Rejoinder To Atty Kpargoi’s ‘The Liberian Constitution Does Not Guarantee Tenure To Anyone’

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Antwerp, Belgium – Attorney-At-Law Lamii Kpargoi I respectfully disagree with the piece you publish in Frontpage Africa tin which you argue among other things that “the Liberian Constitution does not guarantee anyone tenure completion.”

Matthew Nyanplu , Contributing writer

I do not have the time to distinguish the cases you cite for the current situation we have in Liberia regarding calls for Weah to step down, but I will seek to fish out the deliberate glossing of the Constitutional Provisions you mention in your argument, and use the same Constitution to point out to you where the Constitution does guarantee tenure completion to officials; and therefore requires that they can be removed only through prescribed constitutional procedures “and vacancies can be fill through regular appointments and elections.”

I reference this your quote from the FPA piece in particular: “The truth, though, is that the Liberian Constitution says nothing about elected officials being guaranteed the completion of their tenures.

The only guarantee anticipated for the completion of one’s tenure is inherent in the prudential conducts of elected officials that stand up to legal and moral scrutiny, which ensures the “safety and happiness” of the people.” This is a false statement to make.

This is what the Constitution says, as you allude to in your article, but deliberately emphasizes only the point that purportedly supports your argument.

Article 1 of the Constitution says in part: “…In order to ensure democratic government which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the right at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments.” Underscore the phrase “the people shall have the right at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office…”

We will agree [in case you don’t] that there is no ambiguity or any injurious effect to interpret this portion of the Constitution textually, using Plain Meaning Interpretation. In Plain Meaning Interpretation, the above referenced clause is unequivocal, that people shall the right ONLY “at such period and in such manner provided for under the Constitution” to cause their public servants to leave office.

Please say whether this is a not a constitutional guarantee to end a tenure, when the Constitution says “at such period…. provided for under this Constitution.” Which such period is provided for under the Constitution? Article 50 says in part: “The president shall be elected…and shall hold office for a term of six years…”

Please also convincingly argue that this is not a constitutional guarantee to end a tenure. The same Article 1 clause I mentioned earlier goes further to say “….and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments.” The Constitution of Liberia says the following about elections, Article 83a ” Voting for the President, Vice President, members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives shall be conducted throughout the Republic on the second Tuesday in October of each election year.”

As Article 50 says how often we vote a President, and Vice President and how often we vote other elected officials, 6years is the constitutional guarantee of a Presidential tenure, which holding all factors constant, a duly elected President is guaranteed to end.

With regards to deviations from the norms and prudential conduct, which you argue here: “The only guarantee anticipated for the completion of one’s tenure is inherent in the prudential conducts of elected officials that stand up to legal and moral scrutiny, which ensures the “safety and happiness” of the people” can be addressed through the same clause of Article 1 in “such manner provided for under the Constitution”.

I also like you to note that there is conjunction “and” separating the clauses “at such period and in such manner provided for under this Constitution to cause their public servants to leave office” AND “fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments.” “At such period and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution to cause their public servants to leave office” only makes it illegitimate if any action by the people to cause public servants to leave office does not follow the procedures provided for under the Constitution, and the filling of vacancies MUST be done only through regular elections and appointments (the same Article 1).

Argue also that this is not a guarantee of tenure completion if removal from office ONLY has to follow “procedures and such period” laid down in the Constitution.

I have searched the Constitution and I do not see where as you argue here, demonstration is one of the prescribed manner to remove an official from office. This is what you write: “The prepositional phrase “to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies”, as used in Article 1, means to give rise to an action. What is this action the Constitution gives the people the power to give rise to? Impeachment for removal? Could it be demonstration for the purpose of forcing resignation? It is certainly not limited to elections.”

Atty. Kpargoi public demonstration or a purported cause of action (which is ambiguous) does not conform to the Constitutional test of “at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office.”

Please point us to one Article or a clause in the Constitution where demonstration is a prescribed manner under the Constitution to cause public servants to leave office. One of the prescribed manners to cause public servants to leave office is elaborated in Article 62: “The President and the Vice President may be removed from office by impeachment for treason, bribery and other felonies, violation of the Constitution or gross misconduct.”

There are other provisions in the Constitution that prescribe how other public servants elected and appointed can be removed from office. I will not go further on those, but conclude to say if your argument was factual, our democracy will crumble and we will degenerate into chaos if “the Constitution does not guarantee tenure completion to anyone.”

This statement is outlandish; because even other subordinate statutes guarantee tenures to executive officials; and by operation of law, those Statutes are offshoot of the Constitution which you say does not guarantee tenure to anyone. The Constitution does guarantee tenure completion to the President, the Vice President, Members of the Legislature and including the Judiciary Branch of Government. Happy New Year 2020.

Matthew Nyanplu is a Second Year Student of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia. He is now a Master of International Development Candidate at IE University, Madrid, Spain

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