Liberia: Opposition Figure Threatens to Quit Party Over Senator’s Supreme Court Justice’s Impeachment Vote
Monrovia – Mr. Abraham Darius Dillon, the chair of political affairs in the opposition Liberty has threatened to leave his party if authorities in the hierarchy fail to expel Senator Jonathan Kaipay (Liberty Party, Bassa); one of several senators who voted in favor of the impeachment of Supreme Court Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh.
Speaking on his Facebook Live segment hours after the court came down with a ruling to impeach Justice Ja’neh, Mr. Dillon said Senator Kaipay brought shame and disgrace to the party by going against its position in the saga which prompted him to throw out a challenge to his party.
“I am challenging my Party, Liberty Party to expel Sen. Jonathan Kaipay for voting in favor of the politically-driven impeachment against Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh. Kaipay is a deviant from institutional decision. The Party must act or I will suspend my membership with the Party. We cannot institutionally condemn a process as being wrong and unconstitutional, but then have a Senator of our Party vote otherwise, especially after he was cited along with other Senators of the Party during which the Party’s position was clearly expressed and made known. Worse off is that Kaipay promised on record during said meeting he would respect the Party’s decision and act accordingly.”
Mr. Dillon said for Sen. Kaipay to have done otherwise is a betrayal for which he must be shown the door. “We may be better off not having a Senator than have one that always completely ignores the Party’s decisions and thoughtful directions. This politically-driven impeachment of Justice Ja’neh is a danger to our democracy and the same undermines the independence and credibility of our Judiciary. Liberty Party and none of her Senators and Representatives should even bear the guilt of playing a role in killing our Judiciary.”
He then paid homage to the party’s Political Leader Sen. Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence and National Chairman Sen. Steve A. Zargo for standing to uphold the integrity and sanctity of the Judiciary by clearly voting against the witch-hunt against Justice Ja’neh.
An emotional Dillon said his decision is aimed at sending a strong message to opposition party representatives in the national legislature who take their parties for granted. “Something has to start from somewhere. This is not about a concession, it is not about one act to grant the president, it is about the democracy of our country and the judiciary that is being killed. For a Liberty Party Senator to be part of the killing of the judiciary, it is totally unacceptable, it is troubling, I cannot stomach it.”
Justice Ja’neh needed at least ten Senators in his corner to save his seat on the bench. Both Liberty Party and the former ruling Unity Party had Senators who could have delivered. But nearly all, including the party’s former chairman Senator Varney Sherman broke ranks prompting some of his peers to call for his resignation as head of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
For UP, Sen. Edward. B. Dagoseh (Cape Mount); Sen. Varney Sherman (Cape Mount); Sen. Morris Saytumah (Bomi); Sen. George Tengbeh (Lofa); Sen. Thomas Grupee (Nimba); Sen. Alphonso Gaye (Grand Gedeh); Sen. Matthew Jaye (Rivergee) and Sen. Milton Teahjay (Sinoe)
For LP, Jonathan Kaipay, Sen. Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence (Bassa) and Sen. Steve Zargo (Lofa)
The Magnificent Seven
Only seven senators stood their ground by either voting against the impeachment or abstaining: (Steve Zargo (Lofa), Conmany Wesseh (Rivergee), Daniel Nathan (Gbarpolu), Sando Johnson (Bomi), Henrique Tokpah (Bong), Nyonblee Karnga (Bassa) and Oscar Cooper (Margibi). The three abstentions were: Henrique Tokpah (Bong), Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence and Oscar Cooper.
The impeachment drama came to a shocking climax Friday when majority members of the Senate found Justice Ja’neh guilty of official misconduct and gross breach of duty as it relates to the road fund case between the Government of Liberia and two petroleum importers.
The Supreme Court Associate Justice was found guilty for granting a Writ of Prohibition petitioned by petroleum dealers in the country to stop the collection of levy/taxes of US$0.30(Road Fund) imposed on the pump of petroleum products.
Twenty-two Senators voted to remove Justice Ja’neh, while four voted against his removal. Three abstained from the process amounting to a total of 29 Senators, leading to two-thirds of the total current membership of the Senate who voted to convict Justice Ja’neh on the charge of official misconduct.
The Senate recently lost Geraldine Doe-Sheriff (UP, Montserrado County) creating a vacuum in the upper house.
Guilty of ‘Impeachable Offenses’
A summary of the Senate decision which was read by Senator Henry Yallah (NPP, Bong County) indicated that on the count of the road fund, Associate Justice Ja’neh was guilty of impeachable offenses of official misconduct and gross breach of duty and the punishment is as indicated in Article 43 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
The Associate Justice was however acquitted of charges of official misconduct and gross breach of duty in the theft of records of the House of Representatives, impeachment prohibition and the Constance Land Cases respectively.
Chief Justice Francis Korkpor
“Counsels, there must be a real issue in order to set aside and order a revote. There has been no sustentative complaint have been brought me rule out the verdict from the jurors. On the one relating the road fund case, 22 Senators found him guilty and four not guilty while three abstained, therefore and in keeping with Article 43 of the Liberian Constitution the accused has been found guilty, under the vine I will now discharge the Liberian Senate with thanks and hereby, order that this proceeding is hereby adjourned”.
In the case on theft of records of the House of records of the House of Representatives, 14 Senators voted guilty, 12 voted not guilty, while three abstained from the process.
