26 February 2013

Liberia: Supreme Court Halts Arrest of Broh, Kpaan

Photo: New Democrat
City Mayor Mary Broh celebrating Liberia'’s debt waiver.

The Supreme Court of Liberia through the Justice in Chambers Cllr. Philip A.Z. Banks has placed a stay order on the arrest and detention of the suspended Monrovia acting City Mayor Mary Broh and Montserrado County Superintendent Grace Kpaan pending a conference. The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of justice in the country.

The stay order placed on the arrest and detention of the two suspended government officials comes amid a petition for a Writ of Prohibition filed before the Supreme Court by lawyers representing the two suspended officials. The petition for Writ of Prohibition was filed before the High Court on Monday, February 25, 2013 by lawyers representing the two officials.

According to reports gathered by this paper, the lawyers of the two officials headed by Cllr. Pearl Brown-Bull contend that the action by the House of Representatives to order the arrest and detention of the two officials is in complete contravention of the laws of Liberia.

Upon receiving the petition for the Writ of Prohibition, the Justice in Chambers on Monday, February 25, 2013 cited the Speaker of the House of Representative, J. Alex Tyler and the Sergeant-At-Arms of the House of Representatives Brigadier General Martin Johnson on one hand and the lawyers representing Madam Broh and Madam Kpaan on the other hand at the Temple of Justice.

However, the report stated that the outcome of yesterday's conference was not disclosed to the press. The report added that the conference will continue today, Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at the Temple of Justice. It can be recalled that last Friday, February 22, 2013, the House of Representatives ordered the arrest and imprisonment of the two suspended government officials for a period of thirty (30) days each. The Plenary took the decision on Friday, February 22, 2013 at a special session held at the Capitol Building in Monrovia.

The Capitol Building is the seat of the Legislature. The lawmakers unanimously resolved to have the two suspended officials incarcerated at the Monrovia Central Prison (MCP) based upon the incident that occurred on Thursday, February 21, 2013 at the prison compound. It can be recalled that last Thursday, several plain clothes security officers, including the personal security to Madam Broh and some women reportedly prevented the imprisonment of Madam Kpaan at the Monrovia Central Prison.

The Plenary had earlier ordered the imprisonment of the suspended Montserrado Superintendent at the MCP for 72 hours.

The plenary said its action against Madam Kpaan was due to her alleged failure to implement its mandate after she earlier appeared before it.

The plenary had mandated the suspended superintendent to pay the scholarship fees of some students of the county, re-transfer over US$400,000 that was deposited in a separate account, reinstate the Project Management Committee Chairman, Mr. Patrick Moore and restitute the amount of over US$50,000 that was "expended" without the consent of the County's Council.

According to report gathered by this paper, the plain clothes security officers and women forcefully pulled away Madam Kpaan from the hands of the sergeant-at-arms. Brigadier-General Johnson told newsmen that he was physically assaulted by the protesters under the command of Madam Broh. He termed the act as "unconstitutional, unfortunate and a complete insult to the constitution and the House of Representatives."

At the emergency session, the House of Representatives referred to the suspended officials as "non-governmental materials." Madam Broh was ordered apprehended and jailed for what the House termed as "obstruction of justice."

The suspended city mayor has been accused of hiring women, including security officers to prevent the imprisonment of Madam Kpaan at the Monrovia Central Prison. In the emotionally charged session, a motion for the arrest and detention of Broh and Kpaan was raised by Bong County Representative George Mulbah.

Upon taking the decision, the House wrote President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on the matter. The House complained the two officials to the Liberian leader and called for their immediate dismissal from government. In the communication, the House notified the President about Madam Broh's alleged action of obstructing justice at the prison compound and Madam Kpaan's defiant posture and disrespect to the House of Representatives.

When contacted by this paper over the weekend via cell phone on the matter, Madam Broh said: "I have done nothing wrong." She did not further comment. For Madam Kpaan, she could not be reached for comments up to present. Meanwhile, President Johnson-Sirleaf has with immediate effect announced the indefinite suspension of the controversial acting Monrovia City Major and embattled Montserrado County Superintendent.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), the decision to suspend the Madam Broh and Kpaan came prior to decision by the House Friday to rearrest Kpaan and arrest Mayor Broh. The decision, according to the statement, was reached following a discussion between President Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph Boakai.

Said the statement: "Pending further Consultations, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has directed the immediate suspension from office of the Acting City Mayor Mary Broh. The Liberian leader also instructed the suspension from office of Mrs. Grace T. Kpaan, Superintendent of Montserrado County. The two suspensions were made by the President earlier on Friday, immediately after she was informed by the vice President of incidents involving the two officials and the honorable House of Representatives."

At the same time, the lower House has summoned the Ministers of Justice and Gender and Development Cllr. Christiana Tah and Madam Julia Duncan Cassell to appear before plenary on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 for their alleged role in the Thursday's saga.

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