Gov’t Wins E. J. Roye Case

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The controversial E. J. Roye building

After years of legal tussles over the ownership of the E. J. Roye building, Civil Law Court ‘A’ in Monrovia yesterday ruled in favor of the government, declaring that it is the legitimate owner of the property. Judge Boima Kontoe in his ruling said his court has no jurisdiction to determine the People’s Redemption Council’s (PRC) usage of Decree#11 under Article 97 of the 1986 Constitution, and refused to hear a request filed by the erstwhile grand old True Whig Party (TWP) to declare its right as owner of the building. “Since the argument surrounds the interpretation of Article 97 and other constitutional provisions over which this court has no jurisdiction,” Kontoe declared, “the TWP’s petition for declaratory judgment is hereby denied.” Kontoe upheld the state’s appeal asking him not to determine the matter.

The article provides 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.” Part (B) of that article also states: “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.”

Until the 1980 coup that toppled the government of President William R. Tolbert, the E. J. Roye Building was the headquarters of the TWP, then the ruling party. The Tolbert government was overthrown by a military junta headed by President Samuel Doe on April 12, 1980.

Before Kontoe’s ruling, the government argued that the building which Reginald Goodridge, who is the national chairman of the TWP, sought to have its right declared, was confiscated by the PRC government under Decree#11, in 1980, following the overthrow of the then constituted government of Tolbert.

Government lawyers also argued that by virtue of the confiscation, the ownership power of the building should immediately be turned over to the government. “Article 97 expressly legitimatized Decree#11 promulgated by the PRC government and mandated that no executive, legislative and judicial or administrative actions be taken against those involved into the coup,” they argued. The article, they added, was intended to give amnesty to the coup makers from any prosecution and acknowledged that the court has jurisdiction over matters related to the declaratory judgment, but it lacks the power to question the decree or to give orders or grant any remedy or relief in respect to what the TWP wants the court to do. “If the PRC’s decree is wrong and other acts committed by the military junta were wrong as claimed by Goodridge, it remains a historical wrong which the court is powerless to correct,” they said.

According to state lawyers, a referendum on the constitution was held on July 3, 1984 and subsequently approved by 98.6 percent of voters with a turnout of 82 percent. “The people of Liberia consciously decided to keep moving and to put the past behind them, and said that the action taken by the military junta pursuant to any of its decree shall not be questioned in any courts or proceedings of whatsoever name within the country,” state lawyers said, adding, “the people’s decision is mandatory and not discretion; and we must abide by it.”

In counter argument, Goodridge’s lawyer said the article does not cover real property like the E. J. Roye building. “It goes without saying that the confiscation of real property by the junta on April 12, 1980, was transitory in possession and did not convey any title deed to a third party, which is why in May 1984, through an Executive Order, all properties were returned to their original owners,” the lawyer contended. He argued that if the building was confiscated and remained the property of the government, “What was the legal basis for them to request for the original warranty deed from the TWP in the so-called MOU agreement?”

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13 COMMENTS

  1. Article 97 expressly legitimized Decree#11 promulgated by the People’s Redemption Council can not be overruled. I am happy this case has come to rest once and for all and the Liberian Government can now break down that big old structure and do something meaningful there.

  2. All Goodridge and his colleagues have to do is go and bribe Philip Banks, Francis Korkpor, Kabineh Janeh, and the other two also polluting the Supreme Court Bench, and these basatards shall simply reverese that decision in favor of them (TWP partisans) who have bribed the Supreme Court, just as Edwin Snowe, Brumskine, and Mills Jones have done!

  3. While I agree that the building belongs to the people Article 97 is one of the most ridiculous and embarassing parts of the 1986 Constitution. It is an admission that the PRC committed treason. Imagine if the sitting President murdered 50 people to remain in power then worked with the Legislature to revise the Constitution so she could never be prosecuted for those murders. This is exactly what Article 97 did/does for the PRC and all those who who participated in the military coup of 1980. Blanket amnesty for economic crimes and crimes against humanity.

    • It can be further argued that the introduction of Article 97 was the one and only reason the Constitution was changed. Constitutions are living documents that are changed over time via amendments. For example the US Constitution today is not the same as it was 200 years ago because amendments have corrected any errors or flaws. Unfortunately the PRC and their so called “Progressive” allies preyed upon the ignorance and fear of the Liberian populace at the time and made them believe the change was something innovative or revolutionary.

