Liberia: Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Justifies ‘Violation of Code of Conduct’; Says Disenchanted Citizens Can Go to Court
Monrovia – Amid public outcry over the George Weah-led government’s ‘blatant violation’ of the Code of Conduct (COC), officials of the government have begun expressing mixed reactions through their deeds and expressions, a move observer believe may spark a row within the party.
Since the pronouncement by CDC Chairman, Mulbah Morlu of team headed by the Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Wilson Tarpeh, the public has been outraged over what they call the blatant violation of the COC with many calling on President George Weah to not allow his officials to take up those positions.
While top Weah’s aides like the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel McGill say there is nothing wrong with violating the COC because it was ignored by the previous administration, some officials are cautious and responding differently.
Part V.1 of the National Code of Conduct for all public officials and employees appointed by the President of Liberia shall not engage in political activities, canvass or contest for elected offices; use government facilities, equipment or resources in support of partisan or political activities and serve on a campaign team of any political party, or the campaign of any independent candidate.
The latest to respond to the backlash is Dr. Lester Tenny, Vice President for Technical Services at the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), who has taken a one-month leave to enable him served on the campaign team of Rep, Thomas P. Fallah. Fallah is contesting for the Montserrado County’s Senatorial seat on the CDC ticket.
In a communication to the President and Chief Executive Officer of NOCAL, Dr. Tenny promised that the state assigned vehicle will not be used in line with the Code of Conduct.
Excerpt of the letter: I request my one-month annual leave to enable me participate in the upcoming Montserrado Senatorial election for my party, the CDC. I am one of the members of the Fallah campaign team,” he writes.
“During said period,” he continues, “I can be called when there is pressing matters that requires my presence. During campaign process, the state assigned vehicle will not be used in accordance with the Code of Conduct.”
For his part, the Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), Bill Twehway, who was appointed as the CDC’s National Campaign Coordinating declined the offer, citing his adherence to the COC.
Twehway said his appointment is a violation of the Code of Conduct and as a law-abiding citizen he cannot perform a task that is in violation of national law.
Similarly, the chairman of the campaign team has also step aside, saying he prefers supporting the candidates from within.
“So where were the Liberian people when the High Court dismissed our case? People even resigned the same day and contested the elections the same day when the law says they should resign two years before the elections—it is in the COC. Who said these things were not correct? Wasn’t it the Supreme Court that made the interpretation?”– Nathaniel F. McGill, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs
Minister McGill Differs
However, the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, addressing a press conference in Paynesville on Tuesday said, the COC has been violated in the past, especially during the regime of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and questioned why now Liberians are pointing accusing fingers at the CDC-led government.
“When the COC was crafted, we challenge people on the basis of our thinking that the violating the code was being violated as some people who were contesting in the 2017 elections had not resigned two years prior to the elections as indicated by the COC. But the Supreme Court told us that we were wrong,” Minister McGill said.
According to him, former Information Minister, Lenn Eugene Nagbe, who now serves as the Commissioner of Maritime, was among officials of the previous government that violated the COC.
“My friend, Eugene Nagbe was Minister of Information and at the same time served as Secretary-General of the Unity Party at that time. Did he resign? But that our time now you want to say we are violating because you can talk,” he said, aiming jabs at the opposition.
‘No ombudsman, No COC’
Further defending his party and government, McGill said the COC cannot be applicable in the absence of an ombudsman to enforce the law.
He argued that when similar complaints were raised by the CDC while in opposition, the Supreme Court rejected their argument that public officials did not resigned their posts two years prior to expressing intention to contest elected offices in Liberia.
“So where were the Liberian people when the High Court dismissed our case? People even resigned the same day and contested the elections the same day when the law says they should resign two years before the elections—it is in the COC. Who said these things were not correct? Wasn’t it the Supreme Court that made the interpretation?” he asked rhetorically, adding, “So if you think anyone violating the COC you should go to court.”
Meanwhile, some public officials appointed by the CDC Chairman Morlu to serve on the campaign team includes, Environmental Protection Agency Executive Director Professor Wilson K. Tarpeh as National Chairman, Gender Minister Piso Saydee-Tarr as Media and Communication chair, Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson T. Koijee as Head of Operations, Deputy Finance Minister for Fiscal Affairs and Samora P. Z. Wolokolie on Policy and Strategy.
Others officials include the Comptroller General of Liberia, Janga A. Kowo, Head of Campaign Secretariat, Assistant Minister of Mines Emmanuel T. Swen and Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission Head Rev. Festus Logan, among several others.