-terms it as unconstitutional and contradictory
Nimba County Senator and leader of the disbanded rebels Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia Prince Y. Johnson has strongly rejected last week’s statement issued in Monrovia by the Embassy of the United States describing it as unconstitutional and contradictory.
“Look, Let me tell you something; our law says if you are accused, you are presumed innocent until proven in the court of competent jurisdiction, and as a country of law, I’m still innocent until proven in the court”, Sen. PYJ responded after the U.S. condemned his election by the Liberian Senate as head of its committee on defense and intelligence.
Speaking Friday, May 21,2021 via mobile phone to OK FM, he argued that it was unfortunate for the United States government to describe him as a notorious warlord, when he had not been indicted or tried and convicted in a court.
“The U.S. government has right to their opinions, but that communication is contradictory and unconstitutional.” Senator Johnson maintained.
He further argued that Constitution of Liberia says a accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court, so the Embassy can’t say “I’m a criminal when I haven’t had any day in court; that is wrong.”
Instead, the rebel general turned politician accused the U.S. government of taking side, evidenced by its recent statement, adding that the U.S. has already convicted him based on allegations, and not evidence.
“I trust the American people; they can’t get involved in this matter in such a way, but I’m sure that statement issued didn’t come from the U.S. government herself, it is the working of few elements that are working within the US Embassy compound perhaps they have been supported by Allen White” he says.
Last Week Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy near Monrovia issued a statement, condemning the election of Nimba County Senator Prince Yormie Johnson, to head the Senate Committee on Defense and Intelligence, and Senator Varney G. Sherman as head of Judiciary committee, respectively.
The Embassy, describing the Nimba lawmaker and political godfather as a “notorious warlord,” said, “Senator Johnson’s gross human rights violations during Liberia’s civil wars are well documented; his continued efforts to protect himself from accountability, enrich his own coffers and sow division are also well known.”
The statement, released under the signature of Alyson Grunder, Deputy Chief of Mission, continued, “We note as well the continuation of Counselor Varney Sherman, sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for corruption involving judicial bribery, as chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions. By giving Senators Johnson and Sherman these leadership roles,” the U.S. says, “the Senate is effectively ensuring that corruption and lack of accountability flourish.”
In most cases, if not as a requirement, lawmakers generally are all placed on various committees based on their expertise in those areas. For that, the legislative leadership solicits curriculum vitae from senators to know their level of education or professional experience to guide them in assigning tasks or placements on relevant committees.
Senator Prince Johnson is a military man with vast experience, having served the Armed Forces of Liberia before becoming a warlord during Liberia’s civil war. His warring faction, the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), captured and executed President Samuel Doe on September 9, 1990, a military achievement for which his kinsmen respect him so highly.
Perhaps based on his experience, the Senate leadership deemed it expedient to repeatedly award him with the chairmanship of the Committee on Defense and Intelligence, which the U.S Embassy has now emphatically rejected, citing the Liberian Senate’s apparent resolve not to show interest in accountability.
“That the Liberian Senate would see fit to elevate him (Senator Johnson) to a leadership role – particularly in the area in which he has done this country the most harm — creates doubts as to the seriousness of the Senate as a steward of Liberia’s defense and security.”
The U.S. Embassy’s statement on Senator Johnson, comes on the heels of war of words the Nimba County Senator recently had with Montserrado County Senator Darius Dillon over the establishment of a war and economic crimes court to promote transparency and accountability in Liberia.
The United States is the key supporter of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) ensuring that members of the military do not engage in any act contrary to Military ethics and human rights.
According to Senator Johnson, he had served the same position before and other positions at the ECOWAS Parliament, but he is shock that the U.S. Government, through its embassy, can come out against him upon his election to the post.
“I had held meetings with the U.S. Embassy many times while serving on the Defense and Intelligence Committee in the past and they never rejected my being on the committee as Chairman. When you are in the U.S. Embassy, you are in America. Why could they not reject me at the time of past meetings? However, the statement today was just shocking to me. I love my country and want the security to get support so the country can move forward. If our big brother can say they do not want me, I can resign and will still be Senator of Nimba. My people elected me, I was not appointed,” he added.
By Lewis S. Teh–Editing by Jonathan Browne