George K. Fahnbulleh

Ideas and Opinions...

In Liberia: Requesting a License To Steal

The recent Emergency Powers requested by the President of Liberia are nothing more than her asking for a license to steal.   This is nothing more than an attempt, by the president, to dispossess Liberians of their rights and properties and give them no judicial recourse. It is theft.  I will deal with only three of the changes the President requested.  

7. Article 24 of the Liberian Constitution (1986). Appropriation of Property

The President may, by proclamation, appropriate any private property or prevent the use thereof in order to protect the public health and safety during the state of emergency without payment of any kind or any further judicial process. Provided however, that the property will be released to the rightful owners upon the end of the state of emergency and that the government pays for any damages thereto.

The President already has the authority to do what she deems necessary under the Public Health Law, as well as the Eminent Domain clause of the Constitution.

Article 15
a) While the inviolability of private property shall be guaranteed by the Republic, expropriation may be authorized for the security of the nation in the event of armed conflict or where the public health and safety are endangered or for any other public purposes, provided:
     (i) that reasons for such expropriation are given;
     (ii) that there is prompt payment of just compensation;
     (iii) that such expropriation or the compensation offered may be challenged freely by the owner of the property in a court of law with no penalty for having brought such action; and
    (iv) that when property taken for public use ceases to be so used, the Republic shall accord the former owner or those entitled to the property through such owner, the right of first refusal to reacquire the property.

b) All real property held by a person whose certificate of naturalization has been cancelled shall escheat to the Republic, unless such person shall have a spouse and/or lineal heirs who are Liberian citizens, in which case the real property shall be transferred to them in accordance with the intestacy law.

