House in ‘Procedural Error’ for Arrest of Hot Pepper Publisher

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(From left) Liberia's Justice Minister, Cllr. F. Musa Dean, suggests that if Hot Pepper publisher Philipbert S. Browne should be arrested, it should be done by the House Seargent-at-Arms, Martin Johnson.

-But will the arrest be made to appear before the Plenary today?

Justice Minister and Attorney General Frank Musa Dean has refused an order by the House of Representatives to arrest Mr. Philbert S. Browne, publisher of the Hot Pepper Newspaper, recommending that the August Body should have made its Sergeant-at-Arms the main arresting officer, while the Justice Ministry, through the Liberia National Police (LNP) support the process, the Daily Observer has gathered.

The Justice Ministry has pointed to the ‘Procedural Error’ of the House of Representatives and said that each House’s Sergeant-at-Arms is and remains the chief law enforcement officer of either House.

As chief law enforcement officer of the House, the LNP said the Sergeant at Arms is charged with maintaining security in the Capitol including serving as the executive officer of the House for enforcement of all rules of the Committee on Rules, Order, and Administration regulating the Lower House.

It is indicated that, besides being the enforcement officer, the Sergeant-at-Arms also controls access to the House’s chamber and sessions, including when sessions are open to the public. The Sergeant-at-Arms and under officers (doorkeepers) are responsible for maintaining order on the floor of the House.

The Daily Observer has further gathered that a letter to the Justice Ministry to affect the arrest has been discarded and corrected and a new letter from the Justice Ministry through the LNP to aid Sergeant-at-Arms Martin Johnson, the chief enforcement officer of the House of Representatives, to lead and affect the arrest, has been communicated.

Reports further said the Justice Ministry has acknowledged receipt of the new version of the communication.

On Wednesday evening, Nov. 28, a staff in the office of the Sergeant-at-arms told the Daily Observer that the offices of Mr. Browne on Benson Street has been closed for the last three days and his phones are switched off.

It is not clear if he is out of the country, but an unconfirmed report says Mr. Browne is in Japan.

Besides being the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Hot Pepper Newspaper, Mr. Brown also serves as president of the Liberia National Olympic Committee (LNOC), a post he has held for the past eight years.

Whether or not Mr. Browne will appear before the plenary of the House of Representatives today to respond to the contempt charge for refusing to help in the investigation of the newly printed L$10.5 billion and to name those lawmakers who received bribes, as he has claimed, remains uncertain.

It may be recalled that members of the House on Tuesday, November 27, during the 14th day sitting, following the third absence of Mr. Browne, voted for his arrest and demanded his ‘living body’ before the House of Representatives.

House Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers said Browne’s action is deliberate, callous, and violates the Constitution and is contemptuous.

Sinoe County District #3 Representative Matthew Zarzar proffered the motion.

19 COMMENTS

  1. And If the Journal entry is found in good health and cannot be taken to legislative chambers, it is the duty of the arresting assigned legislative lead officer so designated under executive provisions to explain to the lawmakers why the appearance of this Journal did not or cannot appear on books in writing at such times in question for questioning. If Journalist is found and brought forthwith, reason still should be given nevertheless notwithstanding by the appropriate procedure by the defendant to prove in court through the necessary jurisprudence, if the issue is turned over to the Judiciary branch by the lawmakers for interpretation before executive actions. This is the Liberian way submitted by the people in customs and status. Ask the Liberian people why. Not me.
    In silence. Do not enter.

  2. Indeed, the Sergeant-at-Arms has always been the chief law enforcement officer for both Houses of the Legislature, but the question is, does his office have personnel strength and logical capacity to carry out all mandated functions? That’s the reason normally Sergeant-at-Arms seek help from LNP. And for Pete’s sake, who in MOJ ran with a purely in-house matter (“procedural error”) to an already adversarial press? This tendency of officials playing to the gallery for cheap popularity neither enhances efficiency nor helps the image of government. It befuddles some in the sub-Region why we love the habit. After all, an official has the option of resigning if he seriously disagrees on a matter of politics, policy, or principle with a decision or direction of a branch of government.

