FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

25 April 2014

Liberia: Intrigue and Denials Over Justice Minister Tah's 'Resignation'

Photo: Liberia Government
Justice Minister Christina Tah(file photo)

Monrovia — Has she or hasn't she? That's the question lingering in Liberia since a FrontPageAfrica report quoting Executive Mansion sources, indicated that suspended Justice Minister Christiana Tah had tendered in her resignation to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

The Daily Observer newspaper ran as its front page headline on Wednesday, April 23, 2014 a banner headline captioned: "I Have Not Resigned'- Justice Minister Christiana Tah Tells Daily Observer".

The newspaper wrote that the Minister had broken her silence over reports that she had resigned her post as Minister of Justice of the Republic of Liberia and subsequently left the country. The newspaper reported that Minister Tah spoke to them for the first time since her suspension in a bid to dispel speculations that Tah had fled the country.

"I have deliberately kept very silent since this whole thing with the supreme court suspension. I deliberately kept silent and I have not given an interview to anyone concerning this resignation, except Rodney Sieh." The newspaper wrote: "Minister Tah, speaking with the Daily Observer, Tuesday, April 22, stated that she had heard all the weird stories coming from Monrovia that she has not resigned her post as Minister of Justice; even though she is still undergoing suspension placed by the Justices of the Supreme Court. The suspension ends July 2014."

The newspaper attributed a quote to the minister stating: "It is customary that before any minister leaves the country, that person has to get the President's approval. I wrote the President asking her to allow me to seek medical attention in the United States. The President granted my request; so I left." END OF QUOTE... "But nowhere in the Observer's story does the direct quote attributed to Tah in its headline: "I Have Not Resigned" appears.

Nevertheless, Information Minister Lewis Brown, during his weekly news briefing at the Information Ministry also alluded to the Observer story, suggesting that other media entities were propping up with conspiracy theories about the minister's resignation.

Said Minister Brown: "The suspended Minister of Justice has in fact clarified that she has not resigned. In fact, she sought specific leave of absence from the President to be able to travel to the United States on a medical leave. So please, all of these conspiracy theories you have been reading that the President wanted to dismiss this woman, these are not true."

Brown continued: "The only thing I like about this town is, we're ok in letting out these theories and these hypotheses, but when you get the facts then suddenly we are little muted in reporting what the actual facts are. The person who you say this government was conniving to bring down, the person say, "no that's not true. I have not resigned. Well, we haven't seen enough of it to inform everybody. Of course we don't' expect to see enough of it. It is suddenly not mute anymore."

Added Minister Brown: "The news is that she resigned, the news is not that she said I have not resigned. Those who are listening and we will not read it in the papers, we want to inform you that the suspended minister of Justice has not resigned. In fact, she did not leave the country until she got permission from the President to do so. There is no plot."

The minister averred that all ministers and assistant ministers serve at the will and pleasure of the President and that the President does not need a conspiracy theory to fire anyone. "She doesn't need to connive with another branch to dismiss an appointed official. As long as you are an appointed official, if the President sees you in her dream and she doesn't like the way you appear in her dream, she can fire you, she ain't got to explain it to anybody. So she doesn't need to conspire."

"Why does the President need to conspire - to dismiss the justice minister? She doesn't or whoever becomes President doesn't. So sometimes we put all of these things out there, it just confuses everybody. Please, that of you listening to me, the Justice Minister is suspended because her license to practice law has been suspended and in order to work as justice minister, you must be a practicing lawyer. That license is issued by the judiciary and can be revoked by the Supreme Court. They suspended the license and for all intended purposes, in respect of the judiciary, the President suspended the justice minister. So, no conspiracy. It is in keeping with the respect for the other branches of government."

"The only thing I like about this town is, we're ok in letting out these theories and these hypotheses, but when you get the facts then suddenly we are little muted in reporting what the actual facts are. The person who you say this government was conniving to bring down, the person says, "no that's not true. I have not resigned. Well, we haven't seen enough of it to inform everybody. Of course we don't' expect to see enough of it. It is suddenly not mute anymore." - Information Minister Lewis Brown

Shortly after Minister Brown's briefing Thursday, state radio, LBS aired an interview with the Minister during which she dismissed both the Observer report and Minister Brown's rants.

Said Minister Tah: "I have deliberately kept very silent since this whole thing with the supreme court suspension. I deliberately kept silent and I have not given an interview to anyone concerning this resignation, except Rodney Sieh."

Continued Minister Tah: "My office called me a few weeks ago and inquired that ten journalists had called to find out whether it was true that I had resigned. I asked them to list the people, and journalist Rodney Sieh's name was amongst them. I asked them to give his number; I didn't have his number, and he's the only one I talked to. When we sat down to talk, the only question I asked him was, 'where did you get your information'? He said my sources or they came from. . . I have my sources in the mansion. I said do you have any proof, did you see any evidence that I resigned? He said no."

"I said then, your headline should not be the Minister have resigned, it should have a question mark because you are speculating. He said, I agree with you, madam Minister, then that's how the story came out. He did not even quote me which was professional, because we didn't not go beyond that conversation. I even jokingly said to him, oh you know when I break my silence you will be one of the first people I will talk to. This story that came out yesterday actually grew out of some story I understood came out in Monrovia in some newspapers and on some radio stations that I have resigned and flew out of the country."

Despite Minister Lewis Brown's protestations, Daily Observer Report, Minister Tah Says she has not spoken to anyone regarding her resignation

"I specifically called a young man called Alaskai (Moore Johnson) at the Daily observer because he worked with me when we travel out of town. He used to go with us to cover stories, and I said to him I understand that these reports came out yesterday, he said yes, I said, it is not true. So I authorized my office to release a communication that will dispel that story and give clarification to the public."

Tah's license was suspended by the Supreme Court in January but the Executive Mansion has since been mute with the exception of a January 13, 2014 statement from the presidency stating that the President had taken note of the court's decision placing a six-month suspension of the Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia.

At the time, the Executive Mansion stated that Sirleaf was holding consultations with eminent lawyers and legal professionals, including former Chief Justices and former Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, to fully comprehend the implications of the Court's decision, especially as it relates to the executive powers of the President.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in his twenty-seventh progress report to the United Nations Security Council on the United Nations Mission in Liberia raised concerns over the lack of clarity in leadership at the Ministry of Justice which was posing problems for the security sector.

In a recent publisher's letter, FPA publisher Rodney Sieh paid homage to Minster Tah for her role in his release from custody stemming from a US1.5 million lawsuit against former Agriculture Minister Dr. J. Chris Toe.

"The fact of the matter is, Minister Tah was pressured by the President to intervene and resolve my issue with Chris Toe, not because of the President's concern for my well-being but because her international 'image' was taking a hit. "

"Her travel to India, Canada and the U.S., at the time, was greeted with protests and condemnation over insult laws which tainted her human rights record and award-winning media-friendly reputation. Simply, put, it was about the President's "image" and not about me."

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