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Liberia

Out of Step With The Constitution — Magristrate Bana’s Dismissal!

Coming events, it is said, often cast their shadows before. It is a common traditional belief amongst our people that usually events that are going to happen will manifest themselves through certain signs or omen. For example, if an owl is found perching atop a post in broad daylight in the market place it is considered a bad sign. And from our own history we know that political repression, political instability and popular mass discontent can lead to violence and political upheaval.

If we are careful to follow day-to-day events as they unfold, we will begin to notice that all are interconnected, and this is a basic law of nature. Reflecting on history, we at the Daily Observer are constrained to point out that this latest development is a sure sign of trouble to come. Lest we forget, national policy makers should be reminded that we have gone down this road before and the experiences and consequences are too ghastly to contemplate repeating.

Times have indeed changed since 2017. This government was elected on a mantra of “Change for Hope.” Hopes were indeed raised and promises of a better tomorrow assured. The reality has however turned out differently. Expectations have not been met which is not surprising given the sheer weight of the problems inherited from the previous government.

And although this fact is often repeated by officials of this government, as an excuse for non- or dismal performance, the people are not buying the excuse simply because of assurances given that it could and can do better. Its failure to do better as promised has served to greatly undermine its mass following.

The thousands of once faithful party adherents is now dwindling but it is a reality which officials of the CDC find difficult to countenance. In other words, yesterday’s reality is gradually fading as a new reality emerges.

The prospects of this emergent reality unfolding without the CDC in the seat of power, post 2023, which means the loss of power and privilege, is much too terrifying a prospect to contemplate and perhaps this can explain why “fire must blaze when any bush shake” the hysteria aroused with the slightest challenge to its power and dominance is a sign not of strength but of weakness.

As the nation approaches elections in 2023, there are troubling concerns that those elections may be steeped in controversy. Senator Prince Johnson has declared that the ruling Coalition of which his party is a member, intends to rig the results of the 2023 elections. Invariably there will be disputations, some of which may end up in the Supreme Court.

The problem is the credibility of the Court, impaired as it is, particularly since the Ja’neh impeachment will more likely than not be called into question. Already there are growing concerns that the axing of Magistrate Bana for rendering a judicial opinion violates the spirit and intent of Article 73 of the constitution and should not be allowed to stand without question.

Article 73
“No judicial official shall be summoned, arrested, detained, prosecuted or tried civilly or criminally by or at the instance of any person or authority on account of judicial opinions rendered or expressed, judicial statements made and judicial acts done in the course of a trial in open court or in chambers, except for treason or other felonies, misdemeanor or breach of the peace. 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 Daily Observer is aware that official spin doctors have already begun to justify the action of the President. Their problem is that the public remains convinced that Magistrate Bana was effectively relieved of his post on account of a judicial opinion he rendered in a case involving the illegal closure of Roots FM. So far nothing yet has been heard from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court under whose authority Magistrate Bana was assigned to preside over the Monrovia City Magisterial Court.

As provided for in Article 68 of the Constitution, the President has the power to appoint the Chief Justice Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of subordinate courts.

Article 68 reads as follows:
“The Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court shall, with the consent of the Senate, be appointed and commissioned by the President; provided that any person so appointed shall be:
(a) A citizen of Liberia and of good moral character; and
(b) A counselor of the Supreme Court Bar who has practiced for at least 5 years”.

This power however does not confer on the President the right to assign judges as he sees fit. This is entirely the prerogative of the Chief Justice in which the Executive cannot interfere. Accordingly, it is the Chief Justice, His Honor Francis Kporkpor who has the legal and constitutional right to assign Magistrate Bana. President Weah is clearly out of step with the Constitution.

The other side of the coin is whether can the Chief Justice in protection and defense of the constitution exercise his rights and duties faithfully and fearlessly without deference to the wishes of the President.

Judging from recent contemporary history, it has not and remains yet to be seen. But perhaps, only perhaps this Chief Justice could make a difference. Could he really?

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