Justice-in-Chamber Cllr. Kabineh M. Ja’neh has lifted the stay order placed against the operations of the the Presidential Task Force headed by controversial General Services Agency or GSA Director General Mary Broh. But he has ordered the task force to refrain from breaking down additional structures, during the remaining period of the cleanup exercise or be halted completely.
The decision reached by the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, 9 December, concludes the rigmarole that erupted here between the task force and some residents of Monrovia and its surroundings who complained of being made homeless over the destruction of their properties and business centers.
During the conference held publicly in the Supreme Court Wednesday, City Mayors and Mayoress, Township Commissioners and other relevant members of the task force and petitioners were present as lawyers representing both sides made presentations.
Justice Ja’neh ordered that the court will lift the stay order to clean the city, but with the provision that no further destruction be done to homes as were being done initially.
He warned that the entire clean up exercise will be ordered halted and an alternative writ would be issued for the matter to be forwarded to the full bench of the Supreme Court, should there be a repeated complaint of destruction.
Lawyers for the petitioners, including Cllrs. Dempster Brown and Tiawan Gongloe said the Presidential Task Force does not believe in the rule of law, accusing it of using police power and abusing citizens’ rights by arresting and tying them with their faces directed at the sun.
Cllr. Brown claimed that two persons died from alleged “heart-break” in the execution of the demolition exercise, one of which he said happened in Jallah Town community, behind the Main Campus of the University of Liberia on Capitol Hill.
The defence lawyers repeated that they want the task force to take citizens to court if its felt that they have violated city ordinance and zoning laws in order to get them fined upon being found guilty.
They also accused the task force of humiliating people and carrying on brutality, arrest and threatening those that resist the destruction of their properties, saying, the presidential committee does not have judicial function.
Cllr. Gongloe claimed that it was a violation of street peddlers’ rights to remove them from their selling places, on grounds that they are paying taxes to the Liberia Revenue Authority in addition to fees paid to the city corporation as a result of an alleged MOU signed including the Ministry of Commerce.
He says the petition does not oppose the cleaning of the city but the destruction of structures; as he argued that nobody could see the new Central Bank of Liberia and erect makeshift structure near it because of the environment, like some places in Sinkor would speak for themselves.
However, Liberia’s Solicitor General Betty Lamin Blamo said the petitioners have made sweeping allegation against the task force, adding that the allegations have no supported evidence.
She argued that the team is being guided by the Ministry of Public Works and members of the Task Force include all mayors and mayoress, township commissioners to clean up the city, drainages, remove abandoned vehicles, among others. Judging from the amended petition filed by the complainants, Cllr. Blamo said those claiming properties did not show any title or evidence as properties owners, as she questioned “who are they?”
She named Asata Fofana, Mamie Williams, James Logan, Turay, Christina George, and others listed in the petition, and asked where is the evidence that they own property.
But Justice Ja’neh asked if there was a way to carry out the clean up exercise without breaking down structures, because the court would issue a stay order where a bail of information is filed against the execution of the campaign.
“If you break down somebody property outside of the law, they have the right to sue you,” he said.
By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah