SG Blamo argues
Solicitor General (SG) Cllr. Betty Lamin Blamo, on Wednesday, told Civil Law Court ‘B’ that the ownership and possessory rights of the controversial E.J. Roye Building were invested unto the government by the People’s Redemption Council (PRC)-military junta decree#11.
Cllr. Blamo also said that constitutional legitimacy of Article 97 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia supported her argument.
The SG’s argument resulted from a complaint filed before the court by lawyers representing the interest of some concerned partisan of the TWP including its chairman, Reginald Goodridge, asking it (court) for a “Declaratory judgment” in their favor.
After hearing both parties’ argument, Judge Bioma Kontoe reserved the court ruling for Tuesday, September 5.
Until the 1980 coup that toppled the government of President William R. Tolbert, the E.J. Roye Building was the headquarters of the erstwhile grand old True Wing Party (TWP), then ruling party.
The Tolbert government was overthrown by the Military Junta headed by President Samuel Doe.
However, in her argument, Cllr, Blamo said, the court does not have jurisdiction to hear the matter related to the E.J. Roye building. She argued that Article 97 prevents it from making any determination on some major action taken against institutions and individuals by the PRC
The article provides that, “No executive, legislative, judicial or administrative action taken by the PRC or by any persons, whether military or civilian in the name of that Council pursuant to any of its decrees shall be questioned in any proceedings whatsoever; and accordingly, it shall not be lawful for any court or other tribunal to make any order or grant any remedy or relief in respect or any such act.”
Part (B) of that article also states: “No court or other tribunal shall entertain any action whatsoever instituted against the Government of Liberia, whether before or after the coming into force of this Constitution or against any person or persons who assisted in any manner whatsoever in bringing about the change of government on the April 12, 1980, in respect of any act or commission relating to or consequent upon.”
“Under the TWP government civil servant including my parents’ salary was cut and contributed toward the construction of the E.J. Roye building,” the SG contended, adding, “Everybody’s parents paid for the property, therefore, it is for the government and not for any individual or institution to claim legitimate ownership.”
Besides, Cllr. Blamo argued, PRC’s decree #11 that was enacted into law and has yet to be repealed that, no court, even the Supreme Court, can make any determination about its legitimate ownership.
Justice Minister Cllr. Frederick Cherue, supporting his colleague’s argument, said, before the 1980 coup, he served as chairman of the TWP.
“From 1978 t0 79 I was the chairman of the TWP and I know that the E.J. Roye Building does not belong to the party, it is for the people and the government,” Cllr. Cherue.
“I do not know how the TWP managed to take over the building?” the Justice Minister wondered.
According to Cherue, when the coup was staged, Liberians around headed to the street in support of the military junta.
“Decree #11 was used by the junta to confiscate properties belonging to former public officials including President Tolbert,” the justice minister argued.
He claimed that those properties that were owned by the officials were later returned to them by the junta.
“The junta’s decision was in the interest of reconciliation and it was done in consultation with the international community and national institutions,” Cherue argued, adding, “but, the E.J. Roye building was never turned over to the TWP, because it was the property of the government.”
In counter argument, Goodridge’s lawyer, Sayma Syrenius Cephas agreed with his colleagues that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case, but suggested that since the issue was based on constitutionality, it should be handled by the Supreme Court.
Cllr. Cephaus also argued that the building was allegedly confiscated from the party by the junta in 1980; and not from a third party, referring to the government.
“Our ownership rights over the E.J. Roye Building is a public knowledge and has never been in dispute, until two years ago when the government purportedly enforced a PRC degree #11 of April 12, 1980,” Goodridge’s lead lawyer argued.
Cephaus further argued alleged that the government practically owned the building, although, they are taking the decision without any proof of a title deed.
“Government has shown no evidence that the property was confiscated, and that it belongs to her by proof of a title deed,” Goodridge’s lawyer argued.
He continued, “Government cannot show evidence to the extent of an eminent domain or condemnation proceedings; instead, they are using their various connections and powers to forcibly seize our property.” He added, “They have not shown any inconvertible document to prove that the building is confiscated and is now owned by the government.”