Following the impeachment and removal of Supreme Court Associate Justice, Kabineh Ja’neh from office by the Senate, several senators are said to be leaving or have left the country for a number of purported reasons ranging from medical to vacation and holiday.
As a result, Senate Tuesday, April 2 session was called off because those present could not constitute a quorum.
Observers however charged that such departures coming at a time when the Senate has just returned from recess, suggest that there may indeed be some truth to allegations of huge executive payouts (US$50,000) to each Senator who voted in favor of Ja’neh’s impeachment and removal.
Sources say that Senator Varney Sherman left the country on Tuesday night (April 2), while Senator and President Pro Tempore, Albert Chie is already in Ghana, while Senator Marshall Dennis was scheduled to leave on Wednesday, April 2 for Ghana to reportedly seek medical treatment. More Senators from the approval bloc are also reported to be planning forays abroad, perhaps as observers see it, to spend “free money.”
These allegations and public speculations about Senators leaving the country en masse have heightened in the wake of revelations by Senator Prince Yormie Johnson (PYJ) of Nimba County that the impeachment of Justice Ja’neh was “politically motivated, and sealed with money.”
Sen. Johnson has however denied that neither he nor Senator Thomas Grupee (both of Nimba County) voted in favor of Ja’neh’s impeachment and removal from office. Bomi County Senator Sando Johnson, also shared similar concerns while speaking on SKY FM (107) talk-show recently.
Senator Sando Johnson claimed that the process to remove Ja’neh from office was not transparent, pointing to what he described as irregularities in the handling of the vote count by Senate President Pro Tempore Albert Chie.
According to him, he and other Senators, including Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper and River Gee County Senator, Conmany Wesseh, had requested the presiding officer, Senator Chie to provide explanations for the presiding officer’s departure from the voting rules, which they had all agreed to, even though some Senators, including himself, had expressed objection to the Senate’s single-handed formulation of the rules of impeachment.
Senators Conmany Wesseh, Oscar Cooper, J Gbleh-bo Brown, Daniel Naatehn, Steve Zargo, Sando Johnson and others had contended that rules of impeachment derived by the Senate, acting alone, were legally deficient, and therefore could not be legally held as binding, although Chief Justice Korkpor apparently did not see it that way.
Additionally, Senator Sando Johnson claimed that demands to have the ballots counted in the presence of the Senators following the close of the polls went unheeded by Senator Albert Chie, who instead took the translucent and unsealed ballot box home only to announce the next day that 20 senators had voted in favor of the impeachment.
Further, according to Senator Sando Johnson, their attempt to have the ballots counted right after voting was resisted by Sen. Chie, who insisted that the ballots be counted only after three outstanding votes had been secured from Senators, who were absent during voting.
Moreover, according to Sen. Johnson, the ballot box was taken by Sen. Chie to his home where it is suspected it was tampered with.
When asked to review the voting records, according to Sen. Johnson, to verify the vote count, Sen. Chie stoutly refused.
According to observers, Chie’s action of taking the ballot box home and refusing to verify vote count have implications for the conduct of future elections, and that such handling of the vote count can be rightly considered a dress rehearsal for the conduct of fraudulent elections in the future.
Observers further noted that the theft of the 1985 elections results by then President Samuel K. Doe, had the effect of producing a groundswell of popular discontent, and ill will that virtually opened the door to prolonged violent armed conflict in the country.
Meanwhile, President Weah has since announced the replacement of Justice Ja’neh by Civil Law Court Judge Yussif Kaba, whose nomination is yet to be confirmed by the Senate.
Observers say although Judge Kaba possesses the requisite qualification for the post, the move by President Weah is however intended to placate Muslims and Mandingo ethnicists, whose profile in the Liberian politics as compared to other smaller ethnic groups, has been raised significantly since the outbreak of the civil war a little over 20 years ago, and who may feel aggrieved as a result of Ja’neh’s removal from office.