By all accounts, Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh’s removal from office in a process marred by irregularities occurring right under the watch of Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor has left a taste of sour of disappointment in the mouths of all well-meaning Liberians yearning to savor the fruits of unadulterated justice in Liberia.
This newspaper is not unaware of concerns expressed in certain quarters about Ja’neh’s alleged high-handedness and corrupt behavior which, according to his critics, may have led to his undoing. However, in the opinion of the Daily Observer, the issue is about the rule of law and the sanctity of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia which is indeed the organic law of the land.
Under the Constitution of Liberia, as provided for in Chapter V, entitled The Legislature, Article 29, “The legislative power of the Republic shall be vested in the Legislature of Liberia which shall consist of two separate houses: A Senate and a House of Representatives, both of which must pass on all legislation. The enacting style shall be: “It is enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Republic of Liberia in Legislature assembled.”
This is the provision of the Constitution which actually defines the nature of the Legislature composed of both Houses as a body which must pass on all legislation. In this regard, neither body acting alone can claim to represent the Legislature which is headed by a direct representative of the people called the “Speaker”.
Also under the Constitution Article 43, it says the Legislature shall prescribe the procedure for impeachment and that such procedure must be in keeping with requirements of due process of law. While the power to impeach is invested in the Senate, yet the rules governing impeachment must be in keeping with due process of law and they must be agreed on by both Houses before they can become standing rules of the Legislature.
There is no evidence anywhere suggesting that this provision of the Constitution was complied with, although there is ample evidence showing that Rule 63, on which basis Ja’neh was impeached, was derived and formulated by the Senate alone to the exclusion of the House of Representatives.
Going by this logic, Rule 63 is therefore legally deficient and because of such glaring deficiency, it cannot be considered as a standing rule of the Legislature because only the House of Senate was involved in its formulation. Moreover the Senate’s action appears to be in gross violation of Article 43, of the Constitution.
Article 43 reads: “The power to prepare a bill of impeachment is vested solely in the House of Representatives, and the power to try all impeachments is vested solely in the Senate. When the President, Vice President or an Associate Justice is to be tried, the Chief Justice shall preside; when the Chief Justice or a judge of a subordinate court of record is to be tried, the President of the Senate shall preside.
No person shall be impeached but by the concurrence of two-thirds of the total membership of the Senate. Judgments in such cases shall not extend beyond removal from office and disqualification to hold public office in the Republic; but the party may be tried at law for the same offense. The Legislature shall prescribe the procedure for impeachment proceedings which shall be in conformity with the requirements of due process of law”.
Just why or how the presiding officer Chief Justice Korkpor failed to recognize the incontrovertible fact that the Rules of Impeachment were not agreed on by both Houses remains equally puzzling and troubling. Could such be a dress rehearsal for further illegal action and the corruption of our electoral process? In the view of this newspaper, such action portends danger for the future health of our democracy.
There are other instances as well, in which presiding Officer Chief Justice Korkpor appeared to have conveniently ignored concerns of the public over the transparency of the voting process. This newspaper warns that such has dangerous implications for the future of democratic elections, Peace and Stability in Liberia.
This development has left many Liberians wondering and, rightly so, if there is a need for a legislature at all since the public interests are being mortgaged by individuals elected to safeguard the country’s them. The Sierra Herald, a Sierra Leone based publication volume 8 No. 6, describes members of parliament in a befitting manner that mirrors our Liberia. It reads:
“Put together a government whose functionaries are hell-bent on making money for self and associates at all costs, add a minister who is ready to sell his own soul to the devil for money from whatever quarter; add a President who sees nothing wrong in being unable to separate his private and government coffers and, into this mix, put a Parliament made up of bleating goats ready to sing any song that lines their pockets and finally coat the mixture with a nest of vipers passing off as journalists whose pockets have ever-yawning chasms. And presto, you have the right combination. Corruption that beggars belief!!!!
Corruption that beggars belief can aptly apply to our situation here in Liberia. Just imagine that the entire southeast of Liberia, rich in gold, coltan and other valuable resources has been awarded exclusively to a shady company, Hummingbird Resources, in which Grand Kru Senator and Senate President Pro Tempore, Albert Tugbe Chie holds a ten percent share.
Now just as the public desires to know or review the voting records of all those senators who voted for or against the impeachment, so too does the public desire to know who are those senators who voted to place Senator Albert Chie’s unholy pecuniary pursuits over those of the national interest. And so the nation wonders is the Liberian Legislature made up of principled men and women, or of mere “bleating goats” ever ready to bleat “maaa” to every bunch of cassava leaves?