Jail or Fine?

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After a failed attempt by Senate plenary Thursday to decide by vote the fate of embattled Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Amara Konneh, that body is expected to make a final decision on the matter today. Minister Konneh had previously been found guilty of Contempt of the Legislature and sentenced to 48 hours in jail.

He is before the Senate on charges and pending sentence for Contempt of the Legislature, which would have sent him to prison to serve a 48 hours jail term over a month ago. But was “saved by the bell” when a motion for reconsideration, filed by Grand Gedeh County Senator G. Alphonso Gaye, put a temporary reprieve on his sentence.

The Gaye motion opened up a Pandora Box of hurdles in Konneh’s favor, comprising high-powered lobby and legal manoeuvrings to avoid the jail sentence. To the dismay of the Senators, while some were pleading with their colleagues for softer punishments like a fine, they received order from the Supreme Court requesting them to halt further action.

The prohibition filed by lawyers representing Minister Konneh, headed by Cllr Tiawan Gongloe, further threw a spanner in the works as Senators overwhelmingly vowed to go for the Minister’s head with the only option available to them, and already decided on: jail for 48 hours, by all means.

But while the Senators were counting the three sittings needed before voting on the motion for reconsideration, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf paid an unannounced visit to the Capitol Building and held more than two hours’ discussion with the leadership of the Senate.

At the conclusion of that meeting, President Johnson briefly informed legislative reporters that issues between the Executive and Legislature were resolved.

With this development, all eyes and ears were on last Thursday positioned in the Chambers of the Senate as the day for action on the motion for reconsideration.

Unfortunately, after almost an hour of group consultations among Senators and those between Pro Tempore Armah Jallah and the leadership of the Senate, it was revealed by Jallah that the hearing was suspended due to the absence of Minister Konneh and his lawyer, and announced the new date of March 1, for his reappearance.

However, there is already news, though yet to be confirmed by Sen. Gaye, author of the motion for reconsideration, that he will be pleading with his colleagues for the softer punishment of a fine and apology by Konneh to the lawmakers.

Konneh’s contemptuous crime emanated from a communication written by his deputy for Fiscal Affairs, Dr. James Kollie, concerning the recasting of the 2015/2016 National Budget, which wordings were found offensive to the Legislators and a usurpation of their constitutional functions, which include appropriation of the budget.

Konneh initially apologized for some wordings of the letter to the Senate, which he defended as a generic communication sent to all ministries and agencies, but refused to apologize for the general component of the letter.

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