Liberia: Judiciary Orders Staff to Abort Protest

17 September 2020

Following a series of protests by staff at the Judicial branch of government for 11 months of unpaid Liberian dollars component of their salaries, the Judiciary warns that protests, demonstration, and strike actions are in violation of the law and cannot be allowed to continue because they disrupt court processes.

"Information is that these employees intend to disrupt the ensuing opening of the Civil Law Court. The Judiciary is a neutral ground where party litigants go to seek remedy within the ambit of the law," a statement issued in Monrovia Thursday, 17 September by the Judiciary says.

"Protests, demonstration, and strike actions, etc., disrupt court processes and deprive party litigants of unhindered right of access to justice; these are in violation of law and cannot be allowed to continue," the Judiciary says further.

The Judiciary maintains that as it remains engaged with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning in finding a possible solution which will inure to the aggrieved employees' benefit, it calls on the employees to exercise patience and refrain from actions that will disrupt judicial processes.

Ahead of the opening of the Civil Law Court, the leadership of the aggrieved Judicial staff posted placards on the facilities at the Temple of Justice on Capitol Hill Thursday, 17 September, seeking to notify members of a planned protest due Monday, 21 September.

"The Union of [Aggrieved] Judicial Workers is pleased to inform you all to be [prepared] for the Strike Action/Go slow to [begin] Monday," one notice posted at the entrance of the Judiciary's Cafeteria reads. Some of the protesters claim that some placards were taken down supposedly by authorities before the afternoon hours.

In its statement Thursday, the Judiciary said it acknowledges the concerns of its employees regarding cuts in their salaries by the Government of Liberia under the program of Harmonization and Standardization which took effect about a year ago.

According to the Judiciary, when the matter was first raised with the Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr., he set up a committee to listen to the concerns of the employees with the view of providing appropriate explanations.

While this was being done, the Judiciary laments that some of the employees resulted to protests which prompted a meeting of the employees with the Full Bench of the Supreme Court.

At that meeting which was also attended by representatives from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and the Civil Service Agency, the Judiciary notes that explanations were provided by the representatives from Finance regarding the salary cuts.

It continues that the employees were especially informed that the cuts in salaries were not done by the Judiciary and that the cuts affected all employees in the government sector.

Following these interactions, it says the Chief Justice asked the employees to designate representatives to engage with the team from the Ministry of Finance and the Civil Service Agency, as well as the Judiciary to have a full understanding of the impact of the harmonization process on the salaries of the employees and seek the way forward in easing the financial burden occasioned by the salary cuts.

"The Judiciary takes note of the appearance of the Minister of Finance & Development Planning, Hon. Samuel D. Tweah on Radio Okay FM on Tuesday, September 15, 2020, at which time he expressed Government's concern of the impact of the harmonization program on civil servants and committed that the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning was doing everything possible to address the issue," the statement says.

The statement concludes that despite these efforts being made by both the Judiciary and authorities at the Ministry of Finance and the Civil Service Agency, some employees of the Judiciary, led by Archie Ponpon, continue to stage sporadic protests, particularly targeting the Chief Justice and disrupting court proceedings.

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