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Liberia: The President Did Not Ignore the Supreme Court, Justice Minister Says

The Liberian Supreme Court Monday unanimously ruled that the action by majority renegade members of the House of Representatives to remove Speaker Edwin Snowe was unconstitutional and illegal. However, in what appeared to be a rebuff of the court’s decision, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Monday delivered her State of the Nation speech in front of a fractured parliament outside the capital. Speaker Snowe and his supporters, as well as a number of senators reportedly boycotted the speech. There are also reports that the justices of the Supreme Court were not present during the president’s speech.

So did President Sirleaf violate or ignore the constitution by delivering her state of the nation speech in front of a divided parliament? Frances Johnson Morris is Liberia’s minister of justice. She said the government was not a party to the dispute in parliament.

“The president did not violate any provision of the constitution or any order of the Supreme Court’s ruling. The petitioner (Speaker Snowe) basically raised three issues. He claimed that he was not accorded due process during his removal. The Court upheld that particular claim. Therefore his removal was unconstitutional. He also claimed that some members of the House, his colleagues, took bribe to remove him from the speakership. The Court determined that bribe is a serious offense under our law and the constitution and that the bribery allegations should be investigate. Thirdly, the petitioner raised the issue about the constitutionality of meeting in the Unity Conference Center in Virginia,” she said.

Johnson-Morris said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf did not ignore the Court’s ruling nor violate the constitution when she delivered her State of the Nation speech Monday to one section of parliament at the Unity Conference Center outside Monrovia.

“The Supreme Court did not interpret “city” as we have hoped that the Supreme Court would have passed on the issue of whether Virginia is a city or a township. The Supreme Court did not pass on that issue. It only referred the parties to the provision of the Constitution. I think it is Article 40. Therefore, there was no bridge of the ruling of the Supreme Court or defying of the Supreme Court ruling because it did not pass on that particular issue,” she said.

Johnson-Morris said the Supreme Court did not elaborate on Speaker Snowe’s claim that renegade members of the House took bribes of U.S. five thousand dollars each from an unspecified source to facilitate his removal.

“The Supreme Court ordered that the allegation, as serious as it is, there should be investigated. But the Supreme Court did not indicate whether the House should investigate their colleagues to establish the magnitude of the allegations and then forward the evidence or whatever findings they have to the appropriate ministry, which is the Ministry of Justice for prosecution,” she said.

Johnson-Morris said there is a rule of law in Liberia, and she reiterated that President Sirleaf did not ignore the court’s ruling.

“As I told you earlier, the Supreme did not pass on the constitutionality of sitting at the Unity Conference Center. Had the Supreme Court interpreted what is meant by “city” and had definitively determined that Virginia is not a city, the president would not have gone to Virginia. But the Supreme Court did not rule on that,” she said.