By: Darius Dillon
“Due Process of Law” is the “law that hears before it renders judgment”. There are certain basic requirements that constitute “due process”. There must be a complainant and a defendant, and the defendant must be acquainted with whatever complaint/charge against him or her. The defendant must be told his or her rights to remain silent and accorded the right to a legal representation of choice. The defendant must also be accorded the right to produce evidence/witnesses to testify in his/her defense, amongst others. Absent these basic tenets, due process has not been satisfied, and any person so affected by an action or judgment under such circumstances suffers a violation of their fundamental and constitutional rights.
Having said that…
1. The House of Representative ignored almost all the basic tenets of “due process” and UNLAWFULLY sentenced Madam Grace Kpaan to jail. Again, it is important to note that “due process” is not a gift, it is fundamental and constitutional. It should, and must be observed and accorded anywhere and every time a person’s fundamental and constitutional rights and/or privileges such as LIFE, LIBERTY, PROPERTY, etc…. may be affected. First, the body seeking to curtail or suspend any of such rights MUST be vested with such jurisdictional competency. Whether it be before a court, legislative or administrative body; “due process” MUST be accorded and respected at all times. Second, “due process” MUST be accorded and respected at every step along the way.
The Supreme Court of Liberia has made this unambiguous and very succinct so many times. Reference is hereby made: Snowe Vs. The House of Representatives, Nyenabo Vs. The Senate, Dillon Vs. The House of Representatives, Wolo vs. Wolo, etc.
In all of these matters, the Supreme Court defined “due process” as the “law that hears before it renders judgment”; and insists it MUST be accorded and respected at all times. By the mere presence of Grace Kpaan’s lawyer, but prevented, prohibited and denied exercise of her function as a Lawyer does not constitute legal representation, one of the basic tenets of “due process”. The Legislature, particularly the House of Representatives cannot, and should not be allowed to deliberately violate these basic fundamental and constitutional rights in the name of holding people for “CONTEMPT”. It is becoming evident that the Legislators are misusing the legislative contempt powers as enshrined in the Constitution of Liberia; and this is totally unacceptable. I therefore call on the House to do the honorable thing and reverse this embarrassing, unlawful and shameless decision against Madam Kpaan.
2. Even though the action of the House against Madam Grace Kpaan was wrong, it did not give Madam Mary Broh any iota of right to have “obstructed”. She is NOT a Court or “law unto herself”. Notwithstanding, the House cannot sentence her to jail without according “due process”. The law is such that even if you are caught in the act stealing or killing, you MUST be accorded “due process” before a body competent to convict or free you. I call on the House to do the right and legal thing this time around. Madam Broh must not go unpunished for her act. I concur with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to suspend Madam Broh under the circumstances.
3. Regarding Madam Grace Kpaan’s suspension, I hold the view that President Sirleaf neither exercised leadership from the very beginning of this entire debacle, nor was her suspension action against Madam Grace Kpaan a good judgment. The decision was ILL-ADVISED. The President had all the time and long enough to have acted when the House first accused Madam Kpaan of “financial impropriety”. She should have acted expeditiously at that time by either calling on Madam Kpaan to make a full report through the Minister of Internal Affairs or directly to her Office. She failed to have acted at the time leadership was needed. I hold the view that had the President acted when the House first raised the ‘alarm’, her singular and timely action would have averted the current mess. I can only hope this will be a serious lesson learned for our national leaders to decisively act on issues in a timely manner to avert or avoid these national embarrassments and near constitutional crisis.
This reminds me about other related issues, particularly the alarming and somewhat embarrassing issuance of Private Use Permit (PUP) at the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), and the ongoing trading of accusations of financial mismanagement and impropriety at the Roberts International Airport between the “dismissed” Managing Director of the Roberts International Airport and the Board of the Liberia Aviation Authority (LAA). These are issues of grave corruption allegations that must not be allowed to “die a natural death”. The President is encouraged, and she must act with decisive immediacy to ensure that those who preside over positions of public trusts are made to account for their stewardship. We appreciate the level of public discussions and exposure of these alleged corrupt practices; it’s time to PRACTICALLY and ROBUSTLY act against these alleged corrupt “suspects”.
Honestly “Speaking Truth to Power”!
Abraham Darius Dillon, firstname.lastname@example.org
Pic: THE LIBERIAN CAPITOL, HOME TO THE LEGISLATURE