“No Clemency for Samukai, But Jail Sentence Suspended” -Minister McGill clarifies

The Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Nathaniel F. McGill has clarified that the  proclamation issued by the President of Liberia, George Manneh Weah yesterday, Tuesday, February 22, 2022, did not offer a clemency for former Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai who was convicted for misappropriation of funds belonging to members of the Armed Forces of Liberia but that his jail term sentence was suspended to allow him find means to refund the money for which he was sentenced.,

“I am here to inform you that the President of Liberia has issued a proclamation concerning the former Minister of Defense, Honorable J. Brownie Samukai. As you are aware, the lower court found Mr. Samukai guilty of mismanagement or theft of the AFL soldiers’ money and Mr. Samukai took an appeal to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court upheld the decision  of the lower court”, Mr. McGill said.

Minister McGill who made the clarifications yesterday at Executive Mansion, when he addressed the press about the proclamation, during questions and answers period also stated that the President has always said he will not interfere in the judicial process, the legislative activities or any other function of the government and that the judicial process was respected during the court process in the case involving Mr. Samukai.  “The President being a man of peace and the respecter of the rule of law decided to suspend the jail sentence of Mr. Samukai in order to allow him look for the money and repay”, he stated.

Mr. McGill furthered that the President in his wisdom noted that the government is not going to wait for Mr. Samukai to refund the money before the AFL soldiers will be able to have their hard earned money so he has instructed the Minister of Finance and Development Planning to work with the Ministry of Defense so that soldiers will get their money back in the course of one week.

The clarifications from Minister McGill came in the wake of the proclamation released by the President after which there were divided opinions amongst the citizenry on what was the interpretation of the proclamation concerning the former defense minister. Not long after the proclamation became public, some controversies ensued inferring that Mr. Samukai was pardoned as provided for by Article 59 of 1986 constitution which grants the president the power to pardon or issue clemency of persons convicted of some offenses. By extension of the controversy, it was understood that Mr. Samukai was to have taken up his seat which was declared vacant by the senate in the wake of his conviction.

However, Mr. McGill said that the relevant institutions have taken decisions on Samukai beginning with the judiciary which found him guilty of the crime and the legislature through the Liberian Senate has declared his seat for Lofa County vacant and a bye-election will be held in in 90 days.

When asked if the government developed special interest in the case because it does not want for Samukai to be sworn in as the winner of the senatorial race conducted on December 8, 2020, Minister McGill dismissed the insinuation that Samukai was being witch hunted due to political reason and stated that far before the election, Samukai was already indicted and found guilty by the lower court but his insistence to pursue the case further saw it coinciding with the final stages of the midterm election.

The Chief of Office Staff to the President further indicated he was not happy with how the press has misconstrued the fight against corruption by the government which was in response to a question on whether the suspension of the sentence was not a setback to combating corruption. “The government took him to court and won the case and in about a week, the AFL soldiers will be getting their money back. This should be celebrated and not condemned”, he said.

When asked further why Samukai was not kept in jail until he refunds the money as was dictated by the court verdict, McGill said keeping someone in jail does not guarantee fighting corruption and the President believes since the major issue was to have the AFL to get back their money, there was no need keeping Samukai in jail when he has to be out to look for the money. “What do you want from the man again? He was sent to court and convicted, he has lost his seat, so you want him to die in jail before you know the government is fighting corruption?” he asked rather rhetorically.

While debunking the insinuation that the government may be carrying out selective justice wherein those being favored by the government will evade justice and those opposed to the government will be witch hunted, McGill said that there is no iota of truth in the statement and that President Weah has zero tolerance against selective justice. “There is no witch hunting, no matter your connection, whether in the government or with the President or your international people, once you violate the law, you will be punished. So, you can’t say because someone is close to the President or well connected that person will not be punished when they break the law”, Mr. McGill said.

Earlier during interactions with the press at the Executive Mansion yesterday, Minister McGill read a proclamation issued by President George Manneh Weah which states  that “The President of Liberia, pursuant to Article 59 of the 1986 Constitution which vests in him the power and authority to grant reprieves, suspend fines, sentences and pardon anyone convicted and sentenced for a crime has, with immediate effect, ordered the suspension of the two (2) year prison sentence imposed on Mr. Browne J. Samukai, following his conviction by the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia;  with the proviso that he (Brownie J. Samukai) will work with the Ministry of Justice to enter a stipulation for the full settlement of the Armed Forces of Liberia money”.

The proclamation further states, “The President has directed the Minister of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) to make full payment of the outstanding balance of the AFL money, while Mr. Samukai is going through the Stipulation Payment Agreement.

The proclamation also said President George M. Weah has granted clemency, ordering the Ministry of Justice to pardon five (500) hundred inmates where applicable.

According to the proclamation, President Weah said those expected to be pardoned include those who committed misdemeanor and capital offenses. Rapists and Armed Robbers are not included.

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