And the Jan’eh impeachment imbroglio continues as the Supreme Court and the House of Representatives with horns locked in battle appear set to fight to the bitter end. There have been arguments on both sides of the divide against and for the impeachment. House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, a notable opponent of former President Sirleaf, is leading the charge against Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh allegedly for acts of impropriety in office.
According to observers, this is the first time in history that a sitting Justice of the Supreme Court is facing impeachment charges over acts of impropriety. History however recalls that only twice before in contemporary history Justices of the Supreme Court have vacated their posts in deference to threats from the Executive to subject them to impeachment on charges of corruption or proven misconduct.
In one of such instances, then Chief Justice Chea Cheapoo had run afoul of President Samuel K. Doe’s good wishes and for this Doe had determined to have him impeached and removed from office. Realizing that he would have stood no chances of attaining a favorable vote from the Senate to forestall his threatened impeachment, Chief Justice Cheapoo tendered in his resignation to President Doe but, Doe, refusing to accept the resignation, urged the Legislature to proceed with impeachment proceedings and Chief Justice Cheapoo was impeached and removed from office.
Another instance was that of the voluntary resignation of the entire Bench of the Supreme Court. Former President Doe, for some reason had apparently some rough edges with members of the Supreme Court Bench and had, resultantly, called on the entire Bench to resign under threats of impeachment for corruption in case they refused to budge. The entire Bench, with the exception of Justice John Dennis, who refused to bow to Doe’ demands, resigned forthwith.
And he was widely hailed by the public but the joy was short-lived as Justice Dennis, according to reports at the time, feeling fearful of losing his life, finally capitulated and tendered in his resignation. Years later, another shakeup would occur and this time it would involve the impeachment of a sitting Speaker attended by much controversy. It was the impeachment of Speaker Edwin Snowe and his replacement by Alex Tyler who also was to suffer the same fate as Snowe.
His impeachment was attended by much drama and suspense. In the finally analysis, Tyler was impeached amid public suspicion his colleagues in the House of Representatives had accepted bribes from President Sirleaf to ensure Tyler’s impeachment, again on grounds of impropriety-bribery. It remains unclear though the role current Speaker Chambers played in that affair. Today, however, he is leading the charge, as Speaker to impeach Associate Justice Ja’neh for alleged acts of impropriety.
This newspaper has argued, consistently, that public officials need to be transparent in their dealings and to be held accountable for their actions while in office. This includes the President, cabinet officials, legislators and even Justices of the Supreme Court. This newspaper, however, holds firm the belief that whoever comes to equity must do so with clean hands. This is particularly important and crucial for a nascent democracy such as ours still struggling to come to terms with its past.
In this regard, this newspaper cannot help but observe the impunity that has attended the actions of government officials particularly, members of the National Legislature. Some members of the Legislature, for example have been tried at law and found guilty for criminal offenses including theft of public funds, rape, etc. Yet they have remained untouched by the law. For example, tough talking Senator Milton Teahjay of Sinoe County and his deputy Thomas R. Quioh were hooked in a General Auditing Commission (GAC) audit and held to account for US$215,880.
Others have been linked to impropriety and the theft of public funds. House Speaker, Bhofal Chambers was linked to a bogus company awarded a construction contract for the Bong Technical College. He and others including other government officials were reported to be shareholders in the company, the Liberia-China Investment Group, which was awarded a multi-million dollar contract outside the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) framework.
An official audit report had revealed that several individuals including former Speaker Alex Tyler, representatives Kettehkumehn Murray and Bhofal Chambers were significant shareholders in the Liberia-China Investment Group. Speaker Chambers was reported to own 7.5% shares in the company. The audit by the Internal Audit Agency (IAA) also revealed that on October 21, 2010 a construction contract valued at US$4,394,776.97 was awarded to the Liberia-China Investment Group to construct a two-storey building in Gbarnga to host the college.
Further, according to the report, the contract was to commence on 1st November, 2016 and end on 31st October 2017. Several additions were made to the contract which eventually raised the construction price to US$7,604,926.27 and changed the completion date to May 2017.
This newspaper has recounted all this history to remind the public that the current impeachment case against Justice Kabineh Ja’neh could very well be the first of such in the life of the George Weah government but may not certainly be the last. Accountability should not and must not stop at the doorsteps of the Supreme Court and that of Justice Ja’neh.
While Justice Ja’neh may not be the “saint” his supporters acclaim him to be, Speaker Chambers, judging from the records, is certainly no saint either and this current impeachment exercise which he spearheads could very well be a dress rehearsal in the making for his own impeachment on similar charges down the road.
After all, as it is said “what is good for the goose is also good for the gander”!