Statement by The Senate President Pro-Tempore Albert T. Chie at the Induction Ceremony of Senator-elect Cllr. Joseph K. Jallah of Lofa County￼
Distinguished Colleagues, the Senate Secretary and Chamber Staff, Employees of the Legislature, Officials ofthe Government, Officials and Members of political Parties, our citizens, other distinguished ladies and gentlemen:
Please permit me to briefly talk about the little I researched from literature and also gathered from oral history on the type-setting and provenance of the Due Process Principle enshrined in Liberia’s Constitutions to help us reflect on how we arrived at today’s induction ceremony and as our guide in governance.
In the Kru Coast District of the United Methodist Church, there is a local church named Robertson United Methodist Chuch, named after Rev. James B.
Robertson is a Methodist Missionary who worked along the Kru Coast in the late 1800s. In order to work peacefully in that area, he had to befriend a strong
Paramount Chief who controlled much of the Kru Coast, Chief Plenyono Gbe.
In 1883, Chief Plenyono Gbe and his wife will bear a son they named Wollor (Wolo), known by the Kru tribe as Plenyono Gbe Wollor and in Western Literature as P.G. Wollor(Wolo). The Chief then asked the missionary, Rev. Robertson, to educate and train his son in Western Civilization.
So, with the assistance of Methodist Missionaries, Wolo tavelled to Monrovia, attended the Monrovia Seminary which later became the College of West Africa and later to the United States where he eventually enrolled and graduated from Harvard University in 1917, the first African to do so. It was during his studies in the US that he met D. Twe and others who would later challenge the then status quo.
Wolo returned to Liberia and in 1925, married Miss Juah Weeks who then became known as Juah Wolo.
After about ten (10) years of marriage, Wolo decided to divorce Juah and asked the Legislature to annul the marriage thru an Act of Legislature. Without inviting Juah for a hearing or giving her the opportunity to say something and defend herself, the Legislature went ahead and granted the divorce.
Juah, with the assistance of legal counsel, took exception and ran to the First Judicial Circuit Court of Montserrado County. The case later ended at the Supreme Court, which essentially held that the constitutional rights of Juah Weeks Wolo had been violated because she was not given the opportunity to be heard, depriving her of other rights. This case, seen as the first case dealing with Due Process, is indicated in Wolo vs Wolo 5LLR42.
Syllabus 1 through 6 of the court’s ruling elaborates on the definition and elements of Due Process, which include, inter alia, that Due Process is a law that hears before it condemns, proceeds upon inquiry, and renders judgment only after trial, gives an opportunity to appear and produce evidence and to be heard in person or by counsel or both; that, it is unconstitutional to deprive any person of his property or other rights, without notice, an opportunity to appear and cross-examine witnesses adduced against him, to produce witnesses in his own behalf, and to be heard in person, or by counsel or both; that, it is also unconstitutional to deprive any official of office, or a person of his income, livelihood, security of employment, property or other rights, without due process of law.
Senator Jallah is an end-product of a series of events that occurred after the 2020 Special Senatorial Elections in respect of the Lofa County Seat. We witnessed the application of the Due Process Principle at the National Elections Commission, the lower court and finally at the Supreme Court.
On behalf of the Liberian Senate, I welcome Cllr. Joseph K. Jallah as the newest member of the Liberian Senate. I urge all of us to render him the necessary assistance as he adjusts to life in the Legislature. So our dear Senator, let me remind you gently that the Legislatüre is a political theatre, no matter your academic and professional background. Although we make laws here, but history, records, experience and everyday interaction have shown that all professions count in the lawmaking process. There is so much to learn from colleagues who have been in the Legislature before you.
Let me conclude by going back to where I started from and re-iterate that the rights of an accused person are protected under the Due Process Principle as enshrined in Articles 20 (a) and (b) of the Constitution.
It is therefore my opinion that it will be a violation of the constitution to seize the property of an accused person, deprive him of his income by suspending him from his employment or seizing his bank account, coercing him to recuse himself from his position, and so forth, without first giving him the opportunity to face a tribunal where he will adduce evidence, produce witnesses, face his accusers, cross-examine opposing witnesses and be convicted beyond a reasonable doubt.
It is pertinent to note that suspension, dismissal, or request to recuse oneself from a position, in order to appease society, impacts the lives of individuals accused and violates their rights to Due Process. Any recusal in said situation should absolutely be voluntary without pressure.
While on this subject, let me announce that the Senate is currently working on a proposed act to establish corruption courts and regional appellate courts, within the confines of the Constitution, to ensure that the accused gets a speedy trial. This will help cool down the nerves of some in the public sphere calling for the suspension of accused persons without final determination of the matter by the court and those who want to see justice but without violation of the rights of the accused.
MAY GOD GUIDE US IN OUR ACTIONS AS WE COLLECTIVELY WORK IN THE INTEREST OF OUR PEOPLE AND MAY HE SAVE OUR STATE AS WE MOVE TOWARDS THE CELEBRATION OF 175 YEARS OF EXISTENCE AS A NATION.