      • Re-worded to provide clarity: It can be further argued that the introduction of Article 97 was the one and only reason a new Constitution was written. Constitutions are living documents that evolve over time via amendments. For example the US Constitution today is not exactly the same as it was 200 years ago because amendments have corrected any errors or flaws. The original document is still the blueprint but it has evolved. Unfortunately the PRC and their so called “Progressive” allies preyed upon the ignorance and fear of the Liberian populace at the time and made them believe introducing a new Constitution was something innovative or revolutionary.

  4. This case is not over. This building is the legitimate property of the TWP. Property confiscated by the PRC government was illegal. This is the problem we are having today with ownership of property. PRC ruling was out of ignorance and malice. This was an abuse of power and at such, must be redress. This kind of blanket amnesty must not stand, for if so, any group of fools can take power and confiscate property. When will we have people of integrity and moral spine to stand up and say no to what is wrong. That building must be return to the TWP. On what basic is the Government claiming this building? The fact that a legitimate government was overthrown and a junta confiscated personal property is proof enough that the property should be returned. If this judge lacks the judicial intelligence to render justice in this case , he should say so and not try to hide behind a crafted by people who committed treason and were afraid of facing their day in court .The fact that the PRC government was dissolved , but the head of that government went on to lead the civilian government , maintaining all of the decrees that led to the destruction of the state, is in itself illegal, unconstitutional an immoral. Back to court with an appeal , this case must GO. Return this building to the TWP. This is the same reason Ellen is now seeking amnesty. SAY NO TO ELLEN, SAY NO TO TAKING PEOPLE PROPERTY. IF YOU DON’T STOP THIS NOW, “BE WARE.” WE ARE NOT GOING TO SIT BYE AND ALLOW THIS TO CONTINUE. YOU MAY HAVE POWER TODAY, BUT YOU MUST LEARN FROM THE PAST.ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

    • E.T.L; do some research to “CONVINCE” yourself: The E.J.ROYE BUILDING, is owned by the People of Liberia. That Building, is not the “True Whig Party Building. It’s the Liberian People’s BUILDING; built with the Liberian People’s MONEY. * It’s a good building that should be “RENOVATED” to become “HEADQUARTER” of the new (REINSTATED) National Bureau of Investagation. We need the NBI; to be the “FOOT SOLDIERS” for Liberia’s Ministry of Justice. Bring back the NBI to “FIGHT CORRUPTIONS” and other “CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES”…

  5. The State, (The Liberian people) will be going after the old Ministry of education next. The people were misrepresented. Their money was used to build these two buildings and after they were completed, they were placed in certain individuals names so as to rip the people off and collect rent. Now, IS ANYONE OUT THERE WHO WANTS TO CLAIM THE OLD MINISTRY OF EDUCATION ON BROAD STREET? Say so now or hold your peace. We, the people of Liberia are coming after that building. After we renovate it, we will give the first floor to LEC and Water and Sewer to be used as administrative offices. Other Government Institutions or Corporations will be assigned to the various floors as may deem necessary. The Liberian People are tired of paying rent. DEA is renting, Immigration is renting, the Ministry of Education is renting etc, etc. That money can be used to build more schools, hospitals and we can do other things with that money. Oh, we, the Liberian People haven’t forgotten about cutting the salaries of Government officials and taking away gas slips. It is coming. Even those $80,000 SUV for one person will be cut down to just regular transportation. You want an expensive car, go get a loan from the bank and buy your own just like private citizens.

  6. Emotional ruling for my 5% elites in the country. This building was built by public funds and that means it belongs to government

    • E.B; Please! I say, don’t tear down the E.J.Roye Building. Let’s renovate. The BUILDING is a good solid structure; designed by own Liberian Archictect, Winston Richards; highly qualified. That’s our pride. We should keep the E.J.Roye Building in “GOOD MEMORY” of Winston Richards. The E.J.ROYE BUILDING will better serve Liberia; as the “HEADQUARTER” of the new reinstated National Bureau of Investagation. I/We hope Liberia will/should REINSTATE The National Bureau of Investagation, NBI; to serve as the “FOOT SOLDIERS” for Liberia’s Ministry Justice. The NBI will serve Liberia well, in the fight against CORRUPTIONS and other “CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES”.

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