-Claim political witch hunt following Samukai’s conviction
Lofa County Citizens in Solidarity with convicted former Defense Minister, now Lofa Senator – elect J. Brownie Samukai have launched a verbal attack against Liberia’s Supreme Court, terming as “Political witch-hunt and mission of character assassination,” the court’s mandate for Samukai to restitute money he misapplied or face jail for two years.
At a gathering of Lofaians in Solidarity of Brownie Samukai Saturday, 13 February in Paynesville, Mr. Galakpai W. Kortimai, former Lofa Superintendent and chairman of the Solidarity Movement said the neutrality and integrity of the judiciary branch here has been questioned by Liberians, ECOWAS Court and the U.S. due to how it has been dispensing justice.
Reading the group’s statement, Mr. Kortimai insists that Mr. Samukai did not steal any money, but implemented the orders of former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf, therefore Lofaians in Solidarity with Samukai are determined to pay the last penny he has been ordered by the Supreme Court to restitute.
“Let the word go forth that we, the thousands of Lofa County citizens who believe in Senator-elect Samukai and voted massively for him wish to inform the world that although we respect the ruling of the Supreme Court, we are equally very disappointed and frustrated in the ruling handed down against our beloved Senator-elect Samukai!” he says.
Liberia’s Supreme Court on Monday, 8 February upheld a lower court’s ruling but with modification, convicting ex-President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s longest serving Defense Minister, Mr. Brownie Samukai, his deputy Joseph P. Johnson and Mr. James Nyumah Dorkor for the unauthorized spending of soldiers’ pension money.
However, the Supreme Court ruled in the corruption case that the sentences shall be suspended provided that the convicted former Defense Ministry officials shall restitute the full amount of US$1.147,656m or (pay) 50 percent within the period of six months, and following that, make appropriate arrangement to pay the remaining percent in one calendar year.
In its judgment, the Supreme Court said every withdrawal from the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) Pension Account should have been by authorization or consent of the AFL soldiers.
The Supreme Court said the unrelated expenses of US$1.147,656m on the instruction of former President Sirleaf was without the pale of the law, and the appelants (defendants) are held personally liable for the unauthorized expenditure on the account.
All three officials were last year adjudged guilty by the lower court of the crimes of misuse of public money, a felony of the first degree, theft of property for over a million USD, a felony of the second degree, and criminal conspiracy.
Should the convicts fail on these mandates, the Supreme Court says they shall be incarcerated in common jail and remain there until the full amount is paid.
However Mr. Kortimai says they have not yet collected money, but announces that by Monday, 15 February, they want to open both Liberian Dollars and United States dollars accounts and publish them in the newspaper so that contributors can make their deposits in the accounts.
He argues that during Samukai’s more than 30 years of public service home and abroad, he has never been involved in any act of corruption.
“We believe in his ability to defend and articulate the aspirations of Lofa County,” Mr. Kortimai says of Senator – elect Samukai, adding that this is why they voted him in their thousands and are prepared to stand with him to the very end with their lives and blood if need be.
He recalls that during the presidential transition process of 2018, Mr. Samukai reminded former President Sirleaf about a pending reimbursement of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) pension funds that was used by the Government of Liberia on the AFL.
He narrates that that reminder resulted to decision being reached that the government was going to pay back the AFL pension funds through budgetary allotment following a meeting among Samukai, the current Defense Minister, former President Sirleaf, current President George Manneh Weah and other senior AFL Personnel.
“And true to his word President Weah, instructed the Ministry of Finance to pay four hundred and sixty thousand United States Dollars ($ 460,000USD) of the AFL pension fund,” he says.
Mr. Kortimai wonders why the Government of President Weah abandoned the payment it started but decided to make a case when in fact all material evidences are available in the archives of the Ministry of Defense.
After initially being given a suspended sentence by the Criminal Court “C” last year, Mr. Samukai later in December 2020 won the Senatorial election in Lofa County, but has not been seated yet in the Senate due to challenges brought against the election results by his rival.
But Mr. Kortimai warns during the press conference that any attempt to further delay Mr. Samukai’s certification beyond the statuary limit will be resisted by Lofaians with all the means available within their reach!
Quizzed by this paper as to what means they would use to ensure Samukai is certificated, Mr. Kortimai explains that Lofaians are not violent people, but they will make use of the Constitution if the National Elections Commission (NEC) causes any delay in certificating their son.
“Let the word go forth that we will not further condone any delay from the National Election Commission (NEC) beyond the statutory time to certificate our Senator. We too are citizens of Liberia and we deserve to be represented by the person of our choice in our country’s governance system,” he says. By Winston W. Parley