    Lest I forget, freedom of expression has limitations and responsibilities. Falsely shouting fire in a crowded cinema which leads to pandemonium and injury is a crime even in the Vatican City. Journalism isn’t a renegade profession even in the digital age, and those who practice it abide by certain ethical values which seemingly most Liberian journalists believe don’t apply to them. For example, unless readers know that a media outlet is mouthpiece for a political party or politician, it shouldn’t be under any political patronage; private media outlets ought to be independent, impartial, and fair; journalists must verify stories for accuracy and truthfulness before publishing them,and so on.

    Reliability and credibility of reporting and reporters matter never mind nonchalance of a haughty media environment. Because in this 21st century when media-incited uprisings have supplanted military coups as means of violent regime-change, a politically-motivated adversarial press could be a conduit for chaos. Folks, don’t take my word for it, go ask the millions of wandering refugees – victims of the reportedly Media-driven Arab Spring. Be careful with sonorous-sounding self-righteous statements of those who live thousands of miles away from the potentially maddening crowds.

  3. At least somebody knows how the law works in this damn country. It’s clear that those lawmakers don’t understand the procedures of holding a person in contempt. If the Sergeant-At-Arms is unable to make the arrest, then the legislature could refer the matter to the Justice Minister who would follow the legal procedures to arrest the private citizen who’s in contempt.

    That place is now run by a bunch of country people getting elected and damaging the image of the legislative branch that was once civilized and served with honor and civility.

    Just My Opinion!

    • Yes, a bunch of country people calling themselves Representatives and Senators. I feel sorry for Liberia. The generations born from 1988 would never know or experience a civilized Liberia.

      • Christopher Luke,
        I am a Citizen of the Township of Crozierville, Careysburg Statutory District, Montserrado County.
        The Township of Crozierville was founded on May 10th, 1865, but the first Elementary School was built in 1965. The school was a Self- help project by the Citizens, as part of the 100 years celebration of the founding of the Township of Crozierville. Your so-called civilized people ruled Liberia for more than 130 years.
        So, please tell me, who is responsible for these, “Country People” not being properly prepared for the task of governance?

      • I agree, let’s focus on the issues instead of using derisive language against a segment of society. These so-called “country people” now in power mostly grew up poor and without a decent education because our government denied them a decent education and economic opportunities. We can’t now blame them for not knowing how to govern well if our government policy didn’t prepare them for leadership. They’re just a by-product of our own system. However, these Representatives must also be careful and not abuse their new-found power because it could give the country a bad image.

  4. The vast majority Country-Congo people of all stripes resoundingly spoke with 62 percent of their votes, so nothing few self-entitled bookish reactionaries can do about it. Moreover, you guys aren’t using any trick to stoke another chaos. In 1851, the governing mulatto elites employed disinformation tactics to overthrow an elected government and murder President E.J Roye for the color of his skin. Today’s troublemakers can try all they want, but the “Country people” bashing is simply whistling in the wind. And no matter what you guys spew, the next Congo man or woman who becomes President would’ve been elected by the same Country-Congo vast majority: Together, we stand – get over it!

  5. Thank you, at long last, Cllr. Dean, for this public rebuke of those do-nothing so-called representatives. And watch it, they will come after you too, with one of their looming charges of “exposing them to public ridicule.” But how else could the chief law enforcer in the country handle this stupidity without slamming the brakes on it openly? Our legislators are very quick on leveling “contempt” charge on unsuspecting citizens. Not only that abuse of powers but they will order the arrest and imprisonment of citizens without due process! And these are supposed to be lawmakers? In other civilized societies any “contempt” of the legislature or congress for example, is referred to a trial court for adjudication, and not the darn same bunch of fools as “judge, jury and executioners!” Only in Liberia!

  6. The House of Representative is now Police, Judge, and Jury. These people are losing their minds. Instead of coming up with ideas to solve the difficult challenge facing the economy, they’re abusing their power to intimidate people. What kind of stupidity is this?

  7. It would have been very simple for the Minister of Justice, who is the Chief Lawyer of Liberia to suggest to the Leadership of the House on how to proceed. However, everything is Politics in Liberia, these days.

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