-Spends First Night Behinds Bars
By Reuben Sei Waylaun
Deputy Information Minister for Public Affairs, Eugene Fahngon on Wednesday September 12, 2018, spent his first night behind bars for alleged gross disrespect to members of the House of Representatives with many political pundits saying his ‘wings have been clipped’.
The controversial Deputy Minister recently insulted Bomi County electoral district one Representative, Edwin Melvin Snowe following an incident with a staff of the lawmaker’s office, Kelvin D J Matadi who Minister Fahngon alleged of photographing him in a public glare while having his private life.
According to legal minds, there is no law in the country that protects public officials from being photographed while in the public.
The Deputy Minister reportedly ordered officers of the Liberia National Police and the National Security Agency (NSA) to seize Kelvin Matadi’s phone.
Based on the alleged insults from the Deputy Minister toward Representative Snowe who is also a member of the first branch of government, the plenary of the House of Representatives invited Deputy Minister Eugene Fahngon and Minister Eugene Nagbe to appear on Tuesday, but they didn’t appear for unexplained reasons.
Due to the gravity of the issues at hand, the plenary of the House of Representatives convened a special session on Wednesday September 12, 2018 to deal with the issue. The Information Ministry’s officials were asked in the citation to appear with their lawyers, but Fahngon said he and his lawyers came earlier, but session delay, so, the legal counsel decided to leave.
However, Minister Nagbe apologized and said due to the collaboration with the executive and the legislative branches, they couldn’t come with their legal counsel, but to just beg and the minister was immediately removed from under oath, but maintained Deputy Minister Fahngon under oath.
While taking the witness stand, Deputy Minister Fahngon completely contradicted Minister Nagbe, saying he needs to talk to his lawyer first before any comments.
After filibustering for several hours waiting for his lawyers, Deputy Minister Fahngon’s lawyer, Cllr. Frances Johnson-Allison appeared at 7:19PM, but Fahngon maintains that based on Article 21 (c) of the 1986 Liberia Constitution, he wouldn’t make any comment except through his lawyer.
But as per the rule of the House of Representatives, the Lawyer cannot be placed under oath and cannot speak, but only speak through the witness on the stand.
The audio recording concerning the alleged insults from Deputy Minister Fahngon to Representative Snowe was played in the overcrowded, but quiet joint Chambers of the National Legislature and Fahngon was loudly heard raining insults and calling his name in the recording.
After dilly-dallying the lawmakers, the Deputy Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives was mandated to read the constitutional provision as evoked by Deputy Minister Fahngon.
Article 21 (c) of the Liberian Constitution says “Every person suspected or accused of committing a crime shall immediately upon arrest be informed in detail of the charges, of the right to remain silent and of the fact that any statement made could be used against him in a court of law. Such person shall be entitled to counsel at every stage of the investigation and shall have the right not to be interrogated except in the presence of counsel. Any admission or other statements made by the accused in the absence of such counsel shall be deemed inadmissible as evidence in a court of law.”
Following the reading, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives, Grand Kru County Representative, Cllr. Jonathan Fonati Koffa gave his legal opinion and said due process has been given to Deputy Minister Fahngon and as such, the process should continue.
A motion was filed by Lofa County Representative Clarence K. Massaquoi for Fahngon to be considered as ‘None Governmental material’ and the chief clerk be instructed to communicate with the Liberian Senate and President George Weah of the decision that has been taken.
An amendment was made to the motion for Fahngon to spend two days behind bars, fined LRD4,999.99cent. The amendment was endorsed by the movant in totality. After that, members of the House of Representatives voted unanimously for Fahngon to be taken to jail, fined and declared ‘none governmental material.
He was immediately handcuffed by the Sergeant-At-Arm, General Martin Johnson and taken to the headquarters of the Liberia National Police for one night and later forwarded to the Monrovia Central Prison for another night on Thursday September 13, 2018.