‘Power Is Nothing Without Control’

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Former Justice Minister, Cllr. Frederick Cherue

The newly appointed Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frederick Cherue, said that power is nothing without control. In other words, if one is given power and cannot control himself or herself in the exercise of that power, he or she will surely lose it.

The statement was in reference to the misuse of power, in which so many Liberian Attorneys General have engaged while they held office, getting into trouble not only with the public, but eventually with their boss, the Presidents of Liberia, who appointed them.

Being one of the most powerful and most prestigious positions in government, the position of Justice Minister and Attorney General of Liberia has been abused in the past by some officials who engaged in the excessive use of power against certain people and the masses, causing them great pain and suffering. One of them was Justice Minister Chea Cheapoo, who as Justice Minister appointed immediately following the April 12, 1980 coup d’etat, sent many innocent people to jail and kept them there for months until Head of State Samuel K. Doe fired him in
August 1981.

Another was Jenkins Scott, who also committed many innocents to prison and closed down the Daily Observer several times. He also presided over two arson attacks against the newspaper, in March 1986 and March 1990.

But just as the newly appointed Justice Minister and Attorney General, Cllr. Frederick Cherue told the Daily Observer yesterday, if one has power and cannot control it, that power is nothing, and it will soon be gone. The identical thing happened to both Cheapoo and Jenkins Scott. As for the latter, Jenkins Scott died a disgraceful death, while trying to fetch food from a dumpsite in Monrovia.

Counsellor Cherue, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s newly appointed Justice Minister and Attorney General, on the other hand, has vowed not to tread the path of the reckless and uncontrollable use of power. “I do not intend to leave this office tomorrow as a friendless, isolated individual, leaving many enemies behind,” he declared in an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer yesterday. “I intend to serve my time in this office knowing that there is a tomorrow when I will no longer be Attorney General; and when that time comes, I intend to return to the community where I can live in friendship and peace with all those I knew before, and even among more friends.”

“Power is nothing without control,” Cllr. Cherue reemphasized, and pledged “to keep a level head, just as I have done throughout my public and private lives in the positions I have been fortunate to hold.”

He further pledged his commitment “to help President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf reach the finishing line (of her administration) peacefully.” The MOJ is the prosecuting arm of the government, and Minister Cherue said his tenure at the Ministry will be very consultative in order to ensure “that the right things are done.”

Many of Cherue’s predecessors, though not all the immediate ones, were “intoxicated” with the power and prestige that come with that position, preferring to use excessive power or an iron fist to execute the mandates of their office. They, however, ended up creating many enemies for themselves.

Some of these past officials in the country’s recent history, specifically Chea Cheapo and Jenkins Scott, gained notoriety for the manner in which they governed the Ministry. They often went beyond their bounds to terrorize and dehumanized their compatriots. However, Attorney

General Cherue, who officially took over the position yesterday, said that power becomes useless when it is used beyond control.

Speaking to the Daily Observer at his 9th Street Justice Ministry office yesterday, Minister Cherue spoke of his very humble beginnings in River Gee County. Both his parents were humble and hardworking people.

Asked as to how he intends to interpret and use the power that comes with his new position, the former River Gee Senator replied, “I will do my best. I will read the laws and consult with my colleagues, especially those here at the Justice Ministry, to make the best decisions possible in the interest of the Liberian people. I will advise my boss, President Sirleaf, strictly on be basis of the law. If there is anything she wants done that may not be in keeping with the law, I will advise her by saying, ‘Madam President, this is what the law says.’”

The Minister also senses that the inability of past officials to tell their bosses the truth stems from the fact that many of them were not too familiar with the country’s laws, and the absence of the truth creates some of the unnecessary situations in the country’s past.

“I will obey, respect and be committed to the President’s national development agenda, but I will muster the courage whenever I’m opportune to sit with her to advise her appropriately in order for us to make the right decisions. I know the President will always be willing to listen to me because she has confidence in me. That’s why she appointed me,” he added.

Upon officially taking over as Justice Minister yesterday, the first thing that Minister Cherue did was to visit the Monrovia Central Prison, which he described as being “very overcrowded.” Providing an update on the prison facility, the Minister indicated that the facility currently hosts 1,001 detainees, when it was built for only 300. And many of the prisoners there are pre-trial detainees—a situation he described as “very disturbing.”

“Out of this huge number only a hundred have been sentenced, while over eight hundred are pre-trial detainees,” Minister Cherue noted. Their prolonged detention is not helping the system. Because of this, he said, he is working with Chief Justice Francis Korkpor to see how the problem might be resolved.

The Attorney General revealed that the Chief Justice, who is seriously concerned about the prison’s over-crowdedness, has set up a “fast track court,” to fast track some of the minor cases and see how some of these prisoners can be released on bail.

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