Supreme Court Rejects Speaker’s Request for Writ of Prohibition

MONROVIA, Montserrado – The Supreme Court has rejected a request from the speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex Tyler, to issue a writ of prohibition against representatives holding separate sessions.

The lawmakers, under the authority of Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue, have been holding separate sessions in the Joint Chambers of the legislature while another group of representatives in support of Tyler are continuing to hold sessions in the House of Representatives’ own chambers.

Barchue’s group, which calls itself the majority bloc, is calling on Tyler to resign on moral grounds while facing prosecution over an indictment that followed allegations in a Global Witness report. The speaker and several others are accused of receiving bribes to change a portion of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission law to allow the British company Sable Mining to acquire mining rights on Wologisi Mountain in Lofa.

Tyler and his supporters claim to be on the side of the law and say Tyler is still the legitimate speaker of the House of Representatives, citing the Liberian constitution’s presumption of innocence until one is proven guilty in the court of law.

According to a communication dated on Tuesday, August 23 from the Chief Clerk of the Supreme Court, Justice Jamesetta Wolokolie declined to grant Tyler’s request to declare the session in the Joint Chambers illegal.

The decision followed a hearing into arguments between Tyler and the Barchue-led lawmakers on Monday.

In their arguments, the parties disclosed reasons why the court should rule in their favor.

Tyler’s legal counsel, headed by Counselor J. Johnny Momoh, said his client’s request should be granted because the majority bloc was illegally conducting another session.

However, Arthur T. Johnson, representing the majority bloc, resisted his opponent’s argument and requested the court to allow the lawmakers to continue with their action because according to him the case was highly political.

On August 18, Speaker Tyler filed a 17-count petition for a writ of prohibition before the Supreme Court to grant his request by ordering members of the House of Representatives to return to the status quo before the crisis began.

Although none of the parties could be reached on the Supreme Court’s decision, two parallel sessions were again held on Tuesday.

According to contacts at the Legislature, the pro-Tyler lawmakers recorded 31 members in session with 6 absent while the “majority bloc” lawmakers recorded 33 present and 6 absent.

The two groups are claiming to have an overlapping support of lawmakers who are absent.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has also renewed her recent communication to Barchue assuring him of her full support.

At the same time, the National Traditional Council of Liberia has called on Tyler to step down from the speakership.

Speaking Tuesday at the council’s headquarter in Monrovia, Chief Zanzan Karwar said Tyler needs to relinquish his position for the sake of peace.

“We say because this thing is threatening the country,” Karwar said. “He must step down.”

However, Tyler has called on the council to put its own house in order rather than calling on him to step down.

Tyler also said the Supreme Court ruling is not the final decision in the ongoing crisis in the House of Representatives. He said there are other options to him in the matter.

Featured photo by Brittany Danisch

Gbatemah Senah

Senah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. Between 2017 and 2019, he won six excellent reporting awards from the Press Union of Liberia. They include a three-time Land Rights Reporter of the Year, one time Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Human Rights Reporter of the Year.

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