Liberian lawyer Atty. Kunkunyon Wleh-teh questions Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson’s reliance to sue both Government and organizers of the June 7 protest for fear he (Johnson) might suffer personal injury if the protest were held as planned.
Cllr. Johnson is reportedly considering to the government and the Council of Patriots (COP) organizers of the impending protest on grounds that he is a taxpayer, who has his family and properties that he does not want to suffer any injury through protest.
He bases his qualms against the pending protest to outcome of past protests here that had painful consequences on the country.
But Atty. Wleh-teh argues that Cllr. Johnson must first establish that he has suffered a perceptible and recognized harm or injury before going to court.
On the basis of few points provided, Atty. Wleh – teh believes that requesting a court to enjoin a mass protest is another tasteless way to inviting said court into an inescapable embarrassment, warning that such claim is inherently frivolous!
He wonders how would the court compel people to dialogue, saying, Cllr. Johnson’s claim that he will file petition for Mandamus is legally unfounded.
“Mandamus is to compel public official [to] do what a law requires them to do. The Executive … cannot be compelled to dialogue. It is a policy choice; thus, a political question,” Atty. Wleh – teh argues.
Allegations of corruption, the poor state of the economy and a US$25m mop – up exercise are among many other reasons why opposition and critics of President George Manneh Weah’s regime want to protest in demand of reforms.
President Weah and international partners, including the UN, ECOWAS and AU have met with protest organizers or the Council of Patriots (COP) for dialogue, but the COP insists it will go ahead with the mass assembly during which it will present its grievances to the government.
Continuing with his legal argument, Atty. Wleh – teh suggests that to seek injunctive or prospective relief, the future harm must be highly likely, imminent or nearly certain.
He insists that the injury complained of cannot be speculative …, but it should [be] concrete, particularized, distinct and actual.
Citing the Doctrine of Standing, he notes that a party seeking to demonstrate standing must assert his or her own rights and cannot raise the claims of a third party who is not before the court.
Relying on this doctrine, Atty. Wleh – teh explains further that a party seeking to demonstrate standing cannot make claims of generalized injury common to the body politics – that is, the claimed injury must be individualized and unique or personal to the person bringing it to court.“I would like to clearly point out that the Court has placed prohibition against generalized grievance as a basis for standing,” he points out.
Elaborating on a likely court decision, Atty. Wleh – teh says there can be no standing if the injury asserted is shared in an equal measure by all or a large class of citizens.
“Therefore, there is no legal basis standing because one is a taxpayer, citizen, resident or property owner,” he adds.
Besides, he narrates that the court cannot give redress because if the Court decided to assume jurisdiction over such a matter, he still wonders if a favorable decision from such court can remedy Cllr. Johnson’s perceived injury.
Atty. Wleh – teh wonders how could the court identify each person wanting to protest, to exercise jurisdiction of them, bearing in mind that protest is usually carried out in the context of a movement, with an undefined membership where people join based on a common belief or goal.
Additionally, he notes that decision to form part is voluntary and often spontaneous, especially, about issues that are so core to the general society.
Apprehensions abound from both government and ordinary citizens here about outcome of the 07 June protest that it may turn violence, particularly when protesters say they will begin their street assembly beginning the 7th onward to draw President Weah’ attention to prevailing situations in the country. By Winston W. Parley–Editing by Jonathan Browne