Friends of Brumskine Respond to the Ministry of Justice Statement

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

March 1, 2003

When Justice Minister Koboi Johnson called a news conference yesterday to explain to a skeptical Liberian public why Counselor Charles Brumskine has not been issued an exit visa, he created more questions than answered.

According to the Justice Minister, neither of the two passports in Counselor Brumskine’s possession were valid. The first passport had the designation of “legislator” and since Brumskine was no longer a legislator, he could not travel with that passport, the minister said.

The problem with the second passport, according to Minister Johnson is that it was an old one issued in 1995. In order to make that passport invalid, the Minister of Justice then retroactively overruled the Liberian Embassy’s decision made a year ago to renew the passport.

The Minister’s action, consistent with a disregard for the rule of law as practiced by the government, has several fatal defects.

First, since the Tubman administration, former high-ranking officials of government enjoyed certain privileges and immunities by virtue of their service. It is not uncommon for former cabinet ministers, ambassadors, legislators or former officials to travel either on a diplomatic passport or with an ordinary passport with a designation of their former office. Therefore, it is appropriate under normal protocol for Counselor Brumskine to carry the ordinary passport with a designation of his former office.

Second, the Minister of Justice cannot legally overrule retroactively or proactively, an act by the Embassy of Liberia accredited to any foreign capital. Such action should be under the purview of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Third, the decision of not allowing the renewal of non-Charles Taylor issued passport will cause hardship for tens of thousands of Liberians in foreign capitals around the world who have not had the opportunity to change this passport, or does this refer only to Counselor Brumskine?

Here in the United States, many Liberians depend on the three-year paid renewal of their passport to maintain their legal status in the country. The Embassy does not issue new Charles Taylor passports. By trying to inconvenience Brumskine, the Justice Minister may have created a passport crisis abroad.

Fourth, the Minister advises that Counselor Brumskine will get his exit visa once he presents a valid passport. Who is the Minister kidding? Will the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia promptly replace his passport? The passport office is closed to the general public except for medical emergency. Who will dare grant Charles Brumskine a passport when the Emperor himself at the highest level in the Executive Mansion coordinates every aspect of the Brumskine passport issue?

Fifth, on the same day that Counselor Brumskine was denied an exit visa for having an old passport, four other Liberians were allowed to leave the country with non-Charles Taylor issued passports.

The Minister was generous enough to tell the public that Counselor Brumskine had paid his taxes and did not owe LEC or Water and Sewer Authority for any utility bills. It was further revealed that the former Senator was not obligated for the electricity and water he received, all courtesy of the Liberian government as part of its service to the citizens of Monrovia.

In order to demonstrate that the government had nothing against Counselor Brumskine, the Minister announced that the Counselor's aide had been issued an exit visa because he had a valid passport. What the Minister neglected to tell the public was that the aide was first denied a visa because he was advised to bring a letter from his parents, since his passport carried the designation “student.”

It did not matter that he was over 18 and was married and the head of his household. They agreed the next day that the passport was valid since the aide was a smaller fish than his boss.

It seems odd and disingenuous for the Republic of Liberia to speak of laws, while depriving a law-abiding citizen of his constitutional right to a passport and the right to travel and while innocent citizens like Aloysius Toe languish in their gulag.

No Liberian, except one who has committed a crime against the state, can be denied a passport and this action by the government, emanating from the highest authority, explains how far we have to go toward establishing a civilized society in our country.

After the press conference, the public admired the Emperor’s new clothes as displayed by his Minister of Justice. It was beautiful. Who did they fool? The Liberian people knew all along that the Emperor is naked.

Jah Fahnbulleh
Friends of Charles Brumskine