Dismissed Executive Director of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin

Former LACC Boss Vows To Fight President Weah’s Decision To Dismiss Him And Nominate New Officials

Dismissed Executive Director of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin

The dismissed chairperson of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Cllr. Edward Martin, has condemned President George Weah for his removal and has vowed to seek legal redress even at the level of the Supreme Court — the final arbiter of justice in the country.

Speaking to reporters over the weekend, Cllr. Martin described Weah’s decision to relieve him of his post as the CDC’s administration’s further demonstration of continued disregard for the fight against corruption.

The President axed his chief corruption czar last week after months of rift between the two. Martin, who had previously served in the Weah government as Montserrado County Attorney, has been on the firing line since he lost a lawsuit against the government for dissolving his tenured position and recreating it.

He has been replaced by Cllr. Alexandra Zoe, who must first be confirmed by the Senate before taking the seat.

The president’s decision to sack Martin was triggered by a joint amendment of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission Act of 2008, passed by the Senate and House of Representatives.

The process of appointment of the Commissioners, according to the amended Act, starts from nomination by an Ad Hoc Committee.  The Act further stated that at least fourteen candidates shall be presented by the Ad Hoc Committee, from which list the President of Liberia shall nominate seven for presentation to the Liberian Senate for confirmation proceedings.

“The Commission shall be appointed for terms of office, but the terms shall be staggered to ensure that the terms of office of all Commissioners don’t end at the same time. The LACC shall have all powers and authority in its operations and also provides for financial autonomy; it prohibits interference in the affairs and operations of the Commission by any person.”

Additionally, under the transitional provision of the Act, Commissioners now serving the LACC shall remain in office after the enactment of this new law until their successors are appointed, “but each is eligible to apply and be subjected to the appointment procedure provided for by this law.”

However, when he appeared on the Spoon FM talk show on June 10, Martin claimed that the amended act is unconstitutional because it violates sections 16.1 and 16.2.

“This is a tenure position and I have up to 2027 for my five-year tenure to expire,” Martin noted.

According to Martin, the new LACC was intended to undermine his effort in exposing alleged corruption — with some of the alleged culprits being cronies of the President.

Asked whether the offices of the president and vice president were involved in corruption, Martin replied, “I have already indicted several ministers and directors, even the President. But they are trying to prevent their prosecution. This is why they are fighting very hard to stop me from exposing them.”

Martin however promised to take his case before the Supreme Court for adequate redress.

“I will not stop here. I will challenge it to the Supreme Court. And I will not rest until I can get a result,” Cllr Martin vowed to see the logical conclusion before the high court. He did not say when he would file his case before the Supreme Court.

According to critics, Martin in no way would get redress of his case at the Supreme Court, if he were to file it there.

The assertion comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to deny his petition for prohibition, immediately after the both Houses agreed to amend the LACC act of 2008.

However, Martin believes that his petition was denied because he had filed it at a time the amended act had not come to full implementation.

“The justices said my petition was prematurely filed, because at that time no decision was taken. But for now I can take my case to the Supreme Court to decide the unconstitutionality of the president’s action,” Martin promised to remain resilient in his fight against his unconstitutional removal.

At the time the Court, in its unanimous verdict delivered by Chief Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh, ruled that the Legislature has the “unquestionable power to amend, modify or abolish the LACC as deemed expedient in the interest of the state, and its action cannot be said to violate the constitution.”

Martin’s lawyers argued that Parts 16.1 and 16.2 of the restated LACC Act were not in accordance with the norms and concept of ex post facto law as entrenched in Article 21 of the Constitution and that allowing the sections to remain would be a grave breach of the Constitution.

Article 21 of the 1986 Constitution, Martin’s lawyer reliance, states that “no person shall be made subject to any law or punishment which was not in effect at the time of the commission of an offense, nor shall the Legislature enact any bill of attainder or ex post facto law.”

The Court Justices, however, disagreed and ruled that no public official has the vested right to a public office except for those officers or offices that are clearly and expressly protected by the Constitution, “which is not the case in the present petition.”

The Court added that “however, should it become necessary to terminate the services of the petitioner and others similarly situated before the expiration of their contractual rights, the sanctity of contract as enshrined in the Constitution should be given due consideration.”

Before the passage of the amended act, four of the thirty senators resisted it but they were not successful in convincing their majority colleagues to back their argument.

Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon decried the majority vote as one that is not entirely in support of the fight against “endemic corruption.”

The Senator noted that the bill only intends to undermine the LACC’s fight against corruption, despite granting the Commission prosecutorial power, as it contains a clause that renders all the Commissioners currently serving subject to presidential dismissal and automatic replacement by the President.

Dillion’s position comes as Part XVI of the LACC amended act, Transitional Provision, states that all “commissioners now serving the LACC shall remain in office after the enactment of this new law until their successors are appointed, but each is eligible to apply and be subjected to the appointment procedure provided for this law.”

Backing Dillion, River Gee County Senator Jonathan Boye Charles Sogbie asserted that when the act comes into effect; it, will not only lead to the termination of all the Commissioners’ tenured positions, but a “breach of contract which may likely lead to legal action against the government”, which is bad for the country’s fight against corruption.

Lofa County Senator Steven Zargo lamented that the passage of the act is not in the interest of fighting corruption, but only targeting the current leadership of the Commission for their stance against corruption which, he asserted, President George Weah and his officials feel very uncomfortable with.

And for Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence of Grand Bassa County, the Senate erred in recreating the LACC when their own rules forbid two Senate laws to be merged and passed into one.

“The current law is not only amending and restating the Act creating the LACC, but it is also recreating the LACC,” Sen. Karnga-Lawrence argued.

Meanwhile, the amended LACC act however limits the anti-graft agency’s capacity to connect with the public and provide updates on the progress of investigations.

It also significantly limits the re-established LACC’s ability to “force the freezing of assets of a person or individuals being investigated or prosecuted for alleged acts of corruption.”

Freezing of assets is now restricted to persons representing flight risk or those who have fled the bailiwick of the Republic of Liberia.

Section 10.9 of the restated act restricts the Commission by enforcing undue confidentiality, preventing it from disclosing vital facts about the inquiry to the public until an indictment is announced.

The amendment, which the Senate supported with 20 votes in favor, claims that it empowers the anti-graft institution to fight against corruption but, for the first time, gives it the power to prosecute corruption both in the private and public sectors. It also scraps the LACC of its current authority to seize public officials’ assets or freeze them even if indicted, except if the commission proves the person is of flight risk.

Credit: Daily Observer

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