-LNBA President Cllr. Gongloe
The President of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe says President George Weah’s appointment and subsequent commissioning of George S. W. Patten, Sr., to serve as Liberia’s Ambassador to the United States without the confirmation of the Senate as required by the Constitution was a “complete violation” of Article 54 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
Article 54 of the Constitution of Liberia specifically provides that: “The President shall nominate and, with the consent of the Senate, appoint and commission — a) cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant cabinet ministers; b) ambassadors, ministers, consuls; and c) the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts; d) superintendents, other county officials and officials of other political sub-divisions; e) members of the military from the rank of lieutenant or its equivalent and above; and f) marshals, deputy marshals, and sheriffs.”
However, President Weah, in December 2018, appointed and subsequently commissioned Mr. Patten as Liberia’s Ambassador-designate to the United States of America, while members of the Senate were away on their annual break.
In his induction address of officers–elect of the LNBA on Friday, January 25, at the Paynesville City Hall, Cllr. Gongloe said the President was in error to have confirmed Patten in the absence of the Senate.
According to Gongloe, there is no exception to the Constitution to give a president the right to appoint and confirm without the involvement of the Senate.
“For the Senate to be on recess and the President to appoint and confirm an ambassador is a total ‘no’ and ridicule for our democracy, and the bar will not remain silent on that constitutional violation. Even in an emergency situation our Constitution does not give the President the right to do so,” the LNBA president emphasized.
Gongloe meanwhile assured his audience, mostly lawyers, that his leadership would not remain silent on any issue that would undermine the Constitution and any other international statute to which Liberia is a signatory.
“We will be the voice for the voiceless, especially on an issue that would be in violation of the Constitution, and they are going to ensure the sustainability of the peace through the effective administration of the justice system,” he noted.
According to Gongloe, these were some of the constitutional lapses that led the country to a prolonged 14 years of civil war that took the lives of over 250,000 and several millions of dollars of properties destroyed; and so his leadership will not keep silent to see the recurrence as was in the past.
“You are going to hear us loudly on all contentious issues that would involve the three branches of the government, especially in the violation of the Constitution and international instruments,” Gongloe vowed. ”We are also going to make clarity on contentious legal issues so as to maintain the peace and sustain our democracy.”
Gongloe said the LNBA will get involved with those contentious constitutional issues because, in the absence of peace, they (lawyers) would close their respective law firms; even the courthouses would also be closed.
“Lawyers are a part of the country and we have the responsibility to sustain the peace of the country,” Gongloe indicated.
Earlier, keynote speaker Yacoub El Hillo, UN Resident Coordinator in Liberia, reminded members of the LNBA to reinforce their advocacy and propagation for the respect of the rule of law and to continue to discourage any act or activity that could jeopardize the security and hard-won peace of the country.
“I am confident that the Bar, under the leadership of its president-elect and members of the Executive Committee, will continue to maintain its independence, be the voice of the voiceless, be a watchdog that will let the government know when things are going in the wrong trajectory, and remind them to respect the laws of the land, among others, by all the three branches of government,” El Hillo emphasized. He spoke on the theme “The Role of the LNBA in the Process of Peace Consolidation in Liberia.”
The UN Coordinator said to have sustainable peace, “there is the need for the people and Government of Liberia to continue to respect the right and dignity of one another, promote access to justice, ensure inclusive and equitable growth, increase basic quality services for all, address the root causes of why Liberia went to war in the first place, and have capable institutions able to resolve conflicts and enforce laws. “
In any country where the rule of law is not effectively administered, he narrated that injustice, violence against women and girls, corruption, and general criminality are more likely to occur with impunity.
“It is imperative that Liberia’s observance of the rule of law is reinforced for the country to consolidate peace and realize the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” Hillo noted. “In other words, I am confident that the Bar will continue to be in the forefront of defending the rule of law, fundamental liberties and promoting access to justice; this duty is sacred.”
He meanwhile informed his audience that the UN strongly believes that addressing the question of accountability is essential to achieving long-lasting peace and fostering full reconciliation.
“There is widespread agreement that efforts to build sustainable peace in fragile states cannot succeed without establishing the rule of law, and that without peace, there cannot be development in any society. Peace consolidation cannot be fully attained without the promotion of the rule of law,” El Hillo noted.