MONROVIA – It was early November this year when the Supreme Court ordered the arrest of Finance Minister Samuel Tweah over delays in meeting the salary payment of Judiciary workers. In honoring the nation’s highest court order, Minister Tweah appeared and begged the honorable court for reprieve, citing the delays to glitches experienced when the US$23 million that was intended to pay judicial workers was inadvertently placed in a revenue account instead of a special account. Tweah ended up begging the Judiciary for a one-week grace period to address their salary concerns. But in the wake of Tweah’s brouhaha with the Supreme Court, government prosecutors too have laid down their robes, and are staying away from all courts until all of the demands put forth by the National Association of Prosecutors of Liberia (NAPL) are met.
Making their position known on November 14, 2022, NAPL, through its President, Cllr. Adolphus Karnuah, II called for a boycott or standoff of government lawyers from the courts in order to better their interests.
“By the directive of the President, Counselor J. Adolphus Karnuah II, all City Solicitors/Prosecutors are ordered to stay away from all Courts/Prosecution until the Central Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning meets all demands put forth from/by the National Association of prosecutors of Liberia (NAPL).
“This boycott or standoff is meant to better benefit the interest of all prosecutors across the country,” said the position statement.
In an effort to dig deeper into the current crisis raging between government prosecutors and the Ministry of Finance, this paper contacted Cllr. Karnuah, who was very emphatic about the NAPL demands, indicating the demands are reasonable.
“Our demands are clear. First and foremost, we want the government to restore our salary to where it was before ‘harmonization’. Second, government prosecutors should be supplied with vehicles, fuel and scratch cards. Our third concern has to do with the issuance of back pay for deserving prosecutors. We are also demanding the inclusion of newly admitted Counselors-At-Law on the payroll to capture them as such; while we are also demanding for County Attorneys that are not receiving their just remuneration to be captured. Finally, we are calling for an increment in the prosecution funds,” Cllr. Karnuah informed this paper.
Justice Ministry Reacts
Responding to the position taken by their own prosecutors, the Ministry of Justice through the office of the acting Solicitor General of Liberia on yesterday Monday published a ‘Public Service Announcement’ stating it would grant Letter Patents to private lawyers retained by private prosecutors/prosecutrices to fill the void created by the strike action.
According to acting Solicitor General of Liberia, Wesseh Alphonsus Wesseh, Sr., “the Justice Ministry will grant LETTER PATENTS to private lawyer(s) retained by Private Prosecutors/Prosecutrices, on a case-by-case basis, so as not to hinder or defeat the end or administration of justice occasioned by the strike actions.
“Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice wishes to assure the general public and party litigants that all is being done to resolve the boycott of courts instituted by the Prosecuting Attorney,” the Ministry of Justice stated.
When queried about the Justice Ministry’s reaction to the NAPL go-slow action, Cllr. Karnuah laughed off the statement as an “inconceivable distraction”, stating that the demands of the state prosecutors must be addressed.
The standoff between the government lawyers and the Ministry of Finance, and now the Ministry of Justice, is causing jitters amongst the citizenry, with some worried that the go-slow action could delay the dispensing of justice.
“What happens to cases on the docket when government lawyers who should represent us the complainants are not around? Minister Tweah and others must quickly look into these issues raised by their own people and stop making the country look funny to our international partners,” a concerned civil servant lamented.
“So, why up till now the Judiciary has not been paid? Why are government lawyers on strike? This shows the highest level of bad governance. Weah is watching the World Cup in Qatar with almost his entire cabinet, while we are here worried over nonsense,” remarked another bitter citizen from Logan Town.