c) The power of the Legislature to provide punishment for treason or other crimes shall not include a deprivation or forfeiture of the right of 
inheritance, although its enjoyment by the convicted person shall be postponed during a term of imprisonment judicially imposed; provided that if the convicted person has minor children and a spouse, the spouse or next of kin in the order of priority shall administer the same. No punishment shall preclude the inheritance, enjoyment or forfeiture by others entitled thereto of any property which the convicted person at the time of conviction or subsequent thereto may have possessed.
The Public Health Law, gives the President the Power to Exercise these powers under EXCEPT for the phrase "without payment of any kind or any further judicial purpose."
§ 14.5. Right of Minister to commandeer unoccupied real Property and materials.
If an outbreak of any formidable epidemic exists or is threatened, it shall be lawful for the Minister to require any person owing or having charge of any land or any buildings or dwellings not occupied, or any person owing or having charge of tents, transport bedding, hospital equipment, drugs, food or any other appliances, materials or other articles urgently required in connection with such outbreak to hand over the use of such land or buildings or to supply or make available any such article, subject to the payment of a reasonable amount as hire or Purchase Price. Any person liable hereunder who without reasonable cause fails or refuses to comply with any such requirement shall be subject to the penalties provided for violation of provisions of this chapter.
Additionally 14.2 (m) states:
§ 14.2. Power of Minister to make rules.
Whenever any part of the Republic appears to be threatened by,any formidable epidemic, endemic or communicable disease, the Minister shall declare such part an infected area and shall make rules with regard to any of the following matters:
(m) For prohibiting any person from living in any building or using any building for any purpose whatsoever if in the opinion of the health inspector in charge any such use is liable to cause the spread of any communicable disease; any rules made under this section may give a health inspector power to prescribe the conditions under which a building may be used;
The President can seize (appropriate) ANY private property without payment of any kind of any further judicial process. If the citizen in question tries to complain about see #5. One lawyer tried to convince me this is necessary because "the Americans" may demand a specific piece of land for building ETUs and the eminent domain process is too slow and cumbersome. The problem with this logic is that these powers were requested BEFORE the Americans ever came to build ETUs.
Secondly why not just streamline the eminent domain process, after all the Constitution does state "PROMPT payment," and there is nothing that stops the government from quickly possessing the property while the "reasonable value" is reached.
These people have already identified land/properties they want to appropriate. They will use the state of emergency to appropriate it, and if the citizens complain, see #5.
Note: the Richards family has been in court with the government of Liberia for 42 years over an illegal property contract.
The President has also asked for the following emergency powers:
Article 12 of the Liberian Constitution (1986). Labor. The President may by proclamation, procure certain labor and services during this state of emergency;
Article 12 of the Constitution states:
No person shall be held in slavery or forced labor within the Republic, nor shall any citizen of Liberia nor any person resident therein deal in slaves or subject any other person to forced labor, debt bondage or peonage; but labor reasonably required in consequence of a court sentence or order conforming to acceptable labor standards, service in the military, work or service which forms part of normal civil obligations or service exacted in cases of emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community shall not be deemed forced labor.
The problem here is the unspecified "certain labor and services." Can the President by 3 twenty five cent pieces of bubble gum from LeafSir Enterprises of North Carolina for $5,000,000. USD? Yes she can. If a citizen chooses to question it, see #5.
5. Article 15 of the Liberian Constitution (1986). Restriction of speech. President may, by proclamation or executive action, prevent any citizen, groups of citizens or any entity protected under Article 15 of the constitution from making any public statement in person, in print or electronic [media], which may have the tendency to undermining the State of Emergency, confusing the public on the nature of the health care threat, or otherwise causing a state of panic about the health care of security condition of the nation;
Article 15
a) Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression, being fully responsible for the abuse thereof. This right shall not be curtailed, restricted or enjoined by government save during an emergency declared in accordance with this Constitution.
b) The right encompasses the right to hold opinions without interference and the right to knowledge. It includes freedom of speech and of the press, academic freedom to receive and impart knowledge and information and the right of libraries to make such knowledge available. It includes non-interference with the use of the mail, telephone and telegraph. It likewise includes the right to remain silent.
c) In pursuance of this right, there shall be no limitation on the public right to be informed about the government and its functionaries.
d) Access to state owned media shall not be denied because of any disagreement with or dislike of the ideas express. Denial of such access may be challenged in a court of competent jurisdiction.
e) This freedom may be limited only by judicial action in proceedings grounded in defamation or invasion of the rights of privacy and publicity or in the commercial aspect of expression in deception, false advertising and copyright infringement.
The Constitution is clear, State of Emergency or not, THERE SHALL BE NO LIMITATION on the Right of the Public to Be INFORMED ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT AND ITS FUNCTIONARIES.
So based on what the President is asking for, she can seize (appropriate) any and all property belonging to the family of Flomo Zayzay, WITHOUT payment, and then make a Proclamation that no person associated with these properties can make any statement as to the government's seizure. They will then construct a crematorium on the property, dispose of Ebola waste on the Property, and return it to you after the state of emergency.
Or they will seize the properties with homes on them, lease the homes to aid agencies, pocket the money and tell you to see #5.
This is the road to perdition!

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's Insidious Odious Lie


Clarification Letter Links:

  1. 10/08/2014 Clarification Letter (Page 1)
  2. 10/08/2014 Clarification Letter (Page 2)
  3. 10/08/2014 Clarification Letter (Page 3)

The President of Liberia in a letter, to the House of Representatives, seeking to clarify her earlier request for Emergency Powers, demonstrates how contemptible she is of the people of Liberia.

In her earlier letter the President requested Emergency Powers to abrogate Article 24 of the Liberian Constitution. Her request read:

7. Article 24 of the Liberian Constitution (1986). Appropriation of Property
The President may, by proclamation, appropriate any private property or prevent the use thereof in order to protect the public health and safety during the state of emergency without payment of any kind or any further judicial process. Provided however, that the property will be released to the rightful owners upon the end of the state of emergency and that the government pays for any damages thereto. 

I argued that the President should not be able to seize private property and leave the citizens no ability to have the process reviewed by a court. Secondly the idea that the government alone would decide what the damage would be and what it would pay for is particularly specious.

On October 8, 2014, the President made the following clarification to the legislature:

Article 24 of the Liberian Constitution (1986) Expropriation of property. The President may, by proclamation, appropriate any private property of prevent the use thereof in order to protect the public health and safety during the state of emergency without payment of any kind or any further judicial process. Provided however, that the property will be released to the rightful owners upon the end of the state of emergency and that the Government pays for any damages thereto.

