-Lawmakers said of his ‘unruly behavior’; send him to prison
By Leroy M. Sonpon and David A. Yates
Members of the House of Representatives yesterday, September 12, recommended to President George Weah not to allow Deputy Information Minister Eugene L. Fahngon to hold any key government position, because he was “unqualified.”
Besides branding him unfit to serve in government, the lawmakers also ordered Fahngon to serve a three-day imprisonment, which he started serving as of yesterday but at the police cell on Capitol Hill, until he can be transferred to the Monrovia Central Prison where he will spend the remaining two days.
As part of his punishment for being disrespectful to the lawmakers, Fahngon was also fined the amount of 4,999 Liberian cents, which he is to deposit into government coffers for his contempt charge.
The lawmakers’ action resulted from Fahngon’s defiant posture, refusing to make any comment to the lawmakers when he appeared before that august body for the hearing of his contempt charge.
Information Minister Eugene Nagbe and his Deputy, Fahngon, were summoned on Tuesday, September 11, by members of the House of Representatives following a complaint from Representative Edwin M. Snowe that Fahngon disrespected him as a sitting legislator and, by extension, the House of Representatives.
The two ministers did not appear on Tuesday as expected, and so the House held both men in contempt, and subsequently mandated them to appear before them yesterday, September 12.
During Fahngon and Nagbe’s appearance yesterday, Minister Nagbe apologized to the lawmakers, but Fahngon deliberately refused to do so in the presence of his boss.
Fahngon was also mandated by the lawmakers to bring along his lawyer, upon which order he invited Cllr. Frances Johnson-Allison to represent his legal interest at the hearing of the contempt proceedings.
When quizzed in the presence of Cllr. Johnson-Allison about his tussle with Rep. Snowe and Gray, Fahngon evoked Article 21 (c) and said he has the right to remain silent or only speak to the lawmakers in the presence of his lawyer.
The Chairman on the House Judiciary Committee, Representative J. Fonati Koffa, clarified that Fahngon has the right to evoke Article 21(c), which indicates that he waived his right to testify, but the House can use the evidence and witnesses provided by their colleagues to make a decision.
Article 21 (c): Every person suspected or accused of committing a crime shall immediately upon arrest be informed in detail of the charges, of the right to remain silent, and of the fact that any statement made could be used against him in a court of law. Such person shall be entitled to counsel at every stage of the investigation and shall have the right not to be interrogated except in the presence of counsel. Any admission or other statements made by the accused in the absence of such counsel shall be deemed inadmissible as evidence in a court of law.”
However, following the argument, the lawmakers, in a unanimous vote through a motion from Representative Clarence Massaquoi and amendments from other members, voted to jail Fahngon for three days beginning Wednesday night. He is to be placed in a withholding cell at the police headquarters, after which he will be sent to the Monrovia Central Prison today, Thursday, to complete his jail term.
The House’s decision will be communicated to the senate and the President subsequently.
It can be recalled that on September 9, while at a night club, Fahngon and Bomi County Electoral District #1 Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe were caught publicly exchanging invectives on a video posted on Facebook.
In the video, a war of words ensued between the two politicians over a misunderstanding that reportedly erupted between one Kelvin D.J. Mattaldi and Fahngon.
Reports gathered say Mr. Mattaldi, who is also the media officer in the office of Rep. Snowe, reportedly photographed Fahngon while he as allegedly dancing with a woman at a local night club.
The reports detailed that following the photograph, Fahngon immediately ordered that the photos be deleted, but the situation brought the intervention of state security officers who landed the matter at a nearby police depot.
Thereafter a huge outburst ensued between Snowe and Fahngon to the extent that the lawmaker demanded the immediate release of Mattaldi from the police depot.
Fahngon and Rep. Snowe were seen in the live Facebook video in an exchange of words, with a slew of expletives coming from the deputy minister. The video, which went viral on social media, also grabbed the attention of some Liberian Facebook users, with many terming the exchanges between the two as “childish.”
“Rep. Snowe was more moderate, but Fahngon was seen insulting and nearly assaulting the lawmaker,” one person commented.
Meanwhile, Montserrado County District #8 Representative Acarous Gray,
who witnessed the scene between the two men in the presence of onlookers, described the actions of Fahngon “as a dangerous path towards Liberia’s emerging democracy.”
Rep. Gray, who did not regret his comments, wondered what was so dangerous about the photo that led Fahngon to conduct himself against the Code of Conduct.
Section 5.9 of the Code provides that, “Any public official, after due process, who is found guilty of violating any provision of this section should be immediately removed from the position or office held by him/her and thereafter no part of the funds appropriated by any law for such position or office should be used to pay compensation to such person.”