Lawmakers Anger Ellen

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– President sides with Justices in impeachment debacle

The impeachment crisis that has erupted in the country as a result of the opinion handed down in the case Karnwea vs National Elections Commission (NEC) by the five justices of the Supreme Court, is gradually reaching a boiling point—thereby provoking action from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who has thought it prudent to weigh in on the issue, and decisively sided with Chief Justice Francis Korkpor and his colleagues. President Sirleaf said that the process in the House of Representatives “tends to undermine the peace, threaten the elections process currently underway, and create confusion and chaos in Liberia’s fledgling democracy.”

The President’s statement was contained in an Executive Mansion release where she expressed grave concerns over the action of some members of the House of Representatives to initiate impeachment proceedings against the majority members of the Supreme Court because of judicial decisions they made. “This move is clearly in violation of Article 73 of the Constitution of Liberia,” the President said. President Sirleaf expects the other two branches of government, the Legislature, which makes the laws, and the Judiciary that interprets, to have a cordial working relationship, saying that this now seems far from the case as both are now involved in a legal and constitutional face-off, with the Legislature thinking that its colleagues at the other end have gone beyond their bounds by not just interpreting anymore, but making laws.

The President said in the release that the Executive Branch of Government, which she heads, is not prepared and will not support any unconstitutional maneuverings from any of the institutions of Government — indicating that this is no time for a legal or constitutional crisis, least a show of strength between branches of the Liberian government. The President said it is unfortunate that such a tussle is occurring at a time when everyone should be working on a unified front to ensure peaceful elections that would see her smoothly turn over power in January 2018. “At this time, all branches should be working coordinately to ensure the peaceful elections and the smooth transfer of power,” she said.

The Legislature and the Supreme Court have been locked down in what appears to be a show of strength, with both summoning each other over impeachment proceedings. The Lower House called Justices Kabineh Ja’neh, Justice Philip A. Z. Banks, III and Justice Jamesetta Howard Wolokollie to appear before Plenary to show cause (s) why they should not be held for impeachment. The Lower House mandated the three to appear today, Friday, August 11, 2017. The Legislature’s action grew out of the unanimous decision and judgment of the Supreme Court in the Harrison Karnwea vs National Elections Commission in which the Court ruled that Mr. Karnwea’s failure to resign his post as managing director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) two years prior to this year’s election was not egregious in nature as he was in substantial compliance, having resigned after the court had ruled the Code of Conduct constitutional in the Selena Mappy-Polson vs The Government of Liberia case.

The House, which thinks that the Supreme Court had erred in its ruling, through its Judiciary Committee indicated that the three members of the Supreme Court who signed the opinion and judgment of July 20, 2017 in Karnwea’s case have caused the Supreme Court to usurp the power and functions of the Legislature to make laws. The Lower House communication said, “The Petition: That is, by ignoring the two or three periods for a person holding a public office to resign his office before the date of the election for which he or she intends to canvass and by reducing such period to a mere resignation before filing an application for certification with the National Elections Commission the Supreme Court…has usurped the functions and powers of the legislature to make law. This conduct of the Respondents as majority members of the Supreme Court constitutes misconduct, gross breach of duty and inability to perform the functions of the office of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, for which the Liberian Constitution provides…impeachment…”

However, the Judiciary said on Wednesday that the House does not have the constitutional authority to cite any Justice of the Supreme Court in connection with any petition for impeachment, or to impeach any Justice of the Supreme Court. It said the act is unconstitutional and therefore void of any legal validity. The Supreme Court contended that by virtue of Article 73 of the Constitution, the House’s decision is without the force of the law and therefore challenged the House to appear before the full bench of the Supreme Court to defend the constitutionality of their action. The Supreme Court said in view of Article 66 of the Constitution, it is clothed with the power as the final arbiter of all disputes and hence any attempt by any person or institution, including any of the other branches of government, to review the final decision or judgment of the Supreme Court is unconstitutional.

Said the Supreme Court: “In view of the above, the Clerk of the Supreme Court is herewith authorized and mandated to issue writs of summons on the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives and members of the Plenary of the House of Representatives that authorized the action of the Judiciary Committee mentioned above to appear before the Honorable Supreme Court to answer to this in RE: Constitutionality of the Judiciary Committee Of The House Of Representatives proceedings to defend the constitutionality of their actions.” The Supreme Court has also placed a stay order on all actions and pending actions at the House in relation to the impeachment proceedings until the constitutionality of their actions is defended.

But the President Sirleaf could wait no more for the crisis, which has drawn a battle-line between the Legislative and Judiciary branches of government, to regenerate—she therefore decided to show leadership. “In our system of Government,” she said, “the Legislature is empowered to enact laws and the Supreme Court is mandated and authorized to interpret the laws. The process in the House of Representatives tends to undermine the peace, threaten the elections process currently underway, and create confusion and chaos in our fledgling democracy.”

