Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Atty. Isaac W. Jackson Jr. has described recent statements attributed to Foreign Minister Gbehzohngar Milton Findley concerning his employment and qualification to bear Liberian diplomatic passport as misleading, shortsighted and disrespectful to the Honorable the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia.
In a recent interview broadcast in the Friday, July 3, 2020 Edition of the Frontpageafrica Newspaper, the Liberian Foreign Minister said, “I don’t know if Isaac Jackson is an ambassador; what I know is that he works for IMO, and he’s a Liberian who is entitled to a Liberian passport”.
Reacting over the weekend from London, Jackson said after three years of heading Liberia’s diplomatic efforts and international relations, it is shocking and troubling that the Liberian Foreign Minister would publicly claim that he (Jackson) works for the IMO. “After three years of serving as Foreign Minister of Liberia, it has to be concerning that the honorable Minister would also publicly imply that only ambassadors are entitled to diplomatic passports, or that being a Liberian only entitles one to an ordinary Liberian passport”, Jackson said.
Jackson explained that he does not work for the IMO, but rather, like all who did before him, he works for the Liberian Government as the head of its representation to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), headquartered in London, England. Jackson furthered that by Headquarter Agreement and the Vienna Convention, Liberia’s representation, like those of all other nations similarly accredited to the IMO, is accorded diplomatic recognition, status and courtesy befitting the level of their representations of their various nations and governments.
Jackson clarified that the diplomatic recognition conferred upon him, his co-workers, some of whom report to him, and his family are not personal, self-serving or limited to the flows of national political considerations and disagreements. The diplomatic status which commensurate with the level of his representation of Liberia to the IMO, and dutifully recognized by Her Majesty, the Queen of England and her government, is consistent with internationally-acceptable standards, conventions and settled practices.
“Importantly also”, Attorney Jackson reminded, “my diplomatic accreditation to the International Maritime Organization as Liberia’s Permanent Representative, should by now be clear to the Minister of Foreign Affairs as being consistent with Liberian laws, practices and standards for the issuance of diplomatic passports, especially Chapter 20.3 (f) of the Executive Law and Article IV, Section (9) of the Passport Regulation, as well as Chapter III (3) Article 13(a & b) of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia.”
“To suggest otherwise”, Jackson continued, “is to flaunt the law and established practices, and especially on the misleading claim that I work for the IMO and as such cannot have my diplomatic passport renewed, is a shocking expression of a lack of knowledge which ought not to be associated with Liberia’s chief diplomat.”
Jackson opined that the Minister has to be aware that the fundamental duty of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to seek to improve Liberia’s external relations. “Accordingly, if the reported comments are truly a reflection of the Minister’s thinking, they can only be best described as unfortunate and shortsighted as they really seek to lower Liberia’s international standing, reputation and representation to the IMO, as well as undermine its prestigious maritime program”, he added.
Jackson also explained that the comments of the Minister of Foreign Affairs is disrespectful of the decision of the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia, and undermines the commitment to the rule of law in the country. Attorney Jackson reminded that on July 23, 2018, the Liberian Supreme Court issued a Stay Order which the Court again reinforced en banc on April 16, 2019, instructing the Executive Branch, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to renew diplomatic passports for Jackson and his family. Jackson therefore expressed concern for the rule of law in the country if appointees of the Executive can choose to publicly ignore and defy decisions of the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia with apparent impunity.
It can be recalled that in September 2016, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf appointed and commissioned Attorney Isaac Jackson, former Deputy Minister of Information, as Permanent Representative of Liberia to the International Maritime Organization. He was recalled and replaced by President George M. Weah on June 18, 2018. Jackson deemed the action of the President to be a violation of the law in so far as he served in a tenured appointment which had yet to expire. He therefore sought the intervention of the Supreme Court of Liberia on the matter of his recall and replacement. Still not finally decided, the Supreme Court has instructed that the diplomatic passports of Jackson and his family which had expired, be renewed.
On September 18, 2018, former Commissioner of the Liberian Maritime Authority, Dr. James F. Kollie, officially notified the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the expiry of the diplomatic passports issued to PMR Jackson and his family, and requested renewals of the same. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is yet to do so.
Jackson insisted that his decision to seek the intervention of the courts for which the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liberia is now being forced to take on an untenable and unlawful position concerning the diplomatic status of the Permanent Representative of Liberia to the IMO, is bigger than the ‘thoughts’ expressed by the honorable Minister.
“Even as my family and I are made to undergo the ongoing intended humiliation and embarrassment by the government, we are often tempted to believe that it may be easier to abandon our court action, service to our country in London, and return home. We cannot bring ourselves to do so consoled by the fact that what we seek for ourselves is justice, and for our country, a continued commitment to good governance in solemn obedience to the rule of law. If we continue to impress Presidents that they can exercise authority not reserved for them, or that they are not subjects to the same laws; what kind of democracy are we building”, Jackson asked.
“If the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia ruled against us tomorrow, my family and I would be disappointed, as we believe the law to be squarely on our side. But we would feel relieved to return home knowing that as citizens and life-long advocates for change in our country, we offered ourselves, not in comfortable surrender to what we knew to be wrong, but stood up for justice and good governance, the change for which many have died in our country”, Jackson concluded.