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Ellen accepts Justice Minister’s resignation

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President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has received and accepted the resignation of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Cllr. Christiana Tah. According to an Executive Mansion release, Cllr. Tah tendered in her resignation on Monday, October 6, 2014 at a meeting with the Liberian President at her Foreign Ministry office.

At the quickly arranged news conference at the Justice Ministry in Monrovia on Monday afternoon, Cllr. Tah, in a three page document, said it was unbearable for her to persevere in name as the dutifully appointed Minister of Justice of the Republic of Liberia when in reality, concrete actions indicated a determination to systematically undermine and gut the portfolio of relevance and effectiveness.

According to the ex-Minister, the landscape of the Liberian jurisprudence was being transformed in arbitrary and inscrutable ways that made it onerous to conscientiously navigate.

She added that amidst the prevailing interpretation of the doctrine of separation of powers and the ensuing blurring of the rule and roles of engagement – even within the Executive arm of government, the investments of national and international stakeholders promoting the rule of law is being eroded by actions that contradict the values that underpin the fabric of the society.

“I cannot be the Minister of Justice and not supervise the operations of the security agencies under the ministry; for example; or what is ‘the rule of law’ if the President asserts that she does not trust the Minister of Justice to independently investigate allegations of fraud against the National Security Agency?

What is ‘rule of law’ if a duly appointed Minister of Justice, with oversight for security has grave concerns about what her volitional resignation will mean for her own personal security and freedom as Liberian citizen?” she wondered.

The minister, who appeared very bitter during the conference, stressed: “Being cognizant  of the President’s rhetoric of commitment to the rule of law, my painstaking effort to help re-establish the foundation for justice and venerate defining principles such as the separation of powers in our nascent democracy, and most importantly the duty of transparency and accountability that we owe Liberians as public servants, I believe that it is unconscionable for me not to resign with immediate effect.

Accordingly, I have asked President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to accept this reiteration of my notice to resign from her cabinet as the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of Liberia with immediate effect,” she added. Cllr. Tah noted that she had resigned from government since March 31, 2014, but for reasons best to President Sirleaf, she had refused to acknowledge the letter or to accept her resignation.

Cllr. Tah, who served in the position for about six years, pointed out that it all started last October, when the Supreme Court of Liberia held her in contempt for granting ‘compassionate leave’ to Rodney Sieh, in keeping with Section 34.20 read in concert with 34.2 (d) of the Criminal Procedure Law, ILCL Revised.

She indicated that pursuant to a public hearing on October 21, 2013, where her counsels were not allowed to raise any legal arguments, but instead browbeaten into offering an apology to appease the judiciary, the court proceeded on January 10, 2014 to render a decision suspending her license to practice law for six months.

At the instance and reasoned expert advice of her lawyer, Cllr. Varney Sherman, she petitioned for re-argument, noting that regrettably, the court affirmed the decision to suspend her license as punishment due to its objection to her good faith enforcement of law, which it construed as disrespectful – amounting to evidence of contempt of court.

“On July 11, 2014, I formally notified President Sirleaf by letter that I had completed the six months suspension imposed by the Supreme Court on my license to practice law and that the court had ordered that I resume practice. She responded immediately, asking me to return to work and indicated that we will discuss my letter of resignation of March 31, 2014 at a later date.”

She underscored that “Out of deference from the Office of the President and in view of the national security crisis posed by the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease, I obliged and continued with my schedule of duties, while in utmost good faith, awaiting President Sirleaf’s convenience to ratify my longstanding decision to resign.”

The outgoing Attorney-General said on July 17, 2014 in the interim of her good faith anticipation of the follow up discussion about her resignation which the President had promised, she  was shocked and dismayed to learn that the Minister of Information, Lewis Brown, issued an eight-page statement which pronounced the parody of justice in the contempt proceedings against her and Cllr. Beyan D. Howard as a classic example of judicial independence and equality before the law, irrespective of social class.

She narrated that the ‘copious press release’, which was disseminated without the commonplace collegiality of informing her ahead of time, failed to acknowledge her pending resignation notice. Cllr. Tah added Minister Brown maintained that indeed, the ‘ceremonial’ appeared to be aimed at a pre-emption or retaliation of the prerogative to resign, which she sought to exercise nearly four months earlier.

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