Counselor Christiana Tah, one of Liberia's most courageous and outstanding Attorney Generals in recent times, has resigned. Her resignation has finally been accepted by her boss, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Why do we say "finally?" Because Cllr. Tah had actually resigned as early as March 31, 2014, but not only did the President delay in acknowledging receipt of that letter; but she also "postponed consideration of my prerogative to resign from her Cabinet appointment," Cllr. Tah told a press conference on Monday announcing her resignation.
In her carefully worded statement read to the press, Cllr. Tah outlined a number of critical issues which, she said, had undermined the rule of law in Liberia.
"It has become unbearable for me to [serve] in name as the dutifully appointed Minister of Justice of the Republic of Liberia, when in reality concrete actions indicate a determination to systematically undermine and gut the portfolio of relevance and effectiveness," she averred.
Cllr. Tah further made this alarmingly critical observation about Liberia's jurisprudence, which in our view is an indictment not only on the Presidency but on the Third Branch of government as well, the Judiciary: "The landscape of Liberian Jurisprudence is being transformed in arbitrary and incurable ways that make it onerous (difficult, burdensome) to conscientiously navigate," she added.
"Amidst the prevailing interpretation of the doctrine of separation of powers and ensuing blurring of the rules and roles of engagement even within the Executive arm of government itself," Cllr. Tah further declared, "the investments of national and international stakeholders promoting the rule of law is being eroded by actions that contradict the values that underpin the fabric of our society."
These are very strong words that every Liberian–not just those in the Executive and Judicial branches of government, but the Legislative, too, and all politicians and the common man on the street should take
very seriously and think about.
The legendary constitutional analyst and pamphleteer Albert Porte always said that the Judiciary is "the cement that underpins (buttresses, holds together) the fabric of society." If that is "eroded"– a word Cllr. Tah carefully and purposely used–then the whole system is at risk and things could fall apart.
She backed up these assertions with at least two problems she had with the Executive and Judicial branches. The first was the failure of her own Executive branch to permit her as Attorney General and Justice Minister to carry out the investigation of alleged malpractices at the National Security Agency (NSA), which is headed by President Sirleaf's own son, Fumba Sirleaf. The NSA had been accused of fraud because it had allegedly accosted some Korean businesspeople on July 8, 2014 and seized from them US$247,500 and other valuables. The Koreans' lawyers took the matter to Criminal Court "C", but the court, citing "separation of powers," threw out the case because it said the matter was still being investigated by the Executive branch.
But Minister Tah said in her Monday statement that President Sirleaf had indicated that "she does not trust the Justice Ministry to
independently investigate fraud at NSA."
This government has long been accused of practicing nepotism. It turns out that the Director General of the NSA is President Sirleaf's own son, Fumba Sirleaf. Why on earth would the Justice Minister, who is Head of the nation's Joint Security Team, be prevented from investigating one of its own members. That is why Cllr. Tah described this as the Executive Branch's "determination to
systematically undermine and gut the portfolio of relevance and effectiveness."
Her other citation involved her contempt conviction by the Supreme Court and her suspension from law practice for six months after she granted "compassionate leave" from prison of Front Page Africa's publisher, Rodney Sieh, who had fallen ill while in prison.
Counselor Tah said that the High Court had denied her and her lawyers the opportunity to defend themselves.
Outgoing Justice Minister Tah did not mention it, but look how the judiciary recently freed, on a US$25,000 bail, a Lebanese national convicted of rape and human trafficking. And he was allowed to leave the country the same day! Was that in keeping with the sacred oaths the President and all the nation's judges took to defend,
protect and uphold the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia?
We pray that Minister Tah's resignation–and her reasons given–are a wakeup call to the Liberian government and people. To quote Shakespeare, "Something is rotten in the State of Denmark." The
sooner we clean it up, the better–or is it too late?