The President called on members of the House of Representatives to abandon their action for the sake of peace and stability in Liberia. “The Executive Branch of Government will not support any action which tends to undermine the Constitution and reverse the gains this country has made,” the President said.

The legal tussle between the lower house and the Supreme Court reached another level yesterday when the former rejected a motion for prohibition filed by the Supreme Court against impeachment proceedings by the House of Representatives. The highly-contentious affair recorded 27 votes in favor, four against and two abstentions. After the reading of the communication of the Prohibition from the high court, Representative Gabriel Nyenkan (Unity Party, District No. 11, Montserrado County), one of the sponsors of the impeachment proceedings, declared that in the wake of what he described as unnecessary infusion of the judiciary branch to order the first branch of government to halt in the performance of its constitutional duty, moved that the communication be considered trashed. However, the Lower House’s decision has been condemned by many legal minds, paramount among them being the President of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA), Cllr. Moses Paegar.

The head of the LNBA said at a press conference in Monrovia that “The LNBA believes that the ongoing attempt by the Legislature to have Associate Justices Ja’neh, Wolokollie, and Banks impeached requires and compels it to once again take a public position because this attempt is an obvious, frontal, an unwarranted attack both on the Constitution and the independence of the Judicial Branch of Government.”

Meanwhile sources told the Daily Observer that President Sirleaf has since mandated the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC) to intervene in the crisis in order to bring it to an amicable resolution. There are heightened fears that this crisis has the propensity to stall the workings of the entire government, especially at such a crucial time when unity is needed most to prepare for the October elections and the subsequent transition in January 2018.

Liberians are hopeful that this debacle is not a plot intended to disrupt the elections in an effort to perpetuate the current regime.

18 COMMENTS

  1. Talk all you want to talk or write all you can write. The silent majority holding executing power right at this moment will not allow any physical violence from any individual, minority incumbent including present President, Legislators, or Judiciary especially to disrupt this election and the peace.
    Gone in silence. Let Liberians know.

  2. I swear, those “congua” people in the House of Representatives can just cause all kinds of problems…wait…sorry…I forgot the House is mostly made up of people who consider themselves native!

    • Opi, this problem has nothing to do with that congua or native stuff, it has everything to do with some of our Legislators who have limited or no knowledge of the constitution. these are the people we elected to represent us.

      • I know my brother. I am being sarcastic. There are good people and bad people in the world. Ethnicity or heritage has nothing to do with it. Unfortunately those promoting the native congo divide are too ignorant to get it and need to be reminded every so often.

  3. This is exactly what happens when Liberians vote ignorant people with no sound educational background and poor intellect, as legislators. Legislators must learn to read and fully comprehend the laws even if they were not written during their tenure, and seek legal opinions to clear their doubts and avoid quasi interpretations suiting their understanding. Ranting unnecessarily, fueling chaos, and creating stand-offs between them and those well-learned and knowledgeable men and women of the Supreme Court is absolute nonsense. Thank you madam President for calling a spade a spade, and this has nothing to do with for peace sake. It is written in black and white. Let those idiots read and stop believing the law will be twisted to suit their personal desires. Come on jokers!!!

  4. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s anger with the members of the House of Representatives
    clearly shows how she is micro-managing Liberia! It is the prerogative of the House to
    impeach, even the President of Liberia when they have or can prove their case. So why
    the President be angered? Let them go to Court! That is what the Law and the Constitution
    of Liberia require. Why should the President feels as if it were her personal self?

    This also has nothing to do with having education or not. It is fulfilling the Branch of
    Government responsibility. The fact of the matter is that the President should be a part
    of the House action because, those sitting on that case; Karnwea and Suluteh versus
    Republic of Liberia broke the Law that she signed and became enforceable; but not to
    discriminate as it appears today.

  5. She needs to shut her mouth. Nonsense!! This is just a sneak peek of what to come in 2018, problems. And people of Liberia, be very careful, the world is experiencing something that we have never seen before. Our country could become a testing ground. How could you signed a law and shut it down three months to election? Stupid! ! Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, my 11 years old granddaughter can take this argument any day and night with you. You have nothing absolutely to say to the Liberian people. So harsh now!!!

  6. This is the Daily Observer not being prudent and just with the Liberian people. The observer is infusing its personal feelings as news that is not based on facts reporting. Because you don’t like the law doesn’t mean you should oppose everything that has to do with it.

    Having said the aforementioned, are you kidding me, talking about the EJS is vexed? Are you insinuating, or helping to play the President’s hypocritical card? Is this not the president who signed the COC into law. And is it not the Supreme Court that said it was the Law of the land?

