For the first time in the history of recent Liberian Government and Politics, two senior public officials are in court and indicted on corruption charges.
The Speaker of the Liberian House of Representatives, Mr. J. Alex Tyler and Grand Cape Mount County Senator and Chairman of ruling Unity Party, Cllr. H. Varney G. Sherman had earlier publicly rejected their
appearances before a Special Presidential Task Force set up by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to investigate allegations of corruption as reflected in a report released just recently by the UK-based Global Witness.
True to their vows, both men – at different intervals, last week appeared before Criminal Court “C” after the Task Force chose the Court as the right path on which to thrive to pursue its mandate as ordered by the President.
Speaker Tyler, Cllr. Sherman and others accused of diving into more than US$950,000.00 provided by the UK-based Sable Mining through Cllr. Sherman as bribes to circumvent the concession law of Liberia, are already indicted, while a dark cloud of ““insufficiency and deficiency” hangs over their Surety bonds. An appeal by the accused is also currently before the Supreme Court of Liberia against the decision of the lower court to grant the request by the Prosecution.
But while the ‘matter is in court’, the accused are already being found guilty by public opinions through the media, especially the broadcast media. Listening to various radio phone-in talk shows in Monrovia and its environs, it is discouraging to realize the inability of hosts to properly guide the various discussions on the Global Witness Report implicating the accused – either due to lack of education on court matters or the sentiments they already harbor, not realizing the its ‘pre judicial’ to discuss such, especially in the manner and form they do.
While we do not think the court is monitoring these radio talk show discussions, it must now be incumbent on authorities of Criminal Court ‘C’, as well as the Prosecution and Defense Counsels to ensure that this land-marked case is not further prejudiced by the media and public opinion so as to ensure transparency.
By so doing, the need for the necessary monitoring mechanisms to avoid discrepancies in the trial cannot be emphasized because if this not done, the case may be heading for danger. While we are very cognizant of Article 15 of the Liberian Constitution, we are of the fervent belief that the accompanying responsibilities must be adhered to.
While callers and hosts of phone-in talk shows may either be knowingly or unknowingly prejudicing the “Global Witness Corruption case” before the court, measures must be instituted in consonance with the law or court rules to prevent any influence on the outcome of the trial.