MONROVIA – As Liberians prepare to go the polls on October 10, 2023 to exercise their democratic franchise, there have been calls from many quarters, especially from the country’s traditional ally, the United States of America, cautioning the voters against electing corrupt officials who were placed on the Global Magnitsky sanctions. But Liberia’s Senate Pro Tempore Albert Chie is having none of it, as he has cited key provisions of Liberian constitution which forbid the disenfranchisement of a citizen’s inherent rights especially when the accused has not been availed a day in court to clear his/her name of any charges that impugn their character and deny them of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Making his position known Thursday, December 8, 2022 during the Final Segment of the 5th Session of the 54th Legislature, Senate Pro Tempore Chie said, even under the legislative setting of the great United States, the Senate is under obligation to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to protect the democratic space from interference.
“The right of the people to choose their leaders and for their leaders to serve in line with our constitution, our domestic laws and only international laws we have signed and ratified is undebatable and should always be guaranteed.
“The Liberian Constitution clearly states that no one should be punished without first being convicted beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law or by a comparable tribunal (Article 20(3)). The elements of Due Process, as indicated in the Supreme Court Opinion in Wolo Vs Wolo, Re: (SLLR423)(1937), holds that Due Process is a law which hears before it condemns, and renders judgment only after trial, gives an opportunity to appear and produce evidence and to be heard in person or by counsel or both; that It is unconstitutional to deprive any person of his/her property or other rights, without notice, an opportunity to appear and cross-examine witnesses adduced against him/her, to produce witnesses in his/her behalf, and to be heard in person, or by counsel or both; that it is also unconstitutional to deprive any official of office, or a person of their income, livelihood, security of employment, property or other rights, without due process of law.
“Anyone made to resign their position, thereby losing their livelihood and self-esteem because of an allegation that has not been proven through Due Process, is being mistreated, which is prohibited under our organic law,” Pro Tempore Chie lamented.
He noted further that the freedom to associate with whomever a Liberian decides is a right protected under Article 17 of the 1986 Constitution, except where there Is a threat to National Security and public safety; and that the Liberian legislature has not crafted any laws that bar any Liberian from participating in a political or another civil process without first being tried and found guilty by utilizing the constitutional principle of Due Process.
Senator Albert Chie’s bold assertion comes in the wake of mounting calls from certain quarters of society to disbar all former and current government officials who were hooked by the United States Treasury Department’s Magnitsky sanction designations. Within the Liberian senate, legislators Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba County and Cllr. Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County were earlier designated under the Magnitsky; while Nathaniel McGill, Bill Twehway and Cllr. Syrenius Cephas of the Executive were recently hooked. The latter trio were suspended by President Weah, pending an ordered investigation into the charges imposed on them by the US Treasury Department. The three have since resigned their posts without any investigation being launched into the allegations.
MCC Scorecard, other gains
Speaking further on other germane national issues, Senate Pro Tempore Chie lauded the government of Liberia for making a pass in the Millennium Challenge Corporation Score Card, a feat that has eluded the Weah government since coming to power in 2018.
“We congratulate the Executive Branch for leading the national efforts. The Senate will cooperate and play its part in any reform required to sustain the areas in which the country has made passing grades and work to improve in areas that we did not do well.
“Still, on national matters, the Senate has devoted a significant amount of time to meetings and public hearings, both at Committee and Plenary levels on electricity issues, to ensure that our people have access to reliable and affordable electrical power. The Senate did approve millions of United States Dollars in the 2022 Restated Budget and will approve additional sums in the 2023 National Budget for debts owed la Cote d’Ivoire in the Cross Border Electricity Project and for the new TRANSCO CLSG Project.
“The Senate is therefore pleased that the Government of Liberia and La Cote d’Ivoire, through their respective enterprises and agents, have signed the power purchase agreement for our country to receive a minimum of 27 Megawatts (MW) of power from the latter; and the power from that source was officially switched-on last week. This will assist till the gap in power generation experienced during the dry season.
Liberia has a significant hydropower potential on the St. Paul River, the Via River confluence and other water bodies in some parts of the country that can be developed and power harnessed for domestic consumption and export through the CLSG Line. It is prudent to take ownership through yearly budgetary appropriations, rather than depending solely on donor funding to develop these potentials. We commit the Senate for such an endeavor.
“And while on energy matters, let me congratulate the President, other members of our Government and the Civil Society Organizations who participated in the recent 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (COP 27) held in Egypt. We followed the conference proceedings and negotiations. While I was in the Executive Branch, I had the opportunity to participate in the negotiations of the framework convention on climate change and for the conventions on desertification and biodiversity. I also represented our country at the first Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP 1) held in Berlin, Germany.
“I can confirm that nothing much has changed in the negotiations: the polluting countries must continue to pollute without a firm commitment to reduce emissions; the small countries with forests must conserve their forests to act as reservoirs to absorb the emissions from the atmosphere, and monies promised by the polluting countries to vulnerable ones like the island nations and poor developing countries under “joint implementation programs” which have changed name several times, remain largely elusive. Climate Change is a serious matter. As you can see, we are in December and it is still raining in Liberia. The rain is having heavy tool on our laterite roads throughout the country and disrupting the farming season, leading to untold suffering on our people. Therefore, Negotiators for affected countries have to be resilient and demand equity.
“In terms of infrastructure, road rehabilitation, connectivity and pavement continue to pose significant challenges despite the efforts of the Government. The Lofa Road and the two principal road corridors to the Southeast remain impassable during the rainy season. We thank the President for his meeting with the Government of Qatar recently, which resulted in the commitment of the latter to provide additional funding for the Lofa Road.
“We also note the Government’s efforts to fund the paving of the road segment between Santa and Saclepea and the commitment of donor partners to provide funding for the pavement of the roads from Saclepea through Grand Gedeh to River Gee and from Barclayville in Grand Kru to Sinoe County. We urge the Ministry of Public Works to speed up the procurement processes so that actual construction work on these road segments can begin in earnest,” Senator Chie cautioned.