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!