Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Brawl Saddles Presidential Nomination, Ex-Minister Sees Govt Illegitimate
01/21/08 - Bill K. Jarkloh, FPA Staff Writer

In the wake of public brawl resulting from the appointment of regarding what is referred to as the appointment of Cllr. Comfort Natt as Judge of the Debt Court, a former Liberian official, Dr. Vamah Kanneh says a review of the Comprehensive Peace Accord has rendered the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration illegitimate.

According to a frontpageafrica.com/ report, Comfort Natt was the Judge of the Labor Court of Montserrado County, and has been nominated to the Debt Court to replace Judge James Jones who is also transferred to another court by the President.

Dr. Kanneh, speaking on the Renaissance Communication Inc (RCI) Radio news, reasons that the Ellen Administration has come to power through the illegitimate arrangement of the CPA. He said the elections that were held did not consider such constitutional provision as the 10 year-residency clause amongst others, and wondered whether the Ellen Government that is a product will not be breaching the

He called on the Liberia Bar Association (LNBA), the Trial Judges Association of Liberia, and the Supreme Court of Liberia to provide legal explanation on the current debate surrounding the appointment of Cllr. Comfort Natt as Judge of the Debt Court of Liberia.

“In my lay man’s mind, I afraid that the President might be interfering with judiciary by the appointment of Comfort Natt, and if these matters are not corrected the Executive Branch may pretty soon subdue the Judiciary,” Dr. Kanneh, a former Minister of Health and former Transport Minister averred. His comment comes against the backdrop of public outcry of against the transfer of a judge from the Debt Court to another court to give room for the appointment of Cllr. Natt to that court as the presiding Judge. This decision is being criticized by the association of trial Judges of Liberia. The Association considered the appointment of Cllr. Natt to a Court already presided over by Judge James Jones just for the transfer of the latter to the Tax Court as a violation of the Constitution which says judges shall preside for life, and also noted that such decision by the Executive is an interference of the function of the court.

Some other legal pundits reasoned that the transfer of judges should be left with the Chief Justice whom is the most senior authority and head of the Judicial Branch of Government s shave it that.

Recently the Liberty Party (LP) of Cllr. Charles Brumskine and the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) of football legend George Manneh “Oppong” Weah denounced the appointment of Cllr. Natt as Judge to the Debt Court of Liberia.

The two political parties see Cllr. Natt appointment as breach of the Liberian Constitution. In a joint statement, LP and CDC cited Article 72 (b) of the Constitution of Liberia provides that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and judges of the subordinate courts of record shall be retired at the age of seventy.

Besides, the two parties argued that judges by provision of Article 71, which says the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia and judges of subordinate court of records shall hold office during good behavior. They may be removed upon impeachment and conviction by the Legislature based on proved misconduct or gross breach of duty, inability to perform the functions of their office or convictions in a court of law for treason, bribery or other infamous crimes.

The two political parties said the Constitutional breach by President Ellen Johnson as evidenced by the removal of Judge Jones from office is an impeachable offense, and are therefore calling for the reversal of Cllr. Natt’s appointment as debt Court Judge or be impeached from office as President of Liberia.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Laurence Bropleh has reacted to the criticisms heaped against President Sirleaf for the naming of Cllr. Natt as Judge for the debt Court.

Dr. Bropleh said the President has in keeping with the Constitution nominated Judge Natt to the Debt Court pending Senate confirmation.

The Information Minister further said the Constitution has empowered the President to nominated judges for confirmation and subsequent appointment, saying that this was just what the President did.

It can be recalled that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made a number of appointment during which an Executive Mansion release notes that the President nominated Cllr. Natt to the Debt Court pending the Senate’s confirmation.

Those appointed at the time include Mr. Ian Yhapp, Chairman, Board of Directors, Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), Mr. Michael Slewion, Director General, Commission on Higher Education, Ministry of Education and Mr. Andrew Togba Davies, Magistrate, Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Others are Mr. Winsley Nanka was named Deputy Auditor General for Audits, General Auditing Commission (GAC) and Ms. Elizabeth Tubman, Deputy Auditor General for Administration, General Auditing Commission (GAC) amongst others.

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