    Daily Observer, this is not a story you should have published because it is not news worthy. Please do a better job as we are depending on your reputation to deliver good news to educate and inform. Don’t start to drift in the direction of FrontPage Africa that produces lot of insinuations and speculations as news.

    Thank you.

  7. Dr. Martin Luther king, Jr. Once said, “Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.”

    When our lawmakers and President Sirleaf came out with this controversial CODE OF CONDUCT LAW, it was not done in good faith. These lawmakers and President Sirleaf’s extrinsic motivation for the COD was to create road blocks in preventing political candidates who had the potential of challenging their favorite candidates.

    Unjust Laws lack the moral compass to be equally dispensed and as such have the tendency to backfire. Where are the lawmakers now: when one of their peers, Edwin Snowe, a sitting representative from Monsterrado County is concurrently running for a representative post in Bomi County?

    Since the implementation of the COD there is an air of restlessness in our political arena. There have been several controversial interpretations of the COD law by the Supreme Court. A reasonable, fair and just law by the Legislators could have simply asked for all government appointees aspiring to run for political office to resign prior to running for political office.

    No wonder why this convoluted COD law that bans government appointees from office for 2 -3 years has reached the highest court of the land…the final arbiter or interpreters of the Constitution. Sometimes, ordinary citizens may not agree with the final opinions of the Supreme Court but that’s why the Supreme Court is highest court of the land. For example, some people did not agree with the Supreme Court unjust punishment of RODNEY SIEH vs CHRIS TOE defamation of character case.

    A typical controversial case in U.S.A. was: Citizens United vs. FEC (Federal Election Commission):
    In Jan. 21, 2010 this case was a landmark case won on a 5-4 split decision. In a nutshell, corporations are treated equally as citizens in terms of campaign finance contribution. Many Americans, including President Obama, and some lawmakers (mostly Democrats) were against this law but had to obey the decision of the Supreme Court.

    It is utterly ridiculous for Liberia’s House of Representative to engage in a power struggle with the Liberian Judicial branch of government because the lawmakers do not agree with the opinion of the
    Supreme Court against several individuals in rendering judgement under the COD law.

    There are many provisions in the Liberian Constitution that protect the Supreme Court from such harassment: that make it difficult for the lower house alone (without consent of the senate) to exert its authority on the Supreme Court: See Constitution provisions below that protect Judges’ Opinions of the Supreme Court.

    CHAPTER VII
    THE JUDICIARY
    Article 73
    No judicial official shall be summoned, arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried civilly or
    criminally by or at the instance of any person or authority on account of judicial opinions
    rendered or expressed, judicial statements made and judicial acts done in the course of a
    trial in open court or in chambers, except for treason or other felonies, misdemeanor or
    breach of the peace. Statements made and acts done by such officials in the course of a
    judicial proceeding shall be privileged, and, subject to the above qualification, no such
    statement made or acts done shall be admissible into evidence against them at any trial or
    proceeding.

    CHAPTER V
    THE LEGISLATURE
    Article 43
    The power to prepare a bill of impeachment is vested solely in the House of
    Representatives and the power to try all impeachments is vested solely in the Senate. When
    The President, Vice President or an Associate Justice is to be tried, the Chief Justice shall
    preside; when the Chief Justice or a judge of a subordinate court of record is to be tried, the
    President of the Senate shall preside. No person shall be impeached but by the concurrence
    of two-thirds of the total membership of the Senate. Judgements in such cases shall not
    extend beyond removal from office and disqualification to hold public office in the
    Republic; but the party may be tried at law for the same offense. The Legislature shall
    prescribe the procedure for impeachment proceedings which shall be in conformity with the
    requirements of due process of law.

    If the Legislators summon these Judges of the Supreme Court for impeachment, who will be left at the Supreme Court to render due process under the law to these summoned judges? This “flex-your-muscle attitude” is counter-productive to the peace and stability of Liberia!!!

    • I will like to ask in this,Who made the COD law ,and signed it ? If it was not legal ,why Did the president signed? Is it because it is against some of her favorite. The law is the law .. This is a shame for the president to say .. madam president you signed this into law when you were sleeping ? Or did not see this coming?

  8. Article 66•
    “Constitutional interpretation • Structure of the courts
    The Supreme Court shall be final arbiter of constitutional issues and shall exercise final appellate jurisdiction in all cases whether emanating from courts of record, courts not of record, administrative agencies, autonomous agencies or any other authority, both as to law and fact except cases involving ambassadors, ministers, or cases in which a country is a party. In all such cases, the Supreme Court shall exercise original jurisdiction. The Legislature shall make no law nor create any exceptions as would deprive the Supreme Court of any of the powers granted herein.”

    Given the intent, interpretations and constitutionality of Articles 43, 66, and 73, the Liberian Constitution needs to be revised to settle these ambiguous articles which appears to be conflicting.