Regarding the impeachment prohibition case, 14 Senators voted guilty, 12 voted not guilty and three abstained from the process. In respect to the Constance Land Case, 18 Senators voted guilty, eight voted not guilty, while three abstained from the process.
Minutes to the announcement of the final verdict, Justice Ja’neh’s legal team filed before the Presiding Officer, Chief Justice His Honor Francis S. Korkpor to dismiss from the records the results of the verdict, on grounds that the President Pro-tempore of the Senate Albert Chie failed to follow the amendment Senate rule 63, with regards to the procedurals of voting.
With respect to such petition, the Presiding Officer, ascertained from the Pro-Temp the accusations as made.
In response, Pro-Tempore Chie dismissed the arguments from the Associate Justice’s Lawyer and noted that what was used was a mere procedural for voting and not a new rule as claimed.
In presenting the Verdict, Chief Justice Korkpor stated…. “Counsels, there must be a real issue in order to set aside and order a revote. There has been no sustentative complaint have been brought me rule out the verdict from the jurors. On the one relating the road fund case, 22 Senators found him guilty and four not guilty while three abstained, therefore and in keeping with Article 43 of the Liberian Constitution the accused has been found guilty, under the vine I will now discharge the Liberian Senate with thanks and hereby, order that this proceeding is hereby adjourned”.
Justice Ja’neh was impeached last August by the House of Representatives over four counts ranging from abuse of judicial power, theft of property, among others.
The matter was then forwarded to the Upper House of the Liberian Legislature for trial, and subsequently removed or acquitted based on process guarded by due process of law.
The entire proceedings at the Senate was entertained by testimonies from witnesses and evidence from both parties, with the defendant (Kabineh M. Ja’neh) taken the stand, hereby pleading not guilty to the charges against him.
On Friday, Liberty Party’s Dillon suggested that the failure of his party to take action against Senator Kaipay could derail efforts of opposition parties to come together. “It is time that LP partisans in the Senate start thinking what to say, if we must collaborate as a collaborating umbrella.”
In February, the leaders of four leading opposition political parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to intensify efforts leading to the consummation of what many political observers say is the first step toward establishing a united front against the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change.
Mr. Abraham Darius Dillon, Head of Political Affairs, Opposition Liberty Party
“Let the public know that they are not senators of collaborating parties, let them be free agents as they want. It’s better to not have anyone there than to have people in the legislature condemning the government for doing something that our legislators are voting for. We cannot be condemning George Weah every day for something that his government doing when we have legislators there voting the way George Weah wants. “
The leaders – Mr. Joseph Nyumah Boakai of the former ruling Unity Party, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party, Mr. Benoni Urey, of the All Liberia Party and Mr. Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress all took turns pledging support to a rare marriage of political convenience they say aims to hold the ruling CDC government’s feet to the fire.
UP Weighing Expulsions Too
Mr. Dillon said his disappointment in the Senator stems from his total ignore of the party’s hierarchy. “The reason is, we had an executive committee meeting, minutes were taken. It was one of the first time, Liberty Party national executive committee meeting summoned all of our Senators to meeting to say that this impeachment is the position of Liberty Party based on X, Y,Z.”
Mr. Dillon also took aim at the opposition Unity Party whose eight senators also voted in favor of impeaching Justice Ja’neh. “Unity Party has eight Senators in the Senate, eight of them on the record voted against Kabineh Ja’neh. What can UP say in condemnation of this action?”
Added Mr. Dillon: “The people who are supposed to start it in the end voted for it. UP has a responsibility to take action, but I am not ready for UP or ALP or any of the collaborating parties yet. I want to take the specs from my eye first so I can see clearly to have the standing to tell somebody to take the spec from their eye.”
For now, he says it begins and end with Kaipay. “We will see about Jonathan Kaipay first from Liberty Party so that when I go to collaboration meeting, I will have the standing upon UP to take action or no need to collaborate. The UP eight senators today decided the George Weah wants his own person on the bench and we don’t care about democracy any longer. You control the three branches of government then who are you for me to call you senator. No way.”
A high-ranking UP official confirmed that the former ruling party has threatened to take action against all of its Senators who voted for impeachment. “Those going for re-election will not contest on the party’s ticket.”
‘Conscience Sold Cheaply for Money’
At least five legislators – Senator Edward Dagoseh (Grand Cape Mount), Thomas Grupee (Nimba), Senator George Tengbeh (Lofa), Matthew Jaye (Rivergee) and Alphonso Gaye (Grand Gedeh)- are up for re-election next year.
For Dillon, the message is clear: “Let the public know that they are not senators of collaborating parties, let them be free agents as they want. It’s better to not have anyone there than to have people in the legislature condemning the government for doing something that our legislators are voting for. We cannot be condemning George Weah every day for something that his government doing when we have legislators there voting the way George Weah wants. I think then we would be wronging President Weah; we are wronging President Weah. If we can’t discipline our own then no need for us to put mouths on George Weah.”
Mr. Dillon said Friday’s verdict has finally said goodbye to electoral matters before the Supreme Court with this current bench. “George Weah got Joseph Nagbe, he has intimidated Frances Korkpor sufficiently, the two ladies that are there, we are not even sure they will stay there because George Weah is about to appoint another person and he will have absolute control of the Supreme Court bench and the judiciary. Those of us who every five minutes we running to the court with electoral disputes, forget it.”
He lamented the loss of conscience among Senators in Friday’s vote. “I’m starting off first. Money in Liberia today, especially amongst public officials is a more treasured thing than conscience. Conscience has been sold cheaply for money.”