The Analyst (Monrovia)

25 February 2013

Liberia: Enters Dillon into the House-Kpaan-Broh Saga -Broh, Fair game; Kpaan, Victim of Overbearing

Political kingmaker and rights advocate, Abraham Darius Dillon, has hailed the suspension of Acting City Mayor Mary Broh but frowned at how the president and the House treated Montserrado County Superintendent Grace Kpaah.

In a statement Mr. Dillon released over the weekend titled, "MY Take!" he questioned the legality of the contempt charges the House of Representatives imposed on the superintendent, and the prison term derived therefrom, on suspicion that they might not have resulted from a due process of law.

Quoting the Supreme Court of Liberia as defining the due process of law as 'the law that hears before it renders judgment', Mr. Dillon said given the circumstances of her trial, the House might have convicted Superintendent Kpaan illegally.

"There must be a complainant and a defendant, and the defendant must be acquainted with whatever complaint/charge against him or her. The defendant must be told his or her rights to remain silent and accorded the right to a legal representation of choice," he said.

A defendant in all trials in Liberia, according to him, must be accorded the right to produce evidence and witnesses to testify in his or her defense.

He said in the absence these basic tenets, due process is deemed no satisfied, and that any person so affected by an action or judgment under such circumstances suffers a violation of their fundamental and constitutional rights.

On Grace Kpaan

Without saying how he came to the conclusion, Mr. Dillon said the House of Representative "ignored almost all the basic tenets of 'due process' and UNLAWFULLY sentenced Madam Grace Kpaan to jail".

"Again, it is important to note that 'due process' is not a gift, it is fundamental and constitutional. It should, and must be observed and accorded anywhere and every time a person's fundamental and constitutional rights and/or privileges such as LIFE, LIBERTY, PROPERTY, etc... may be affected. First, the body seeking to curtail or suspend any of such rights MUST be vested with such jurisdictional competency," he said.

He said not only must the due process be available at all time, but that also it must be accorded and respected "at every step along the way", which he claimed was not the case with Madam Kpaan.

"By the mere presence of Grace Kpaan's lawyer, but prevented, prohibited and denied exercise of her function as a Lawyer does not constitute legal representation, one of the basic tenets of 'due process'. The Legislature, particularly the House of Representatives cannot, and should not be allowed to deliberately violate these basic fundamental and constitutional rights in the name of holding people for 'CONTEMPT'," he said without saying who should ensure that.

He accused the lawmakers of misapplying the legislative contempt powers as enshrined in the Constitution of Liberia and noted that that was "totally unacceptable".

"I therefore call on the House to do the honorable thing and reverse this embarrassing, unlawful, and shameless decision against Madam Kpaan," Mr. Dillon, who currently resides in the US, said.

Turning to President Sirleaf, he said the suspension of the superintendent undercut her leadership prowess.

"I hold the view that President Sirleaf neither exercised leadership from the very beginning of this entire debacle, nor was her suspension action against Madam Grace Kpaan a good judgment. The decision was ILL-ADVISED," he said, arguing that the president should have acted from the beginning to prevent the current saga.

"The President had all the time and long enough to have acted when the House first accused Madam Kpaan of 'financial impropriety'. She should have acted expeditiously at that time by either calling on Madam Kpaan to make a full report through the Minister of Internal Affairs or directly to her Office. She failed to have acted at the time leadership was needed," he said.

He however hoped that the current open bickering, which is due in part to the president's failure to act in time, provides a lesson for all to learn.

On Mary Broh

"Even though the action of the House against Madam Grace Kpaan was wrong, it did not give Madam Mary Broh any iota of right to have 'obstructed'. She is NOT a Court or 'law unto herself'," the former kingmaker said.

On this count, the rights advocate "called on the House to do the right and legal thing this time around. Madam Broh must not go unpunished for her act. I concur with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to suspend Madam Broh under the circumstances."

Meanwhile Dillon says President Sirleaf needs to pay particular attention to critical issues that now appear to be facing what he called natural death.

Amongst the issues, he said, are the "alarming and somewhat embarrassing issuance of Private Use Permit (PUP) at the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), and the ongoing trading of accusations of financial mismanagement and impropriety at the Roberts International Airport between the 'dismissed' Managing Director of the Roberts International Airport and the Board of the Liberia Aviation Authority (LAA).

"These are issues of grave corruption allegations that must not be allowed to 'die a natural death'. The President is encouraged, and she must act with decisive immediacy to ensure that those who preside over positions of public trusts are made to account for their stewardship," he said, grateful to be part of the public discussion.

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