CENTAL Welcomes Supreme Court’s Ruling In Samukai’s Case

Anderson Miamen, Executive Director, CENTAL

The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) has expressed delight over the Supreme Court’s ruling, affirming the judgment of the First Judicial Circuit Court, Criminal Assizes “C”, in the case Republic of Liberia v. J. Brownie Samukai et al, holding the defendants guilty of the crimes of theft of property, criminal conspiracy, and misuse of public money in respect of funds contributed by men and women of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) towards the AFL Pension Fund. 

   “Members of the press, fellow citizens, one and all, while we hold that the Court missed an opportunity to call corruption by its name, we are however optimistic about the decision of the Court for the following reasons:

   “The Court’s unambiguous exposition of key corruption issues, including its reference to ‘integrity’ and the ‘universal principle of accountability’. We believe that the Court’s acknowledgment and elaboration of these concepts represent a significant step in mainstreaming the fight against corruption at the highest levels of society as well as entrenching integrity values.

   “The Court’s admonition that public officials ‘must have legal reliance and a legal basis’ for the fulfillment of both their ‘statutory responsibilities as laid down by statute’ and their ‘special duties as commanded by the head of state/president’. Expanding on this point, the Court explained that a public official is required to perform and implement the Commander-in-Chief/President’s orders with public funds, as budgeted by the government in accordance with the government budget process. We are of the opinion that this position by the Court presents a teaching moment to public officials who go to any lengths to endear themselves to the Presidency or any authorized individuals at the expense of our laws and public interest. We further agree with the Court that a Minister or Public Official receiving Presidential orders, whose obedience requires violation of an existing policy or law, has a duty to advise the President or cause the Minister of Justice to advise the President and ‘that if the President insists on the implementation of the illegal order, the Minister has the option to disobey the President and honorably resign his position with integrity.’ While the ruling of the Court references the Presidency due to the facts presented by the case under review, we strongly believe that it applies to other public officials and individuals taking instructions from their superiors. This, we believe, sends a very clear message that the utmost duty of public service is the state and its people and not the power-that-be.”

   In a release dated Wednesday, February 10, 2021, CENTAL noted, “We applaud the Court for its decision and further urge it to decide corruption cases with an even higher speed. Appeals to the Supreme Court have long been used to stifle justice, especially in corruption-related cases. The Court must therefore exert all efforts to ensure that cases are speedily determined according to the due process of law, ensuring that the rights of all accused persons are respected and protected.” 

    “Distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the press, we would like to use this opportunity to also call on President George M. Weah to timely appoint the Executive Chairperson of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, the government entity leading the fight against corruption in the country. We call for broad-based consultation with civil society, development partners, and other critical stakeholders in processes leading to the recruitment of the next LACC Chairperson and officials of other public integrity institutions, including, but not limited to, the New Auditor General (AG) of the Republic of Liberia. Increased stakeholders’ confidence in those appointed or recruited to key positions of public trust, especially at anti-corruption and integrity institutions is essential to receiving the required moral and financial support as well as cooperation to effectively and efficiently perform. 

    “To conclude, we reiterate our commitment to supporting the fight against corruption in Liberia and overall national integrity building efforts. Also, we call for strong collaboration and partnership between government and other stakeholders, especially ordinary citizens with critical roles in denouncing corruption, demanding accountability from their leaders, as well as providing moral support to public integrity institutions and other key anti-corruption actors.”

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