Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe on Tuesday, January 28, expressed concerns that the decision made by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to maintain Cllr. Christiana P. Tah as Justice Minister and Attorney General could undermine the rule of law in the country.
“Since the High Court’s suspension of Minister Tah, the President should have acted immediately by declaring that coinciding with the judgment the Minister is hereby suspended,” Cllr. Gongloe suggested.
“If that had been done maybe her suspension would have been for a shorter period,” Cllr. Gongloe added.
Minster Tah, who is Dean of the Supreme Court, was suspended on January 10 by that High Court from practicing law in the country for six months.
She was suspended after the High Court held her in contempt for her role played in releasing FrontPage Africa Managing Editor Rodney Sieh, on “compassionate leave” from detention at the Monrovia Central Prison. According to the leading human rights activist, the Court’s action was to defend the integrity of the rule of law.
“If somebody in authority acts in clear violation of the rule of law, then the High Court is under obligation to take strong action.”
“If the Supreme Court can take such an action against the Minister of Justice, then it is protecting the independence of the Court,” Cllr. Gongloe maintained.
“In my mind the honorable thing for Minister Tah to do is resign; because the law is the source of the Ministry and if you are Attorney General, you are the nation’s head lawyer,” the rights activist explained.
“And if that is taken away from you what can you do as a Minster of Justice?” he wondered.
“She is not truly Minister of Justice in my opinion,” said Cllr. Gongloe, “because the functions of that Ministry is to prosecute and defend all actions against the government and to give it general counsel.”
“You are to review and authenticate all contracts and give opinions about what the law is to the executive; and to monitor the action of the executive to make sure it is in compliance with the law.”
He continued “The only Minister under the law who disagrees with the President on the basis of the law and keeps his/her job is the Minister of Justice. No other minister can do that and maintain their position.”
Commenting further on President Sirleaf’s reluctance to suspend Minister Tah, Cllr. Gongloe maintained that “People— especially those holding high office in government— would have said since the President acted, we will be careful with the High Court.”
But, according to the leading human rights activist, President Sirleaf has chosen to remain silent on the issue.
“If the President does not obey the High Court’s ruling who you think in the other two branches of government will do that?” Cllr. Gongloe wondered, “It means gradually the court will become irrelevant.”