The Code of Conduct – Potential Recipe For Conflict in 2017
I followed recent developments regarding the March 3rd Ruling of the Supreme Court on the Code of Conduct and your subsequent press statement in public media of your determination to uphold and/or enforce the Code of Conduct as a constitutional prerogative to which the NEC is obliged.
Open Letter To Jerome Kokoyah, Chairman, National Elections Commission (NEC)/Rl
What has drawn my attention, Mr. Chairman is how you intend to enforce the Code of Conduct in ways that will not plunge our country into an abyss of chaos, political instability and civil crisis.
I am aware that Section 2.9 under Powers and Duties of the New Election Laws (amended January 29, 2003 and December 23, 2004 respectively) empowers the NEC to:
(a). administer and enforce all laws relative to the conduct of elections throughout the Republic of Liberia and (h): the NEC shall Formulate and enforce guidelines controlling the conduct of all elections for elective public offices which guidelines shall not be inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution and the Elections Law.
Mr. Chairman, when heads of enforcement agencies of government act like tortoise (wait until fire is put on its back before it moves) in the performance of their duties, they show how grossly incompetent they are and your failure to follow through in enforcing the Code of Conduct demonstrates three things;
(1) that you are grossly incompetent
(2) that you do not have the balls and/or will power to make independent decision and
(3) you are a coward afraid of being relieve from you position simply to please your benefactor, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The recent Supreme Court ruling to hold as constitutional, the Code of Conduct does not make the Code of Conduct an entirely new law.
The ruling was the court’s opinion to uphold the Code of Conduct based on a petition for declaratory judgment. The Code of Conduct became law from its passage and its subsequent signing into law as of May 12, 2014, and therefore its enforcement should have begun as of May 2014.
In November or December 2014, you registered, qualified and certificated Mr. Robert Sirleaf, an appointee of the President who was and still is Senior Advisor to contest the Senatorial by-election for Montserrado County. Were you required to be told what to do in performing your duties to enforce the Code of Conduct which became constitutional?
Again we emphasize here Mr. Chairman and like to take you back to the classroom. The NEC shall:
“Formulate and enforce guidelines controlling the conduct of all elections for elective public offices which guidelines shall not be inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution and the Elections Law”.
We wondered whether your failure to enforce this provision was for fear that your benefactor would have dismissed you from your lucrative position which would have ended your political career and so you knowingly chose to ignore the now constitutional provision- the Code of Conduct or was it an act of cowardice and lacking independent decision-making authority?
Part V, Section 5.1 of the Code of Conduct states: All officials appointed by the President of the Republic of Liberia shall not: (a) engage in political activities, canvass or contest for elected offices.
In 2016, the Unity Party held its national convention in which Minister Eugene Nagbe, the present Minister of Information violated this provision and participated in political activities (not just elective office) and canvassed for Secretary General of the Unity Party.
Though the National Elections Commissioned recognized the UP leadership and certificated Mr. Nagbe, I am inclined to believe that you condoned the Minister’s argument that the Unity Party was not a “public Office”. Robert C. Wigton (2013) wrote; Political parties have long occupied an uncertain place in American constitutional law.
Parties were not mentioned in the Constitution and developed largely outside the constitutional system.
As a consequence, they have grown to possess attributes of both public and private organizations and undertake activities associated with both types of organizations.
Wigton maintained that political parties are semi-public institutions and by this argument, “it is the state that makes requirements on the parties to conduct primaries, caucuses, and conventions to determine who the delegates are to the parties’ national presidential nominating conventions.
The state even presume to dictate (i.e. bind) how those delegates will vote”. This in our mind makes political parties public offices and Minister Nagbe’s argument at the time was wrong.
However, my disagreement with your conclusion, if that were the case is based on other elements of the Code of Conduct. Section 4.9 of the Code of Conduct, under -Conflict between personal belief and Public duties elucidates;:
“When a Public official or an Employee of Government holds strong personal beliefs on issues that conflict with his or her duties, he/she shall, regardless of his/her personal views, implement the Government policy to the best of his/her ability and shall do nothing to circumvent or undermine the policies, or he/she shall resign”.
The catching word and phrase are: “REGARDLESS” & “SHALL DO NOTHING TO CIRCUMVENT” (emphasis mine).
While I am not a legal scholar, I can infer that implementing Government policies takes precedent over personal beliefs.
In the discharge of Minister Nagbe’s duties (as Minister of Information and as Secretary General of the Unity party respectively), what policy, in terms of implementation should the Minister circumvent, the Government or the Unity Party? Howbeit, those two issues are history, let us deal with the present.
Mr. Harrison Kanwea was recently hand-picked by Cllr. Charles Brumskine as his running mate on the LP ticket. Sources, rumors and arguments within the public domain indicate that Mr. Kanwea never had the “desire”.
But can you, Mr. Chairman or can any Liberian read one’s mind to determine “desire”?
When former Defense Minister, General Gray Deo Allison was being investigated for the alleged murder of Police Officer Melvin Pyne in 1989, Cllr. Isaac Nyenplu, then State Prosecuting Officer, in making a legal argument said; “in law, there is a malice implied and malice applied”.
Malice is a legal term referring to a party’s intention to do injury to another party.
Malice is either expressed or implied. “Desire”, like “malice” is also expressed or implied. Desire is a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.
“Desiring or wanting”, like “intending” to do something does not happen overnight. It takes months and years of planning to be accomplished.
Dr. Mills Jones, like Harrison Kanwea, Jeremiah Sulonteh and many other appointed officials had the “implied desire” to contest for elective offices and the year 2017 is just a manifestation of those “desires being expressed”.
Therefore, it is no doubt that the choosing of Harrison Karnwea was not an overnight venture.”
“We hold these facts to be true therefore, that those proffering the argument that Harrison Karnwea never had the “desire” or never “intended” to run on the LP’s ticket as Vice Standard Bearer are wrong, the argument is farfetched and does not hold grounds.
Our Constitution and/or laws calls for equal protection under the law. It also states that “no man is above the law and that all men are equal before the law”.
When a government agency enforces law partially, unfairly and to its choosing in favor of one party, individuals or group of individuals, it violates the “equal protection” clause under our laws and constitution.
In many instances, I have deduced that the Code of Conduct has been violated and the NEC under your watch did nothing as judicial evidence of your impartiality. How then do you intend to enforce the law this time around?
The privilege to serve your country in your present capacity should be used to provide equal protection and benefit of our laws to all Liberians.
To abuse such privilege under the canopy of power and authority against other Liberians while favoring other Liberians will be counterproductive and disingenuous. It will be a recipe for chaos.
In closing, we are aware that you are a friend to Cllr. Charles Brumskine and had worked at the Brumskine’s Law Firm and while the facts are obvious and your relationship with the LP Flag bearer is glaring, I am certain that you will not allow any political maneuvering and/or your personal relationship with Cllr. Brumskine blind your judgment of neutrality and impartially in enforcing the Code of Conduct as you stated.
Liberians at home and those of us abroad, irrespective of the economic hardship brought on our people by the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf government must maintain the façade of peace and stability as any bias attempt in the enforcement of the Code of Conduct could plunge our country into an abyss of chaos, civil disobedience and political unrest.
Jappah Maxwell Hooks, Contributing Writer
Des Moines, Iowa