FOYA, June 8 (LINA) – President George Weah said “I cannot break the law” when he openly rejected the public appeal by Representative Francis Nyumalin of Lofa County, seeking his pardon of ex-Defense Minister and senator-elect Brownie Samukai, who has been convicted by the High Court.
Samukai was convicted for stealing of over US$1 million from the savings of soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia throughout the Administration of ex-president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The former defense chief, along with co-conspirators, was recently hooked in the Supreme Court of Liberia’s opinion for having misappropriated some snowballing amount of money belonging to the soldiers.
The court then ordered Samukai to pay back the funds or face imprisonment, an opinion which gave the Justice Ministry the ‘legal’ urge to block Samukai’s certification by the National Elections Commission after he was elected as senator in the special senatorial vote of December 2020.
Nonetheless, Representative Nyumalin, an executive committee member of the opposition Unity Party, attempted to use the official ceremony held on the people-filled football field in Foya City on 5 June, upon the arrival there of the President and entourage as part of ongoing presidential ‘Thank You’ County Tour.
In the meantime it is yet to be clear whether or not the opposition lawmaker’s position met the acquiescence of other members of the county’s legislative caucus.
But when the lawmaker took the podium, Nyumanlin said: “Mr. President, on behalf of the ‘nephews’ and ‘uncles’ of this county, there is a burning issue that must be brought to your attention, which if we do not do; we’ll not be doing justice to the people of Lofa County and our nephew (Samukai).”
The Representative praised government’s strides to fight against corruption, but, again, said: “And, Mr. President, in the fight against corruption, one of our sons was tried and convicted in court, in person of Honorable Brownie J. Samukai.”
The Lofa District Number 1 lawmaker continued in his appeal: “The Honorable gentleman (Samukai) was convicted by the Court, an opinion and decision of the Supreme Court that all of us must stand by.
“Be that as it may, as Chief Executive of this nation, Mr. President, we want to appeal to you through this public manner, that the petition filed by the Minister of Justice (the attorney general of the Republic of Liberia) to halt the certification of Hon. Brownie J. Samukai be withdrawn so that Lofa County has a full representation at the level of the Senate.”
Observers say Rep. Nyumanlin’s appeal is counterproductive to the fight against corruption and accountability, and it is a move to politicize a purely legal matter.
And in response to Rep. Nyumanlin, President Weah emphatically lamented the lawmaker’s apparent attempt to push him into abrogating the Liberian Constitution by interfering with a matter that is before the judiciary, using executive powers.
“I am the President of the Republic of Liberia, and you know very well that I cannot break the laws of the Republic. The issue of our [friend, our son and our brother] is a legal matter that I cannot interfere with. What I have to tell you is that when I was elected as President I had the opportunity to speak with the former Defense Minister at my residence so that he could acquaint me with issues surrounding what you tried to explain here (about the AFL money). And I spoke with my good friend, Hon. Samukai,” the President said.
He disclosed that what he came to know from Mr. Samuka was that as defense minister, the legally-entangled senator-elect said he took the best decision in the interest of the military, and that whatever happens after the legal inquest, he, Samukai, will take full responsibility.
The president also said that when soldiers were becoming further agitated about the corrupted fund, they threatened to take to the streets in protest against their former boss and the Government. And to quell that, Pres. Weah added, the government had to monetarily intervene.
“But the problem still exists. I am the President; I cannot intervene in this matter because I don’t have the right to do so. I want you to please allow the court process to go on. We cannot break the law – I cannot break the law because I am also subject to the law.”
The President said he was in the county to thank the people of Lofa, and to listen to them about what their needs are “so we can address them together.”
The Yekeh Kolubah Apology
Before bringing about the issue of senator-elect Samukai, Representative Nyumanlin entreated the President to ‘have mercy’ on another kin, his fellow Representative Yekeh Kolubah of Montserrado’s 10th District.
Kolubah, who hails from Lofa County, was suspended recently by the Plenary of the House for what the body said was his continued unruly disrespect towards the Liberian Presidency. He professes to be a ‘hard-headed’ critic of President’s government.
“Mr. President, we have to apologize on behalf of our nephew because in Lofa County it is wrong even for those Representatives to say something otherwise, not to mention an insult to a chief or any elder of this County. And, so, we want to apologize to you for whatever must have transpired between you and Honorable Yekeh Kolubah and we seek your executive pardon,” said Rep. Nyumanlin.
President Weah’s earlier response also captured the matter of Rep. Kolubah.
“There is no need for everything that he’s doing; we need to respect each other. But he continues to do that. But at the end of the day, I am the big brother, I am the father. So, I have forgiven him, that’s why I don’t respond to anything he says,” the Liberian leader said.