  9. Crocodile tears, bluster and bluff, EJS is the initiator and driver of the crisis. Political leadership is about doing something, not being someone, but Ellen persistently pursued the presidency to be “great”. That’s why everything has to be about her, hence the hideous arbitrary rule and betrayal of a suffering nation.

  10. Perhaps, we should provide support for the previous post.

    The intense repartee on the present constitutional crisis gives the false impression that the unseemly ambiguousness of EJS reference the CoC is a novel occurrence. Frankly, it reads like a script from a well – prepared agenda. For instance, shinning a brighter light on the control – freak arbitrary rule of this presidency, similar to the CoC on resignation of appointees seeking elective office, are the following:

    (I), Requesting the resignation of all cabinet ministers after her reelection which provoked Counselor Tiawan Gongloe, then a government minister engaged in official negotiations abroad, to not reapply for his ministerial position.

    (11), Ebola – related proclamation, “The Liberian leader … instructed officials currently out of the country, whether on government or private visit, to return home within a week or be considered as abandoning their jobs. She is urgently urging all officials of the Executive Branch to take due care of this directive.” Well, few days later, she issued yet another proclamation exempting seven senior officials from that list. Why? They have pressing medical conditions and are therefore excused from returning to the country immediately. Or was it that – for her – some officials are more equal than others, example, the Ngafuans versus the Karnweays.

    And (111), prior to the 2014 Senatorial elections, another proclamation said, “Meanwhile, the President has directed that all government officials who are recognized by the National Elections Commission (NEC) as provincial candidates during the upcoming senatorial elections are also relieved of their positions immediately upon the release of NEC’s final candidate listing.”

    In adherence, therefore, of the role of the Fourth Estate to hold power accountable, the perspective. Org wrote a rightfully scathing editorial on August 29, 2014 entitled “President Sirleaf: Fumbling and Bumbling at the Wheel of State” in which the below prophetic observation was made:

    “Ours is not a monarchy; the president is not a queen on a throne. Should the president’s office handle such a matter? What does the law say? Shouldn’t there be a law on the books regarding this constitutional question? One would think this should fall under the purview of the Legislature or the Supreme Court. It should have been known in advance what the rule is on the matter. According to constitutional law, that particular provision should have already been known to the public, and especially to the candidates. By the president’s office making such an announcement indicates that the matter lies in the president’s discretion…”

    Put together, the foregoing points underscore the fact that Liberia didn’t stumble into the Supreme Court – Legislature impeachment crisis. It is the pattern and preferred practice of the arbitrary rule of a despotic president whose main preoccupation is to get away with anything Liberians could be hoodwinked, browbeaten, or bullied to allow. The intelligentsia and cheerleaders of elitism may hourly holler themselves hoarse, but the fact remains that Ellenism proved to be a blight on the land, and former GAC Commissioner Hon. John Morlu 11, Jr. was correct in predicting that its corruption would surpass any that has come before!

  11. Naturalized as well, non Liberians, Americans, should not be part of the secret heritage of Liberia, situated on the West Coast of Africa. Not even participate in relations unless invited. Are you An American? Are you an American citizen? Are you a Liberian? Your nation has an eye on you. Answer privileged inheritance. The silent 57% got all eyes open. Tyrants will no longer incite riots through pretense of gaining piece to replace peace, scale voting schedules to seek power or remain in power. The people of the Republic of Liberia will institution their voting rights this time at all times. There is no more war in this state. Peace comes when we smell crisis. Piece is asked when one has a share in an entitlement. Never again gimmicks.
    Tell the Liberian people. Answer the silent majority.
    Gone in silence.

  12. Indeed, “no more wars” when warmongers are the governors distributing spoils.

    The land mass Liberia, by the way, was occupied when named Grain Coast by the same Europeans who gave the names Gold Coast and Ivory Coast to those two. News flash: Centuries before the 1800’s.

    It is a two – way street, lots of encoding and decoding to go around.

  13. DO YOU NEED TO FIX THIS NATION? YES. DO YOU NEED WAR AGAIN? NO. FIGHT FOR YOURSELF BY VOTING YOUR CONSCIENCE OR ABSTAIN IF YOU NEED TO. IF YOU CAUSE VIOLENCE HERE AGAIN. THE SILENT MAJORITY 57% NOW IN ACTION WILL SHOW YOU THE WEIGHT OF AN African MAJORITY DEMOCRATIC STATE LEFT BY OUR FOUNDERS.
    Answer the Liberian People. Not me.
    Gone in Silence.

  14. Restating facts isn’t incitement to conflict. That’s the same mentality which enabled villains to vilify their victims with “tabatta” such as “Peace was in heaven, until the Kru man got there”. The oppressors wanted the oppressed to turn the other cheek while being dispossessed – nothing changed.

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