Following a conference, the Chambers of the Supreme Court of Liberia has reportedly asked the Liberian Senate and Finance and Development Planning Minister, Amara Konneh, to return to status quo ante, meaning the Finance Minister should appear before the upper House to provide all necessary clarifications regarding a controversial latter written by his deputy to the august body.
Tuesday’s conference, which should have been presided over by Justice in Chambers, Cllr. Kabinah Ja’neh, was instead, heard in the offices of Justice Jamessetta Wolokollie. Though, lawyers representing Minister Konneh headed by Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe and the senate legal team headed by Senator Counselor Varney Sherman,declined commenting on the matter, Senator J. Milton Teahjay of Sinoe County said the High Court urged the both parties to revert to the chambers of the Liberian Senate.
Senator Teahjay said based on information he obtained, in the wisdom of Justice in Chambers Wolokollie, the rights of the Minister were not violated and that the senate was operating within its constitutional powers, meaning it may continue with its scope of functions, but within the confines of the law.
Lawyers representing both Minister Konneh and the Liberian Senate appeared before the Supreme Court of Liberia Tuesday, 16 February at 10:00AM for a conference over a controversial letter written by the ministry to the senate for a proposed budgetary cut that had sparked row between the Minister and the senators.
The Supreme Court Chambers, sitting under Justice Kabineh Ja’neh last week invited both parties to a conference. Minister Konneh, currently battling contempt charge before the Liberian Senate, Wednesday, February 9 narrowly escaped jail sentence from the Senate after he hurriedly filed a petition to the Supreme Court of Liberia, praying the highest court of the land to, among others, order the Senate to release him and stay all further proceedings as well as issue the alternative writ and grant unto him, the petitioner, such further relief as it (Court) may consider just and legal under the facts and circumstances of the case.
The Senate had described as direct affront and a mind-set, a January 21, 2016 letter from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning under the signature of Deputy Minister Dr. James Kollie, with an ultimatum to the effect that, “… if you do not respond with regard to said distribution by 4P.M. on Wednesday, January 27, we will use our discretion to reallocate the amount appropriately and proceed with the processing of allotment the remainder of 3rd quarter.”
The letter in question was sent to the senate, informing the august body of a proposed budget cut from US$15,306,416 to US$14,043,570 as a result of impact of global economic downturn on the Liberian economy thus, necessitating a downward revision of the revenue forecast for FY2015/2016.
But in his petitions, Konneh argued that writing a letter is a form of freedom of expression, a right guaranteed by Article 15 of the Constitution of Liberia, and that words used in a letter is based on how the writer thinks and the freedom of thought is protected by Article 14 of the Constitution of Liberia.
It remains to be seen however that this time around, the Finance boss will sail smoothly with the Senate in providing clarity on the controversial letter.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Edited by Jonathan Browne