By Lincoln G. Peters
Justices on the Supreme Court bench are holding President George Manneh Weah responsible for the downward trend of the judicial branch of government.
While questioning Finance Minister Samuel Tweah Tuesday, 8 November 2022, over delays in paying salaries for the judicial branch, the justices accused the executive of cutting the budget of the judiciary and giving it limited support.
“The Government of Liberia, mainly the executive, is responsible for the downward trend of the judiciary because of lack of adequate support to the judiciary. If any branch of government should be paid first, it should be the judiciary,” Associate Justice Jamesetta Howard-Wolokollie said.
Justice Howard-Wolokollie’s statement was in response to the failure of the government to pay the salary and operational funds of the judiciary for its smooth operation.
On Monday, the Supreme Court of Liberia ordered Finance Minister Samuel Tweah’s arrest over the salary delay.
But Mr. Tweah, following his appearance before the justices on Tuesday to explain why he should not be held in contempt for hindering the functioning of the judiciary, informed the court about the payment of salaries for September 2022.
He also promised that October pay would be ready by this weekend.
But the justices blamed the Government of Liberia, particularly the executive branch headed by President Weah for the downward trend of the judiciary.
The justices indicated that President Weah should be held responsible because of the lack of adequate support toward the judiciary.
Justice Howard-Wolokolie particularly blamed the executive branch for the poor operation of the judiciary because of the limited budget support it receives.
She reminded the finance minister that few years ago there was a supplementary budget for the government, but the legislative and executive branches divided that money and left out the judiciary.
She noted that the other time, for six months there was no gasoline for judges and operational funds for them to repair their cars, purchase sheets and other stationery for the smooth operation of the judiciary.
Justice Wolokollie further explained that the US$19 million supplementary budget that the executive and legislative branches distributed among themselves as part of the many marginalization that the judiciary is experiencing.
She noted that the last time the court called Minister Tweah, he promised to give the judiciary its share of the money, but it didn’t happen.
Also speaking, Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe stated that it is frustrating that the Government of Liberia will continue to cut their budget when it is submitted to the executive.
According to him, most time when the government cuts the judiciary’s budget, it usually leads to inadequate funding for the smooth operation of the judiciary.
“It’s very saddening that the government will continue to treat us this way. You can’t cut our budget for us because we all know what we want,” Justice Nagbe lamented.
“What we submit to you in our budget is what we need for the operation of the judiciary. But, cutting it without our concern and giving us what you want is wrong and unlawful,” he warned.