The Writing on the Wall

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Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh has finally been removed after several glitches in an impeachment process marred from the onset by actions bordering on disrespect for the Constitution and the rule of law. But the Daily Observer, being fully cognizant of the realities inherent to the culture of an imperial presidency in which the President gets anything he/she wants, knew and felt from the very moment hints were dropped of a move to impeach and remove Justice Ja’neh from office for what appeared to be clearly non-impeachable offenses.

Indeed a sad day has dawned in the annals of Liberia’s political development and history, for it is becoming increasingly clear that the rule of law gradually appears to be taking side-stage under the watch of the George Weah administration. For example, reports that the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Albert Chie, took the ballot box to his home, allegedly for safe keeping, has raised deep public concerns of what appears to be a gross lack of integrity displayed by those Senators who cast the vote to have Ja’neh removed from office.

Publicly bandied suggestions that money (US$15,000) was paid to each Senator who cast a Yes vote cannot be dismissed, given past experience. For instance the election of Edwin Snowe as Speaker of the House of Representatives as opposed to his opponent, former District 5 Representative Dusty Wolokolie, in 2006, was said to have been heavily influenced by money paid by former President Sirleaf. But the pair soon fell out and Snowe was subsequently removed as Speaker, again through the influence of money.

That aside, it is public knowledge that any appointed official appearing before the Senate for confirmation has to follow what is called “Common Law” practice and pay up or face rejection by the body. And then came the removal of former Speaker Alex Tyler again accomplished through outright bribery of Legislators. In similar vein, it is strongly suspected that the passage into law of over 60 bogus concession agreements was accomplished through outright bribery.

The signing of the ExxonMobil oil deal in 2014 which was done completely outside the framework of the 2002 Petroleum law was accomplished through outright bribery because the 2002 Petroleum law was not amended until 2016, two years after the signing into law of the agreement. Given the above, it is by no means surprising that Senators would have voted the way they did.

Also, the “4G” passage of the Hummingbird agreement into law, particularly at a time when the Senate was on recess, is another case in point. It can be recalled that Maryland County Senator J. Gblehbo Brown had expressed strong opposition to the passage of the agreement since it had not been sufficiently discussed and deliberated on. The fact that Senator Albert Chie, also serving as Senate President Pro Tempore, owns a ten (10%) percent share in the company speaks volumes.

As concerns the removal of Ja’neh from office, Article 71 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia provides “The Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and the judges of subordinate courts of record shall hold office during good behavior. They may be removed upon impeachment and conviction by the Legislature based on proved misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of their office, or conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or other infamous crimes”.

The Daily Observer notes that, innuendoes aside, Senators failed to show evidence of proven misconduct, gross breach of duty, inability to perform or conviction in a court of law for treason, bribery or any other infamous crime. Ja’neh may have indeed been convicted but such conviction was not before a court of law, as the Constitution provides, rather it was before the Senate.

Moreover, contrary to the spirit and intent of Article 73, charges against Ja’neh arising from his handling of the Road Fund case cannot hold water because the Article 73 of the Constitution explicitly provides that  “…Statements made and acts done by such officials in the course of a judicial proceeding shall be privileged, and, subject to the above qualification, no such statements made or acts done shall be admissible into evidence against them at any trial or proceeding”.

The Road Fund case was a judicial proceeding held before the Supreme Court and whatever statements purportedly made by Ja’neh are considered privileged and as Article 73 of the Constitution provides, no statements or acts done can be admissible into evidence against him at any trial or proceeding. Just how astute legal minds in the Senate could have failed to properly read and understand these provisions of the constitution is mind boggling except, of course, pecuniary gain was uppermost in their considerations.

Lastly, is Article 43 of the Constitution, which provides that the “Legislature shall prescribe the procedure for impeachment proceedings which shall be in conformity with the requirements of due process of law. In the case at bar, it was the Senate, acting alone, that derived the rules for the impeachment proceeding against Ja’neh. This newspaper holds that the “Legislature”, in the reading of this Constitutional provision, explicitly means both Houses acting in concert, absent of which the action of the Senate becomes null and void ab initio.

Now that Ja’neh is gone, the question lingering on the minds of the public is who is next in line to receive the axe. From all indications and given the visible strains between both individuals, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor may very well be next in line to be axed. The Nathaniel Mcgill and Samuel Tweah spat with former Bong County Superintendent Esther Walker over the conferral of traditional titles on the vice President and instructions allegedly from McGill to embassy staff in Morocco to snub and deny her official protocol service during her recent visit to that country is the Writing on the Wall.

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