Reports of Senators leaving the country in droves in the wake of Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment and removal from the Supreme Court Bench as carried in its front page lead story of the April 3, 2019 edition of the Daily Observer has claimed the attention of this newspaper.
According to the story several senators have either left or are leaving the country for a number of purported reasons “ranging from medical to vacation and holiday. As a result, the story continues, the Senate was unable to convene on Tuesday, owing to the lack of a quorum because those present (about 10 in number) did not constitute a number sufficient enough for a quorum.
This newspaper finds it strange and unusual that after just having returned from recess, senators are leaving the country for rather frivolous reasons when they should be hard at work doing the people’s business. A number of them, having voted against the wishes of their respective parties to have Ja’neh impeached and removed from office in a process marred by fraud and irregularities now appear to be seeking to avoid the spotlight and vigorous public excoriation for their act of betrayal of the Constitution of Liberia.
Not surprisingly the public space is awash with stories of senators having each received their “thirty pieces of silver” loads of cash (allegedly US$50,000 each) in exchange for their questionable “Yes” vote to oust Ja’neh from office. Their rather surreptitious and sudden flight from the country has served to reinforce public impressions that they were handsomely bribed by the Executive to secure the removal of Mr. Justice Ja’neh from the Supreme Court Bench.
At the heart of the issues surrounding the questionable behavior of Senate President Pro Tempore Albert Chie and his visibly corrupt handling of the vote process and vote count is the actual number of votes recorded. At this stage the public has yet to know the actual number of votes recorded on each side. How many senators, for example, voted in favor of Justice Ja’neh’s removal and how many voted against, is yet undetermined.
And this is so principally because the presiding officer, Senator Albert Chie, who illegally took the unsealed ballot box to his home before releasing the purported results of the voting exercise the next day, has since proved uncooperative and unyielding to demands for a recount of the signed ballots. The question is what to do next in view of Senator Albert Chie’s faux pas.
Under the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, Chapter 7 Article 66, “the Supreme Court shall be the final arbiter of constitutional issues and shall exercise final appellate jurisdiction in all cases whether emanating from courts of record, courts not of record, administrative agencies, autonomous agencies or any other authority, both as to law and fact except cases involving ambassadors, ministers, or cases in which a county is a party. In all such cases, the Supreme Court shall exercise originate jurisdiction. The Legislature shall make no law nor create any exceptions as would deprive the Supreme Court of any of the powers granted herein”.
In view of this questions arise whether Chie’s actions (mishandling of the vote process) is a justiciable matter. And in case it is, how can Chie’s non-compliance with demands for proper accountability of the vote process be assured in face of the glaring display of bias by Chief Justice Korkpor beginning from his apparent countenance of the utter disrespect shown to the Court by Representative Acarous Gray and others at the initial stage of the impeachment process who at the initial stage refused to answer to summons from the Court to appear.
Further, to where can senators aggrieved by the actions of Chief Justice Korkpor and Senate President Albert Chie take their case is a question uppermost on the minds of the people. Apparently as if done by the stroke of a pen, Chief Justice Korkpor, by his dismal and disappointing handling of the Ja’neh’s impeachment trial has virtually shot himself or the Court in the leg. His actions, according to legal experts, have only served to undermine public trust and confidence in the Judiciary.
Lest we be remiss, this newspaper must point out that a weak Judiciary undermined by corruption and plagued by a lack of public trust in judicial and criminal justice institutions can be directly linked to the growing incidences of violent mob action occurring around the country almost daily. The situation is further compounded by a seemingly entrenched culture of fear and impunity that virtually pervades the nation.
Perhaps this can explain just why the case of Senator Varney Sherman and other former officials including former House Speaker Alex Tyler, already indicted on criminal charges of bribery in the Sable Mining brouhaha, may never see the light of day in a court of competent jurisdiction given the apparent current negative disposition of this government towards issues of justice and accountability.
Given all the above and given the available facts, this newspaper holds the view that some members of the Legislature have failed to “uphold and defend the Constitution of the Republic and to faithfully discharge duties of such office. In this regard, they have violated Articles 31, 43 and 66 of the Constitution of Liberia especially Article 31 which imposes, under oath, the duty to uphold and defend the Constitution and laws of the Republic and faithfully discharge duties of said office.
Can it be said therefore, that blatant violations of the law evidenced in the Korkpor-Chie handling of the Ja’neh impeachment case have negative implications for the conduct of future elections in Liberia and for sustained peace and stability in Liberia and the growth of its fragile democracy? To this question, the Daily Observer’s answer is a resounding YES! What is your take Mr. Justice Francis Korkpor?