Lawyers representing troubled Police Director Chris Massaquoi say they will drag the Senate to court if that body does not withdraw its statement calling for the disrobement of their client, adding that such action is beyond their constitutional mandate.
The lawyers said it is not within the purview of the Senate to order the Minister of Justice to disrobe Director Massaquoi. That function, they said is reserved for the Executive.
The Senate last Friday ordered the Justice Minister to disrobe Police Director Chris Massaquoi, a day after he appeared at the Capitol to answer to contempt charges with dozens of armed police officers. They (Senators) said in a communication to be sent to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that they no longer enjoy the confidence of the Police Director and hence he should be disrobed.
But Massaquoi's lead Counsel Syrenius Cephas told this paper Sunday evening that in as much as they would respect the Legislative Branch for its oversight responsibility and for the purpose of coordination between the three branches of government, they disagree when the Legislative Branch overstepped its boundary to exercise powers solely reserved for the other branches of government.
Cllr. Cephas cited Article 20 (A) of the 1986 Constitution which states:" No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, security of the person, property, privilege or any other right except as the outcome of a hearing judgment consistent with the provisions laid down in this Constitution and in accordance with due process of law. Justice shall be done without sale, denial or delay; and in all cases not arising in courts not of record, under courts."
He said there was no due process given to his client and that in the first place he (Massaquoi) was not being held in contempt. "Where the minutes to show that there are was a due process of law. He was not accompanied by his lawyer."
"Chris has not been ordered arrested. So how can he be disrobed?" Cllr. Cephas queried and added, "The man was only sent for to answer a yes or no question."
Cllr. Cephas said while the Legislators are within their constitutional bonds to exercise their contempt powers, or send for any citizen within the Republic to be questioned, if need be, it is not within their power to order the disrobement of any public official or declare them as a "non-governmental material."
He cited a case in which the Senate concurred with the House in declaring Monrovia former Acting City Mayor Mary Broh, now Director General designate of the General Services Agency or GSA a non-governmental material.
"The public official serves at the will and pleasure of the president," Cllr. Cephas said, adding this is in complete violation of Article 3 of the Liberian Constitution of 1986.
Article 3 of the 1986 Constitution states: "Liberia is a unitary sovereign state divided into counties for administrative purposes. The form of government is Republican with three separate coordinate branches: the legislative, the Executive and Judiciary. Consistent with the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances, no person holding office in one of these branches shall hold office in or exercise any of the powers assigned to either of the other two branches except as otherwise provided in this Constitution; and no person holding office in one of the said branches shall serve on any autonomous public agency."
Cllr. Cephas said a claim that the Police Director led his men to mutinying at the Capitol is out of place because paramilitary personnel can only carry out a mutiny against their authorities and not against civilians.
He said complaints that the troubled police chief was accompanied by his officers hold no water because "if you sent for a bitter boy (garden egg) seller, he or she will definitely come with bitter boy.
Meanwhile, the order to disrobe Director Massaquoi follows Thursday's show of strength at the Capitol by officers of the Liberia National Police under the leadership of Director Chris Massaquoi, the Liberian Senate has written President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, calling the police chief to be disrobed and prosecuted.
The Senate in a special session convened Friday to decide the Police Director's fate. Col. Massaquoi under oath denied having any knowledge of officers that assembled Thursday at the Capitol to protest the Senators' decision to summon him for questioning.
After few minutes of questions and answers, Col. Massaquoi was told to leave the chambers and the senate promised to take a decision and communicate said to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
After a full day legislative work, the Senate wrote President Sirleaf, calling for Col. Massaquoi to be disrobed and forwarded to the Justice Ministry for investigation on why he took along armed officers to the Capitol.
Police Director Massaquoi had called in by the senate to give reasons why he should not be held in contempt for actions by his men to obstruct the functions of another lawmaker from Gbapolu County less than 24 hours after his Deputy for Operations, Abraham Kromah, had just apologized to the senate plenary for the same action against Senior Senator Theodore Momo.
Senator Armah Jallah (NPP-Gbapolu County) requested plenary to invite Massaquoi to answer to an attack on him by one of his men, who stopped him (Jallah) while on his way to work. He said the police officer promised to kick the 'a- -' of anyone, who disobeyed his orders.
As a result of the senator's letter to plenary, including already fresh memories of what transpired 48 hours earlier with another senator, Pro-temp Gbehzohngar Findley instructed the secretary of the Liberian senate to inform Director Massaquoi that he was wanted before plenary.
Senator Isaac Nyenabo (NDPL-Grand Gedeh County) said, Article 6.21 of the Traffic laws states that sirens and other emergency devices are permitted for emergency vehicles such as police authorized vehicles, fire fighting vehicles, and official vehicles may be equipped with a siren, whistle, bell approved by the Justice Minister.
Director Massaquio had earlier argued that the issue of lawmakers using sirens to get to session on time, is not a provision in the law, and maintained that no one is above the law, adding that only those individuals in government that are allowed to use such emergency instruments will be allowed, warning that violators will bear the consequences no matter who they are.
"Henceforth, the Liberia National Police is warning the general driving public that they will not succumb to threats and intimidation from the public regarding the enforcement of the traffic laws; More importantly, the authority of the LNP is strongly warning the driving public that it will not tolerate motorists, hitting and or attempting to run-over police officers, while discharging their lawful duties", he warned.