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Fallouts of Declared Constitutionality of the Code of Conduct

Fallouts of Declared Constitutionality of the Code of Conduct

Social media and community discussion groups have been abuzz with conversations and debates about the tough sounding decision of the Supreme Court of Liberia in declaring the Code of Conduct for Executive Branch officials and personnel constitutional.

In a 3-2 decision, the Supreme Court of Liberia ruled that the Code of Conduct is constitutional and officials of government must abide by it.

With this decision, a number of concerns have been settled, and the decision has also unsettled a number of processes, disemboweled a degree of arrogance [1] and is, to an extent, poised to disintegrate some "movements."

Also, the decision has laid bare a given degree of discrimination that has effectively become lawful and constitutional.

When the Code of Conduct was introduced about 2010, key issues we challenged then included the perception that public office holders are routinely expected to use their offices or their personal benefits.

There should actually be other processes to prevent this from happening, without necessarily limiting citizens' freedom of expression - specifically in regards to association and thought.

But since the Code of Conduct was finally signed [2] into law by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Monday, May 12, 2014, little has been done to ensure compliance. There have also been widespread debates, leading to the flight to the Supreme Court…

Unfortunately, the democratic evolution in Liberia allows people to look as the rights of certain groups are routinely violated and abused. Observers too often do not care, once they are not at a disadvantage.

Even intellectuals routinely ignore the warnings of the outspoken critic of Nazism, Martin Niemöller, in which he cared less when Jews were threatened because he was not Jew; ignored threats to trade unionists, gypsies, etc. because he also did not belong to those groups.

And as Niemöller concludes, when they came for him, there was no one to come to his defense. So is the case with routine injustices.

Civil society, political parties, especially opposition and other political actors have been averse to laws and actions that limited others.

Here was a law denying opportunities for many being passed, while political movements that continuously claim to be seeking better opportunities for citizens looking away.

Even members of the legislature, with responsibilities to pass just laws, saw this law as an opportunity to eliminate potential opponents. That may have been accomplished.

Had such a law been in force in 2011, a number of current members of the legislature would never have been elected in the first. Here, they are presiding over the passage of such an injustice. Consider the following

Alphonso Gaye - Grand Gedeh- Was a member of cabinet, up to his election;

Morris Saytumah- Bomi- Was a member of cabinet, up to his election;

George Tengbeh - Lofa- Was a County official, up to his election;

Milton Teahjay - Sinoe- Was a county official, up to his election;

Edward Dagoseh - Grand Cape Mount- Was a gov’t official, up to his election;

Without mistaking, we need a code of conduct for members of the legislature and the judiciary - to solidify ethics and professional conduct in Liberian governance.

And indeed, the government must now act fast and appoint an Ombudsman to measure and enforce compliance.

Now, with the law passed and its constitutionality upheld by the Supreme Court, all Liberians are therefore obliged to abide by it.

Without going into the details of all affected, the law has effectively addressed the following questions:

- As passed, the law was initially seen to be targeting the then Governor of the Central Bank, Joseph Mills Jones, who was being observed as preparing himself for a Presidential run.

This has been better proven with his leadership of a political party. In effect, he is seen as the first and main casualty. The law was passed more than two years before the elections. By respecting the law, he should have resigned around or before July 2015.

By remaining in office up to the end of tenure in March 2016, he did not provide adequate time to abide by the law.

We expect that the elections commission should disqualify him if his name is ever submitted as a candidate for whatsoever position in the 2017 elections. In the absence of this, anyone should be in the position to file a protest.

- By this law, the National Elections Commission should be in the position to inform the Unity Party that its Secretary General holds a senior Government post in violation of the Code of Conduct.

As the NEC may not have the power to remove Nagbe as Minister of Information, it must reject him as Secretary General.

Perhaps Nagbe may consider this more senior, and inform the NEC of his resignation as Minister of Information. Our emphasis is on this owing to the arrogant manner in which Nagbe had defied the public, amidst his flippant claims that he would not resign either post.

Otherwise, there are literally tens of other potential candidates and government officials who are mixed up in code of conduct violations.

Some are in positions that will already require resignations, while several others cannot be qualified as candidates in the pending elections.

This is a crucial step in the electoral process that obviously limits the number of choices.

While the decision has put a snag in the process, it is about the first time in the working of our democracy, where citizens will see the effect of a court action in a more direct way affecting politics.

This is an important point in our electoral and democratic process that will place potential candidates on line.

With the appointment of an Ombudsman - perhaps soon - we will be a step further in our governance system, whereby the arrogance associated with public office will be eliminated.

The further impact of this will be office holders' realization that they can be held up, and even punished, should they openly work in violation of the terms of their office.

With this, more people will aspire to public positions more for service provision, as opposed to exploiting the trappings associated with power.

These are possibilities that guarantee a Better Liberia

 Potential Casualties from Supreme Court Recognition of Constitutionality of Code of Conduct

 

Name

Position within last 3 years

Conflict

1.

Joseph Mills Jones

Formerly, Central Bank Governor

Candidate for President

2.

Alexander Cummings

Board Member, BWI

Candidate for President

3.

Jeremiah Sulunteh

Formerly Ambassador to US

Rumored V/Presidential Aspirant

4.

Harrison Karnwea

Managing Director

Rumored V/Presidential Aspirant

5.

Henrique Tokpa

Minister of Internal Affairs

Rumored V/Presidential Aspirant

6.

Neto Lighe

Minister of Labor

Vice Chairman UP

7.

Cole Bangalu

Deputy Director, GSA

Vice Chairman UP

8.

Eugene Nagbe

Minister of Information

Secretary General/UP

9.

Hanson Kiazolu

Comptroller-General, RL

Legislative Aspirant

10.

Alfred Curtis

City Mayor, Brewerville

Legislative Aspirant

11.

Augustus Zayzay

Deputy Minister

Legislative Aspirant

12.

Varney Sirleaf

Deputy Minister

Legislative Aspirant

13.

Nagbe Sloh

Director-General/LINA

Legislative Aspirant

14.

Abu Kamara

Assistant Minister

Legislative Aspirant

15.

Selena Polson Mappy

Superintendent

Legislative Aspirant

16.

Romeo Quiah

Superintendent

Legislative Aspirant

17.

Martin Kollah

Deputy Director, CNDRA

Legislative Aspirant

18.

Adams Manobah

Autonomous Commissioner

Legislative Aspirant

19.

Miller Catakaw

Autonomous Commissioner

Legislative Aspirant

20.

Andrew Tehmeh

Deputy Minister

Legislative Aspirant

21.

Dixon Seboe

LRA Staff

Legislative Aspirant

22.

Norris Tweah

Deputy Minister

Legislative Aspirant

23.

Varney Pusah

NEC Official

Legislative Aspirant

24.

Maxwell Grigsby

LRA Staff

Legislative Aspirant

Abdullai Kamara, Contributing Writer

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