Justices of the Supreme Court have resolved to contribute 25 percent of their monthly salaries and allowances to the Ebola National Trust Fund for four months.
Disclosing this at the formal opening of the October Term of Court of the Supreme Court on Monday, Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor said this was the Court’s way of identifying with the government in the fight to eradicate the Ebola disease from the country.
Justice Korkpor also said the Supreme Court Bench has conferred with Judges of lower Courts, as well as senior and support staff of the Judiciary to make similar contributions, noting that theirs will be half of their monthly salaries and allowances over the same period.
Justice Korkpor believes such contribution should be made by all Liberians, including members of the Legislative branch of government, civil servants, private and public corporations as well as self-employed citizens with the exception of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who are considered foot-soldiers in the fight against Ebola
He explained that the contribution is necessary not only to demonstrate the Supreme Court’s concern and commitment to eradicate the virus from the country, but to also convey the message of ownership of the drive to combat and eliminate the virus.
Justice Korkpor stressed that ‘this will even embolden the resolve of many friendly nations and organizations to provide material and human resource assistance to us”.
In a related develoment, Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor has urged individuals who may be aggrieved under the state of emergency “to remain law abiding and seek recourse under the law.”
“We want to assure that under the state of emergency, the Judiciary will not relent in its constitutional mandate. It will continue to perform its role as the anchor of our Government to which our people look for redress to their grievances and the guarantor of their freedoms and liberties,” he maintained.
Speaking during the opening of the October Term of the Supreme Court at the Temple of Justice Monday, the Chief Justice made reference to the state of emergency declared by President Ellen Sirleaf on August 6, 2014 “to contain the spread and bring an end to the Ebola virus”.
Chief Justice Kpokor agreed that under a state of emergency, certain constitutional as well as statutory rights may be suspended, adding that the declaration is required to outline the specific rights that are to be suspended.
“However, the Constitution recognizes that during a state of emergency, like what now obtains in our country, our courts shall remain functional in order to guard against any excesses by the Legislature or Executive branches of government,” he noted.
He said the Judiciary is authorized even in the environment of the state of emergency to determine the obligations, responsibilities and liabilities of the government to the citizenry in “appropriate justifiable cases” brought before the courts by citizens alleging violation of their constitutional rights.
“It is not suspended under or otherwise affected by the declaration of the state of emergency,” he added.
Chief Justice Kporkor also touched on the writ of habeas corpus which, according to him, shall “remain available and exercisable and shall not be suspended” under the state of emergency.
He said the courts will remain open at all times for regular operations and to entertain any petition for the writ of habeas corpus, if any is filed.
“We recognize in these difficult times, the role of the Judiciary in ensuring a civil and an orderly society in which the freedoms, civil liberties and rights of our people are protected is critical,” he emphasized.
The Chief Justice noted clearly that under Liberian law, the Republic of Liberia, as a party litigant, has no special privileges that are not available to ordinary persons the Republic may bring to court or vice versa.
He added: “Instead, the Republic of Liberia is subject to all applicable procedural rules of court as well as applicable substantive laws and shall be treated as such except in cases where the application of general compromises of national security or vital national interest.”
Responding on behalf of government, the acting Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Counselor Benedict Sannoh, said the challenge that the country faces today transcends grievances and rights, “but is on a trajectory of self-destruction.”
“We, as a people, have become so preoccupied with the concept of rights, liberties and fundamental freedoms that we have lost sight of the concept of duties and responsibilities that we ought to have toward the state and society,” Sannoh added.
Report by Liberia News Agency