Following years of confrontation between the government and some concerned partisans of the erstwhile grand old True Wing Party (TWP) about the legitimate ownership of the E.J. Roye Building, headquarters of the party, the Civil Law Court in Monrovia is expected to decide the matter today, Monday, May 1.
Judge Yussif Kaba set the hearing for today after the close of final arguments by lawyers representing the government and the party on whether or not the court should declare the legitimate owner of the property filed by the lawyers representing the concerned partisan of the TWP.
Reginald Goodridge is the chairman of the Concerned True Wing Party.
Before today’s hearing, the court on February 4, 2014, issued an order that restrained the government from taking over the building that once served as headquarters of the TWP, despite state lawyers’ argument that the ownership and possessory rights were invested unto the government by the People’s Redemption Council (PRC) – military junta decree #11 – and the constitutional legitimacy of Article 97 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
Until the 1980 coup, the E.J. Roye Building was the headquarters of the TWP, the then ruling party.
Article 97 (a) states that, “No executive, legislative, judicial or administrative action taken by the PRC or by any persons, whether military or civilian in the name of that Council pursuant to any of its decrees shall be questioned in any proceedings whatsoever; and accordingly, it shall not be lawful for any court or other tribunal to make any order or grant any remedy or relief in respect or any such act.”
Also (b) further provides that, “No court or other tribunal shall entertain any action whatsoever instituted against the Government of Liberia, whether before or after the coming into force of this Constitution or against any person or persons who assisted in any manner whatsoever in bringing about the change of government on the April 12, 1980, in respect of any act or commission relating to or consequent upon.”
It was based on the article of the Constitution that the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) in strict adherence of the government’s instruction decided to renovate the building as its headquarters, which mandate prompted the concerned TWP partisans to seek legal redress that resulted in the court’s restraining order.
However, Goodridge’s group had argued that the building was allegedly confiscated from the party by the junta in 1980; and not from a third party, referring to the government.
Goodridge also asked the court to declare their rights as concerned partisans “because the government was illegally occupying the party’s headquarters under the pretext of enforcing the military junta decree.”
“Our ownership rights over the E.J. Roye Building is a public knowledge and has never been in dispute, until two years ago when the government purportedly enforced a PRC degree #11 of April 12, 1980,” the lawsuit alleged, adding that they: “Illegally entered upon our property, physically took down the party’s flag and started evicting our partisans and businesses that we placed on the property.”
They alleged that the government acted under the pretext that the military junta confiscated the building in 1980.
Goodridge further alleged that the government practically owned the building, although, they are taking the decision without any proof of a title deed.
“Government has shown no evidence that the property was confiscated, and that it belongs to her by proof of a title deed,” the court record quoted the concerned TWP partisans.
They also claimed that there is no evidence to the extent of an eminent domain or condemnation proceedings, “instead they are using their various connections and powers to forcibly seize our property. They have not shown any inconvertible document to prove that the building is confiscated and is now owned by the government.”
In counterargument, government lawyers said although Goodridge and his colleagues have challenged the government’s rights to the property, “It is not precluded by law from developing property in the absence of a restraining order or a writ of injunction from a court of competent jurisdiction.”
They also alleged that the 2014 temporary restraining has lapsed; and by operation of law, for them to obtain another restraining order they should have first filed a new petition for preliminary injunction, “setting forth the grounds for their request to be dismissed, because it should have been accompanied by the appropriate bond, which they failed to do.”
They continued: “There being no new application or petition for preliminary injunction and no bond filed, the restraining order issued does not have any legal basis and must be denied as a matter of law.”