Alvin Teage Jalloh
Attorney & Counselor at Law
320 MacDade Blvd, Suite 105
Collingdale, PA 19023
Licensed in PA, NJ, & D.C.
November 26, 2009
The Honorable Olubanke King-AkereleMinister of Foreign AffairsRepublic of LiberiaMonrovia, Liberia
Re: Biometric Passports; Government’s Obligation to Pay Costs for Certain Liberians
Dear Minister King-Akerele:
On behalf of Non-Resident Liberians, a grassroots movement of Liberians living worldwide, I respectfully seek your assurance that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recognizes the protected rights Liberians have in their non-biometric passports, and will honor its obligations with Liberians whose expiration dates in their non-biometric passports fall beyond the April 30, 2010, date the Ministry recently announced as the blanket expiration date for existing, non-biometric passports.
As you are aware, on or about November 2, 2009, the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministry), introduced biometric passports for Liberians, and announced that existing non-biometric passports will expire on April 30, 2010. The Ministry has since failed to say whether it will make reasonable compensation to Liberians whose expiration dates in their non-biometric passports fall beyond April 30, 2010. While the Ministry is acknowledged for its introduction of the security-enhanced passports, it is wrong--legally and socially--to arbitrarily deprive Liberians, whose expiration dates in their non-biometric passports fall beyond April 30, 2010, of the property rights they have in their non-biometric passports.
Article 13(b) of the Constitution of Liberia grants every Liberian citizen the right to enter and leave Liberia at anytime, and carries with it the right to a Liberian passport. Once the Ministry issues a passport to a Liberian citizen--that Liberian has a constitutionally, protected property right in his or her passport--and no regulation, legislation, or decree can abrogate a right that is protected by the Constitution.
By announcing that the April 30, 2010, expiration date applies to Liberians whose expiration dates in their non-biometric passports fall beyond April 30, 2010, the Ministry is attempting to deprive Liberians of a constitutionally protected right, and may only do so in according with due process of law. Article 20(a) of the Constitution of Liberia prohibits the government from depriving any person of life, liberty, security of the person, property, privilege, or any other right without a hearing and a judgment consistent with due process of law.
Moreover, pursuant to the laws of contract in several jurisdictions, the Ministry most likely entered into valid contracts when it sold non-biometric passports to Liberians at prices ranging from US$20.00 to US$250.00. The Ministry could, therefore, be liable for breach of contract if a court determines that the April 30, 2010, expiration date detrimentally affects the right of a Liberian to use his or her non-biometric passport.
Because of the importance of the matter involved, and in view of the Ministry's public announcement that existing non-biometric passports will expire on April 30, 2010, I respectfully ask that your office provide an assurance that the Ministry recognizes the protected rights Liberians have in their non-biometric passports, and will either offer proportional discounts towards the purchase of the security-enhanced biometric passports, or pay the costs of the first set of biometric passports for Liberians whose expiration dates in their non-biometric passports fall beyond the Ministry’s recently announced April 30, 2010, expiration date.
Without an adequate assurance, Non-Resident Liberians maybe compelled to seek judicial redress, including but not limited to filing actions with the Supreme Court of Liberia, and separate actions for breach of contract in the United States of America, where some of its members submitted their passport applications and fees to the Ministry.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter. Please contact me if you have any question or need additional information.
Alvin Teage Jalloh, Esq.
Counsel for Non-Resident Liberians