Sunday, 3 April 2011

PLEA TO ULAA: Give Automatic Loss of Citizenship Case Attention it Deserves,

The Honorable Anthony V. Kesselly
National President
Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas
Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.

Dear President Kesselly:

Times can blind a generation to certain truths, and later generations of Liberians can see that laws once thought proper only serve to oppress. As your administration moves to address the political notion which seeks to deny a natural-born Liberian citizen the full rights of Liberian citizenship--a notion which ignores that a person from Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and other countries that recognize dual citizenship, can become a naturalized citizen of Liberia and simultaneously retain his or her birth citizenship regardless of what Liberia's oath-of-allegiance says, be elected to the national legislature, serve as a justice on the supreme court of Liberia, and occupy other positions within the Liberian government, I write to urge ULAA to direct attention to my legal challenge to the Liberian law, which purports to deprive a Liberian citizen of his or her Liberian citizenship without due process of law.
On July 12, 2010, through my esteemed counsel Jerome Korkoya, Esq., I filed a lawsuit of first-impression with the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia, challenging as unconstitutional the automatic loss of citizenship provisions of Sections 22.1 and 22.2 of the Aliens and Nationality Law of Liberia. On or about November 22, 2010, we filed the required petitioner’s brief in this matter.

The lawsuit does not ask the Liberian government to recognize dual citizenship. The lawsuit does, however, require the Liberian government to respect all of my rights as a natural-born citizen of Liberia.

Mr. President, this is a signal case regarding our nation's commitment to the constitutional principle of due process. The challenged provisions of Sections 22.1 and 22.2, which purport to automatically deprive a Liberian of his or her Liberian citizenship without a prior hearing judgment consistent with due process, are in direct conflict with Article 20(a) of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, which requires a law to hear before it may deprive: "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, security of the person, privilege or any other right except as the outcome of a hearing judgment consistent with the provisions laid down in this Constitution and in accordance with due process of law."[Emphasis added].

When isolated from the politics of distraction and caricature, the rule is too settled to be denied: whenever there is a conflict between the Liberian Constitution and a legislative enactment, the Constitution always wins.

As ULAA deliberates, a portion from a landmark due process decision--which was recently reaffirmed in the Honorable Supreme Court’s 2011 opinion regarding the TRC 30-year-ban recommendation--tells us what due process of law entails:

"This [Honorable Supreme] Court has held in a long line of cases that no person shall be. . . .deprived of any of the protections and rights, provided by the Constitution, unless he or she is accorded the guaranteed constitutional and statutory due process of law. The protection of this nation and its entire citizenry, the good and the bad, the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, the high and the low, of any and all ethnic backgrounds, and of any religious or political affiliation, rest upon the scrupulous adherence to and respect for this principle. This Court espoused, as far back as 1937, in Wolo v. Wolo, 5 LLR 423 (1937), that the nation’s institutions, whether legislative, executive or administrative, must adhere to the due process of law principle and that there can be no exceptions.

“In the Wolo case, a Harvard Graduate had sought a divorce from his. . .  . uneducated wife, but rather than utilizing the avenue of the courts, as would have accorded her the opportunity to exercise her due process right, he sought and obtained, by legislative fiat, a resolution divorcing him from his wife. Mr. Chief Justice Grimes, speaking for this Court, said of due process in the following terms: “It is a law which hears before it condemns; which proceeds upon inquiry, and renders judgment only after trial. . . . [It] means . . . that there must be a tribunal competent to pass on the subject matter, notice, actual or constructive, an opportunity to appear and produce evidence, to be heard in person or by counsel, or both, having been duly served with process or having otherwise submitted to the jurisdiction. . . . [To] deprive any person of his property or other right, without notice, an opportunity to appear and cross-examine witnesses adduced against him, to produce witnesses in his own behalf, and to be heard in person, by counsel or both, is to deprive such . . . .person of his property or other rights, without ‘due process of law’, and is therefore unconstitutional. 5 LLR 423, 427 (1937).”

Ignoring the above cited requirements that a law must hear before it may deprive, supporters of automatic loss of rights have convinced themselves that, “The loss of citizenship under Section 22.1 of this title shall result solely from the performance by a citizen of the acts or fulfillment of the conditions specified in such section, and without the institution by the [Liberian] Government of any proceedings to nullify or cancel such citizenship.” See Section 22.2 of the Aliens and Nationality Law.

I respectfully urge ULAA to give this automatic loss of citizenship case the attention it deserves, as the matter concerns an issue of great importance to Liberians worldwide. Thanks for your time and consideration.

Alvin Teage Jalloh, Esq.
Attorney and Counselor-at-Law,