District 3 lawmaker, who is also a member of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) was charged with criminal facilitation, criminal solicitation, criminal conspiracy, and physical obstruction of government function under sections 10.2, 10.3, 10.4 & 12.1 of the new Penal law of Liberia.
According to the police charge sheet, C. Tarwoe Walonfah, Hannah N. Kermue, Amanda Flomo, Alex M. Snowe, Willimena Willie, Justine Bedell, Jr., Togbah Matthew & Junior Sackie, the security to Hon. Cole were also charged with Aggravated Assault, Simple Assault, Riot, Physical Obstruction of Government Function, Menacing, Theft of Property, Criminal Conspiracy and Disorderly conduct, according to sections 14.20, 14.21, 17.1, 12.1, 15.51, 14.25, 10.4 & 17.3 of the new penal law of Liberia.
Reportedly acting on the lawmaker’s order, staffers of the lawmaker early this month beat the OIC of the Gbonota Clinic, Allison Kollie, a member of the Unity Party, for “holding a political meeting at the clinic”.
It can be recalled that health workers in the county issued a one-week ultimatum to the Ministry of Justice, demanding a thorough investigation and the immediate arrest of individuals who were allegedly involved in the brutal assault of one of their colleagues.
The incident, which happened on November 4 in Gbonota, a small town in Bong County, has been linked to the actions of Representative Marvin Cole, who is accused of ordering his supporters to “violently attack” Alison Kollie, a health worker at the Gbonota Clinic, which is located in his legislative district.
Kollie, who his colleagues claim was “verbally and physically” assaulted, has been described as a dedicated and cheerful healthcare practitioner.
“[We are] deeply disturbed and outraged by the violent assault on our colleague, a health worker in the Gbonota Clinic, by Rep. Marvin Cole and his supporters,” said Obadiah Kermue, a District Health Officer in a petition on behalf of his colleagues yesterday. “We condemn all forms of attacks on health workers in Gbonota Clinic and elsewhere and call on the public to denounce such violence and insist on a safer environment for health workers.”
“We have resolved to collectively abandon our various places of work if the Ministry of Justice and authorities of the County fail to come up with findings from the investigation on or before November 15,” Kermue added.
The petition then demands respect and recognition for health workers across the country as well as a safe working environment free of all violence.
It also claims that violence against healthcare workers not only endangers the lives of those who are on the front lines of the healthcare system, but it also undermines the provision of critical medical services in the region.
“It’s very important that we send a very strong message that violence against healthcare workers and other peaceful people is not and should not be tolerated in our society,” Kermue said as he read the petition.
The petition added that if the perpetrators of the assault are not “brought to book”’ and adequate security protections are provided for all health workers, they will be forced to cease work until otherwise.
The incident, Kermue added, has sent shockwaves through the healthcare community and is igniting a wave of anger, raising serious concerns about the safety and well-being of healthcare professionals “who are working tirelessly to provide essential services in the county.”
Receiving the petition, the Minister of Health, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah pledged that the government would prioritize the case and work diligently to ensure justice is served promptly.
Jallah, who was joined by other senior local officials, informed the protesting health workers that investigations would take place with appropriate action “taken against those found responsible,” but called on them to remain calm and allow the Liberia National Police to do its work.
“Your colleague, Alison Kollie, is responding to treatment at JFK and is responding well,” the Minister said. “I visited him and all the tests that were supposed to be done have already been done.”
According to Jallah, Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor and other authorities of the government would be meeting them today to begin looking to address some of their pressing concerns.
Meanwhile, the police in Bong has disclosed that the investigation into the incident has begun and would make the findings public, saying that “anyone who will be held culpable would face the full weight of the laws.”
Cole has, however, not yet responded to the allegations, and it is yet unclear if he will collaborate during the investigations. The lawmaker is one of the most powerful and untouchable men in Bong and in times past has been accused of ordering the beating of local citizens.