Home Governance Removal Challenged!…LACC Boss Rejects Weah’s Decision; Calls It “Ugly Footing of Leadership”

Removal Challenged!…LACC Boss Rejects Weah’s Decision; Calls It “Ugly Footing of Leadership”

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By: Frank P. Martin

MONROVIA: The embattled Chairman of Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin, has challenged his removal from the post by President George Manneh Weah, terming the Liberian leader’s action as “illegal and wanton constitutional violation.”
According to Cllr. Martin, his “ill-legal dismissal” as head of the LACC contravenes Article 20 (a) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia which guarantees every Liberian the right to due process of Law when there are issues of legality and human rights.

He contended that said rights and privileges, under the laws of Liberia, were not given him prior to his removal from the LACC Chairmanship by President Weah.

Article 20 (a) of the Liberian Constitution says “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, security of the person, property, privilege or any other right except as the outcome of a hearing judgment consistent with the previsions laid down in this Constitution and in accordance with due process of law. Justice shall be done without sale, denial or delay; and in all cases not arising in courts not of record, under courts-marital and upon impeachment, the parties shall have the right to trial by jury”.

“As a result of this wanton constitutional violation under the Weah’s administration,” Cllr. Martin has vowed to challenge President Weah and his legal team before the Supreme Court of Liberia to provide legal basis, if any, for his removal as Chairman of the Commission.
Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin has been replaced by Cllr. Alexandra Zoe, who must first be confirmed by the Liberian Senate before taking her seat.

The President’s decision to replace Cllr. Martin and others at the LACC is said to have been warranted by a Joint Amendment of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission Act of 2008, passed by the National Legislature (Senate and House of Representatives).
The process of appointment of the commissioners, according to the amended Act, starts from nomination by an Ad Hoc Committee. The Act further stated that at least fourteen candidates shall be presented by the Ad Hoc Committee, from which list the President of Liberia shall nominate seven for presentation to the Liberian Senate for confirmation proceedings.
“The commission shall be appointed for terms of office, but the terms shall be staggered to ensure that the terms of office of all commissioners don’t end at the same time. The LACC shall have all powers and authority in its operations and also provides for financial autonomy; it prohibits interference in the affairs and operations of the commission by any person.”

Additionally, under the transitional provision of the Act, commissioners now serving the LACC shall remain in office after the enactment of this new law until their successors are appointed, “but each is eligible to apply and be subjected to the appointment procedure provided for by this law.”
However, when he phoned on the OK FM (Morning Program) on June 12, Cllr. Martin disclosed that the amended act is unconstitutional because it violates sections 16.1 and 16.2 2008 LACC Act.
“I will not allow this bad precedent to be set in our country. If this happen, the next generation of leaders will continue on this ugly footing of leadership which we don’t want for our country and its people,” he said in an interview on Monday with OK fm.

The former Montserrado County Attorney has also threatened to expose certain individuals in president Weah’s government who, he said, are bent on obstructing the nation’s fight against corruption.
According to him, such individuals practice acts of corruption to the core at the expense of the vast majority of ordinary Liberians who barely find daily meals as a result the corruption menace that has destroyed every fabric of the national structures.
“I am not going to call names. But, when the appropriate time reaches, Liberians will be surprised of whom they consider their leaders. And I am sure when I speak, the whole country will be upside down,” he explained.

He has also slammed the president’s decision to remove him, terming it as dangerously filled with the intent of undermining gains being made at LACC to expose alleged corrupt officials in three years under his watch as LACC Chairman.
“Look, my team and I at the LACC, just under three years, connected and built Liberia’s image locally and internationally by battling what is considered as the most dangerous enemy of the state. We exposed several public officials; for which people working in this regime were afraid when they heard the name: “LACC.” But, today, since the fight against me and to have me removed for no genuine reason began, the LACC has lost its respect,” he asserted.
Cllr. Martin narrated that his reason for planning to go to the Supreme Court for the second time after he had previously requested the Supreme Court to declare Sections 16.1 and 16.2, which he argued, amounted to a breach of contract since the government was in error in dissolving his tenured position and then creating the same null and void.

At the time, the Supreme Court denied Cllr. Martin’s petition to declare some provisions of the amended and Restated Act Establishing the LACC unconstitutional.
The case reached the full-Bench of the Supreme Court after former Chambers Justice, Yussif D. Kaba, sent it without ruling on its merits.
Kaba’s decision was based on the fact that the case was constitutional and needed the interpretation of the Supreme Court.

The petitioner further contended then, that Section 6.8 of the old LACC Act, provides that a commissioner “shall hold office upon good behavior and should be removed from office by the president for any gross breach of duty, misconduct in office, or any proven act of corruption.”
According to the application, this was not the case, further noting that the statute should be repealed since it impedes the efforts of the LACC and other integrity organizations to discover corrupt officials.
The Ministry of Justice nevertheless, refuted the assertion, asking the Supreme Court to reject the lawsuit on grounds that it questioned the legitimacy of the legislature’s ability to pass and change laws without limitation – and that any decision to the contrary would establish a dangerous precedent.

The Ministry of Justice’s position was countered with a claim that the legislative enactment of the LACC Act was approved without any proven or legitimate cause, which “clearly violates the petitioner’s rights to the proper process of law as provided for under Article 20(a) of the 1986 Constitution.”
At the time, Martin’s lawyer equally quoted Article 21 of the 1986 Constitution, stating that “no person shall be made subject to any law or punishment which was not in effect at the time of the commission of an offense, nor shall the legislature enact any bill of attainder or ex post facto law.”
Regardless of the arguments put forth, the Supreme Court, in its decision on Tuesday, January 26, denied Cllr. Martin’s request.

According to the court’s judgment, having carefully examined the facts contained in the records, listening to arguments on both sides, and considering the relevant laws thereto, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), being a creature of the Legislative Branch of Government, the legislature has the unquestionable power to amend, modify or abolish the LACC as deemed expedient in the interest of the State. The court further noted that the legislature’s action cannot be said to violate the constitution.
The S/Court further noted that the petitioner and other commissioners still occupy and maintain their respective positions and enjoy all of the associated benefits and immunities cannot be said to have been removed from office, as the transitional tenure provisions of sections 16.1 and 16.2 are futuristic, for which the petitioner’s petition is prematurely filed.

Nonetheless, the court said, should it become necessary to terminate the services of the petitioner and others similarly situated before the expiration of their contractual rights, the sanctity of contract as enshrined in the constitution should be given due consideration; and that no public official has vested right to a public office except for those officers or offices that are clearly and expressly protected by the constitution, which it said, is not the case in the present petition.

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