Jackson’s Case Against Weah’s ‘Constitutional Violation’ Goes to Full Bench

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Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in 2016 appointed Isaac Jackson (left) to the position, while President Weah on June 19 this year appointed Moses Owen Browne (right), former Civil Service Agency (CSA) Public Relations Officer, to replace Jackson.

-As Justice Wolokollie Grants Jackson’s Request against IMO Appointment

It seems that of the two presidential appointees Isaac Jackson and Moses Owen Browne, in an ensuring legal argument at the Supreme Court over constitutional violation accusation regarding appointments of Deputy Commissioner Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), in London, the United Kingdom, Jackson most likely to have the upper hand, because that appointment is a five-year tenured position.

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2016 appointed Jackson to the position of deputy commissioner permanent representative to the IMO, while President Weah on June 19 of this year appointed Browne, the former public relations officer at the Civil Servant Agency (CSA), to replace Jackson at the IMO.

Besides Jackson’s appointment, he was also commissioned on October 28, 2016, giving him full authority to enjoy the five years tenure as stipulated in the Maritime Act of 2010.

Section 7 (4) of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) Act of 2010, captioned, “Tenure of the Commissioners and Deputy Commissioner of the Liberia Maritime Authority Act”, specifically states that “The commissioners and the deputy commissioners of Maritime Authority shall have tenure of five (5) years in order to ensure and preserve consistency in the leadership, maintain continuity of purpose, increase the capacity in the industry, and preserve, the national and international relevance and very competitive nature of the maritime program.”

That section clearly talks about the essence of the Law, which is to protect the maritime program against being operated as a revolving door. This basically seeks to protect those officials serving the Maritime program outside of Liberia. The international community wanted to be familiar with the Officials for five or more years, as the law basically aims at 9 years.

Unfortunately, of the five year of which Jackson was appointed to serve only one year and nine months had expired, but President George Weah is now asking Jackson to waive his remaining three-years and three months for Browne to take over, which Jackson’s lawyer Arthur Johnson had challenged and terming it as an act of excessive abuse and over use of presidential power which fundamentally violates Article 54 and 89 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, as well as the statutory law of Liberia.”

In counter argument, the government said, though they recognize that the deputy commissioner is a five-year tenured position, that of the permanent representative was a separate post that also does not cover the five-year tenure, which former President Sirleaf appointed Jackson to and not deputy commissioner, as he claimed.

Against that backdrop, Cllr. Johnson prayed Associate Justice Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie, the justice presiding in the Supreme Court’s chamber for an Alternative Writ of Prohibition of which she accepted after days of legal argument and had subsequently issued the writ against Browne’s nomination.

Moreover, Justice Wolokollie had forwarded the matter before the full bench to also entertain the final legal argument that would set the stage for the interpretation of the constitutionality of the 2010 Act of the LMA that call for the five-year tenure of the deputy commissioner and permanent representative position.

Her decision was the result of a submission to her by Jackson’s lawyer, Cllr. Johnson, the organizational chart and 2010 Act that created the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA).

It was not clearly explained when the full bench would hear and make a determination on the matter that borders on constitutionality.

According to the 1998 organizational chart, Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) enjoys the status of a Deputy Commissioner and reports directly to the commissioner of the Bureau.

Also the 1998 Organogram and the 2010 Act of the Liberia Maritime Authority pointed to the fact that there are two major functions that the 2010 Act serves: the change of name from Bureau of maritime affairs to Liberia Maritime Authority; and the introduction of the 5 years tenure.

1998 Organogram of the Liberia Bureau of Maritime Affairs (now Liberia Maritime Authority) shows that the Permanent Representative to the IMO bears the status of Deputy Commissioner

Additionally, since the maritime program was established, the Position of Permanent Representative has always been at the rank of Deputy Commissioner.

Documents in the possession of the Daily Observer reveal that former President Charles G. Taylor appointed Agnes Reeves Taylor in 1998 as “Deputy Commissioner and Permanent Representative.” But her Notice of Commission only said Permanent Representative since, at the level of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the rank of Deputy Commissioner appeared more or less irrelevant.

The proper and acceptable nomenclature that is used at the IMO, “Permanent Representative”, has been consistently applied on all of the Notices of Commission, from Gerald Cooper (1997); Agnes Reeves Taylor (1999); Mohammed Dukuly and Isaac Jackson (2016).

When President Sirleaf appointed Jackson, she by then said, that appointing someone as “Deputy Commissioner, and Permanent Representative” was repetitive and redundant because the Permanent Representative is no less than a Deputy Commissioner – they are one and the same.

In support Sirleaf’s argument, the maritime Act of 2010 says “…the President shall appoint Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner…” in keeping with the law, the President of the Republic does not appoint anyone below the rank of Deputy Commissioner at the level of the Liberia Maritime Authority. Positions below the rank of Deputy Commissioners are filled by the CEO/Commissioner of the Maritime Authority.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. The only thing the reports fail to tell the republic is where in the act it says the Representative to IMO is Deputy Commissioner.

    • You make a good point and the Supreme Court will make that determination. But the organization chart is strong evidence for the plaintiff.

  2. Anyone who believes in the rule of law should be excited that this case will be heard by the full bench. That’s why we have a Supreme Court to interpret the laws when there is presidential overreach. Mr. Jackson is more likely than not to prevail because the law seems to be on his side. The organization chart, and appointments during prior governments recognize this position as Deputy Commissioner. Justice Wolokolie having placed a hold on the firing was a win for the plaintiff. She believes the case has merits and the plaintiff is more likely to prevail, so she referred the case to the full bench. The government, as in the NLA case will lose because the law is clear as daylight with regards to tenure. In the NLA case, the government conceded that the President overreach his authority. And the same thing will happen in this case unless the government can prove that the IMO position is not protected under the LMA statute. That’s a tall order for the government. I’m glad that a citizen can exercise his constitutional rights and not be afraid to do so. That’s how democracy works.

  3. If the Liberian Supreme Court wasn’t packed with partisans of EJS, it would’ve been looking instead at the constitutionality of an overreach by a UP-led government which granted tenures to appointees beyond its own term of office. What was the election for, if not to change guards with the exception of members of the Judiciary whose independence is crucial to the dispensation of justice?

    No wonder an impartial Supreme Court in Sierra Leone, noted for integrity, didn’t countenance similar cases brought to it.

    This purpose of this case is obviously to set an unfortunate and consequential precedent that would undermine voters mandate to any newly-elected government, another example of elitist condescension. We Liberians love loading crisis on top of crisis even when the vast majority are reeling from lack of jobs and economic hardships. No wonder, then, the country has been broke, backward, underdeveloped. and contentiously polarized for 170 years!

  4. Her interference in the Executive function of replacement or appointment at maritime is suspicious. There are many constitutional overviews that the Judiciary should have noticed in the past that were not brought forth by any such Justice on the Supreme Court’s bench. The President of Liberia, whoever, is responsible for smooth maritime affairs and this is a minute bureau to its functionary. There are many Liberian flags flown by foreign ships without the consent of Liberians each entitled to a flag. The head of a Legitimate Liberian family each is entitled to the flag on such ship. Who put these Captains on this secret heritage of ours? Where is my family Captain? Let the Liberian people ask this Supreme Court. Checks and balances should no longer be tampered with for personal gains at the Free Port of Monrovia, neither will be at various Liberian sea and airports. Do not reply my box. Gone to silent majority.

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