The death tolls brought about by this disease have been overwhelming particularly in counties like Lofa, Montserrado, Bong, Margibi, Nimba, Bomi and others. We are advised by both national and international health authorities that victims of the Ebola virus must be buried and laid to rest in isolated places and not in any ordinary public graveyard or cemetery. Such a number of deaths we have seen and experienced, present a problem as a public cemetery are very few and inadequate. Therefore the government of Liberia will use any available land in any town, village or city conducive for the burial of Ebola victims whenever the safety of the people or dwellers of such community demands. Such land to be used will be released or returned to the rightful owner upon the end of the state of emergency. The provision of Article 24 of the Constitution will therefore be affected or suspended whenever and wherever necessary.

So the President's original request was not only deliberately vague and deceptive. It was a lie. 

Her initial demand was to be able to appropriate ANY private property,  not any available private property. Any available private property includes occupied dwellings, cars, trucks, pencils, pens....ANY private property.  Now she explains she actually wants any available land.  Would it not be easier to have the Ministry of Lands Mines and Energy and CNDRA identify possible cemetery sites and purchase them from the owners?

Would it not be safer to build crematoriums in each county / location, as Min. Lewis Brown said they already had plans to do?  

Based on her clarification the President wanted to appropriate private property, turn it into a cemetery, and then return the cemetery to the rightful owner. What "DAMAGE" would the government pay for. Does this President not understand that turning any land into a cemetery make that land UNUSABLE to the owner for any purpose? This explanation is so odious, and dishonest, it is not even worthy of any consideration.

This was never about cemeteries.  It was a flat out attempt to be able to dispossess citizens of any property the president and her minions identified and wanted, and deny them any judicial redress.  There is no sane person, who believes turning vacant property into a cemetery and then returning it to the rightful owner, leaves the land usable for any other purpose.  Congratulations Flomo Zayzay, the government has just returned your 25 acres and it is now a cemetary...enjoy!

This lady continues to try to take Liberia down the road to perdition.

Notes from Liberia John Berestecky 08 09 2014

Here is a letter that I just received from my friend "Mustafa" who is working with the ebola response in Monrovia. This is very important to read.:

Dear friends and partners,

I bring you a thoughts on the current ebola crisis in my country, Liberia.

Since I begun working with the ebola response in Liberia, I have never been as sadden as I was today. I stood with my tracers and watched the ambulance team transferring two of the Catholic Sisters from their St, Joseph Catholic Hospital Compound. As the two innocent young Nuns from the Democratic Republic of Congo mounted the ambulance to be taken to the treatment unit at the ELWA, I shared tears. I share tears because we could have prevented them from contacting this deadly disease. They had trusted us and our ability to manage the ebola response; we cause all of them to be infected. After serving this country for over 40 years and saving thousands of lives, is this the way we could repay them. As the ambulance made its way out of the deserted hospital with the first badge of two nuns, I became too overwhelmed with sorrow. The ambulance was returning for four of them including a medical doctor. How could we have disappointed them....I reflected painfully:

Three weeks ago, Brother Patrick, the business manager from Cameroon got infected by a case that was brought to the hospital. He was a contact until he started showing symptoms. The laboratory had taken his specimen and his result was negative. Based on this result,the other sisters and brothers decided to nurse him back to health. Despite their treatment he progressively began to shown signs and symptoms that were typical of ebola. He decided that he would leave for his home country, but the airline recognizing the signs and symptoms ask for a repeat of the test. Behold! This came back positive.

The sisters, brothers and doctors who treated him were in a state of shock and dismay. Brother Patrick was kept in one room of the hospital for treatment. The confidence of the brothers and sister in our ebola response system was seriously corroded. Brother Patrick became weaker and weaker and others stop coming around as they pondered over their own status. Then Brother Patrick died. His body was among the 52 bodies that were buried in a mass grave one week end ago. Then the sisters and brothers as well three of the Liberian health care worker (including a laboratory technician, a social worker and and a nurse) started getting sick. In all seven of them became positive for ebola. One of them, a Nigerian Medical doctor, was told he was negative. However, he told us that every symptoms in his body indicated to him that he too had contacted the disease. We then ordered for a new result. We are awaiting this result, but he is getting sicker and sicker each day.

