The Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) says it has lost trust and confidence in the ability of Justice Minister Musa Dean to effectively serve as Attorney General of Liberia.
ALJA says Minister Dean’s recent inconsistent positions taken in the ongoing certification crisis involving Lofa County Senator-elect, Brownie Samukai and the National Elections Commission (NEC), has drawn his credibility and that of the Justice Ministry into question.
In a press release issued on March 16, 2021, ALJA said the Minister’s inability to take a definitive position in a legal matter that has the propensity of derailing the prevailing peace and stability in Liberia, has made his continued stay at the Justice Ministry irrelevant.
The US-based Liberian media advocacy organization said as a nation evolving from 14 years of civil crisis due to misrule and other issues of bad governance, Liberia does not need a Justice Minister whose actions are inconsistent and indecisive. ALJA says it fears that the Justice Minister’s actions in the Brownie Samukai case are a harbinger for what could potentially happen in the 2023 elections which could have adverse consequences on the country.
The Association recalled that on February 23, 2021, Minister Dean appeared to perjure himself when he initially testified before the Liberian Senate for an inquiry into a February 14, 2021 communication, which Liberia’s Solicitor General, Syrenius Cephus, sent to the National Elections Commission (NEC) instructing the electoral body not to certificate Lofa County Senator-elect J. Brownie Samukai despite an earlier Supreme Court ruling which affirmed the Senator-elect as the winner of December 8, 2020, Special Senatorial Election in Lofa County
The Solicitor General’s letter further mandated the NEC not to certificate the former Defense Minister until he and the other convicted felons can restitute the more than US one million dollars misappropriated from the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) retirement fund.
ALJA said when the Minister faced the Liberian Senate, he lied under oath after he distanced himself from the Solicitor General’s communication. He declared publicly that he was officially not aware of the letter, but only saw a copy of it on social media (Facebook) while on a nationwide tour with President Weah.
However, On February 25, 2021, when he and the Solicitor General appeared before the lawmakers for a follow-up inquiry into who authorized him to write the NEC the letter, Minister Dean for the second time misrepresented the truth in the matter when he altered his previous statement.
He told the Senators that following a briefing with the Solicitor General regarding the February 14th letter, which he sent to the NEC, he changed his previous position in the matter, gave consent, and approved the Solicitor General’s action.
While at the Liberian Senate, the Attorney General promised to send a communication to the NEC withdrawing the Solicitor General’s February 14th letter after the lawmakers mandated him to do so, but to the amazement of the Senators and Liberians, he flip-flopped again on March 2, 2021, after he dispatched a communication to the NEC reaffirming the Solicitor General’s February 14th letter.
In an official communication to the NEC, the Minister urged the NEC not to certificate the Lofa County Senator-elect in the wake of his recent conviction by the Supreme Court.
The Association said the entire episode has eroded Minister Dean’s credibility and expressed shock that the Liberian senate failed to hold him in contempt for perjury.
ALJA says Minister Dean has overseen a Justice Ministry that appears to be dysfunctional as evidenced by the consistent divide on legal matters between the Justice Minister and the Country’s Solicitor General which continues to undermine faith and confidence in the Ministry’s ability to impartially adjudicate legal matters.
The Association says under Minister Dean who has oversight responsibility for the Liberia National Police, the country has witnessed an increase in homicide including the recent deaths of four auditors and countless other Liberians.
Most times perpetrators of these murders are never brought to Justice or when an investigation is conducted as in the case of the four auditors, the findings leave much to be desired.
ALJA says the fact that President Weah recently urged Liberians to purchase CCTV cameras for their own protection is an indictment of Minister Dean and the entire criminal justice system.
ALJA says while Minister Dean is a Presidential appointee, the Attorney General does not serve at ‘the will and pleasure’ of the President and must demonstrate a sense of integrity and independence at all times.
The Association says because the Minister has failed to consistently uphold those values and effectively conduct the functions of his office, it believes the country would be better served if the Justice Minister were to resign his position.
ALJA is a conglomeration of current and retired Liberian journalists residing in the Americas. It is a 501c (3) non-profit organization. The Association was founded in 1998 with the objectives of fostering companionship amongst its members and their American counterparts.
Additionally, ALJA is committed to advancing press freedom through media capacity building and the fostering of good governance in Liberia through media advocacy.