Even as I write to you, we are arranging to take the remaining two cases tonight. We were told that previous attempts to take them to the treatment unit were met with resistance with resistance. But their reluctance was due to the fact that we destroyed their confidence in our ability to handle this Ebola crisis. They had decided that they would rather die in their compound then follow us to the treatment unit. If we had failed them with our laboratory results, how could they trust us to provide the kind of intensive care that is required in the treatment unit? As if to make matters worse, the Liberian Social Worker who was confirmed with ebola escaped today in the population. Her daughter came and took her away, when she heard we were moving them to the treatment unit. This is worrisome as she could be a source of new transmissions in the community. Are we really winning this war against ebola?

I would say NO!!! Just a few days ago, our only internist was suspected to have been a contact with Dr. Samuel Brisbane who had died from ebola. Dr. Brisbane had contacted ebola from a patient because he refused to use gloves and barrier nursing. Dr. Borbor was asked to do his laboratory test. It came back negative about one week ago. To our greatest dismay, he was taken to the treatment unit last night when he started manifesting severe symptoms of ebola. They are now repeating his test. Such inconsistent test needs tos top because it only exposes more people to the infection.

I have investigated the laboratory procedure and I noted several sources for potential errors. There is a single team of laboratory technicians that are working over ten hours a day and seven days a week without any time to rest. This would lead to lapses and increased risk for errors. One of the technicians told me sadly that they worked these very long hours and no one provides them with food. They begged for food and were given a 100 pound bag of rice with no soup kind and no one to cook for them. Many of them had not being paid for three months. How could we trust our lives in in the hands of people that are overworked, staved and not given their just compensation? Are we wining this war against Ebola?

I was trying to get the burial team to pick up a body that had being lying out for two days. The dispatcher from the Red Cross, who is a friend said to me, “ I beg you Dr. , the number of bodies we have in Monrovia is more than the two vehicles and two teams we have today.” She said that even as I was speaking to her, two of their vehicles were already filled with bodies.

Even, where we have our clinic, a man had started vomiting and toileting blood two days ago. I was called to intervene. I call the ambulance team but no one responded. I called those of my colleagues in authority at the Health Ministry, but they too were powerless as the system and the logistics were not in place to respond to such a call. The treatment unit was overflowing with sick people. They just could not pick any one up in the community because there no bed available in the unit. Then the man died. His body stayed in the house for two days, while his poor wife and children slept in the open. No one wants to come closer to them. After two whole days of begging every authority I knew, they finally removed the body today. The home was never spread. The poor woman and her children are again sleeping outside today. I have tried to call the guy on spraying but his phone is off. But, I will press on and will call again tomorrow.

This evening the Catholic Bishop asked that Sister Shanta (who died around 2 am this morning, the second victim from the Catholic Hospital) be buried in the compound. The authorities honored his wish and her remains were lay to rest on Liberian soil thousands of miles from her native DRC. We can point to her grave and memorialize her in the future. But, Brother Patrick and the over fifty bodies that were buried a few weeks ago will never have such honor. The remains of the over 60 bodies that have so far being cremated in the Indian crematorium on the Marshall Highway will never have these memories.

I pray that their memories and the memories of those who will survive this deadly ebola will remain in our hearts. As I walked out of the deserted St. Joseph Catholic Hospital, I remembered that it was here my father was treated during his last days on earth in 2011 and it was here my sister Marie receive her treatment before we transferred her to Ghana. But today, the hospital is a ghost town.

Maybe, as some of us fight each day to make some kind of difference, it will at least amend for all of our mistakes and failures in the Ebola Response. May God save our country and those countries affected!!!!

John Berestecky can be reached at johnb at hawaii dot edu