The Code of Conduct Bill which was signed into law by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on May 12, 2014, and finally given the blessing by the Supreme Court of Liberia last Friday, March 3rd 2017 seems to be a major blow to dozens of public officials who have vowed to contest the 2017 general and presidential elections.
President Sirleaf, upon signing the bill into law at that time, called for total adherence by all officials of government and civil servants as this would serve as a guide to unwarranted behaviors, especially corrupt attitudes.
President Sirleaf also at the time lauded members of the national legislature for the passage of the bill, which she said will help curtail some of the malpractices that go on in public offices. She named some of these malpractices as bribery, sexual harassment and failure to declare assets.
The President disclosed that the law is the first of its kind in Liberia, furthering that it will make Liberia a better country. She called on all public officials to abide by the new law. “It is indeed a great day for all of us because this law will make our country a better place,” President Sirleaf added.
For her part, Senator Jewel Howard Taylor, one of the sponsors, noted that the law is necessary for Liberia as it is intended to erect ‘checkpoints of transparency and accountability’ for public officials, and to safeguard the emerging democracy that Liberians are enjoying.
The law which strictly prohibits public officials from seeking elected offices, while serving in the Executive Branch of government, the law also called on those officials to resign their positions three years prior to election if they have political ambitions.
On March 6, 2014, the House of Representatives finally concurred with the Liberian Senate on the passage of the delayed Code of Conduct Bill. The Senate had earlier passed the bill, which also demands that presidential appointees resign before contesting any elected post; but the House made an increment of three years.
For its part, the highest court of Liberia, the Supreme Court said the ‘Code of Conduct Legal, Binding’, ruling on a petition for Declaratory Judgment filed by legal counsel of Bong County Superintendent Selena Polson-Mappy, the high court declined to confirm her plea that the code of conduct is unconstitutional, unmeritorious both in fact and in law.
Accordingly, section 5.2 also states, “Wherein, any person in the category stated in section 5.1 herein above, desires to canvass or contest for an elective public position, the following shall apply; a) Any Minister, Deputy Minister, Director-General, Managing Director and Superintendent appointed by the President pursuant to article 56 (a) of the Constitution and a Managing Director appointed by a Board of Directors, who desires to contest for public elective office shall resign said post at least two (2) years prior to the date of such public elections; b) Any other official appointed by the President who holds a tenured position and desires to contest for public elective office shall resign said post three (3) years prior to the date of such public elections.”
In a three count judgment read by Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh the court rule that the appellate/petitioner, praying court to declare the Code of Conduct Act unconstitutional for reasons that section 5.2 of the act is discriminatory, arbitrary and capricious and tantamount to amending the eligibility provisions of the Liberian Constitution for public official to qualify as candidates for public offices is not acceptable in law.
However, Associate Justices Philip A.Z. Banks and Jamesetta H. Wolokolie took exception to the judgment of the majority in which they said the petition for declaratory judgment should have been granted by the court.
Friday’s decision by the high court has set the stage for persons desiring to contest the ensuing 2017 presidential and representative election scheduled for October this year.
Already two opposition political parties, the Alternative National Congress (ANC) and the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) have taken exception to the decision of the Supreme Court to allow the Code of Conduct to bar their political leaders from taken part in the 2017 elections.
Both political parties Chairmen, Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah of MOVEE and L. Orishall Gould of ANC in their separate news conferences defied the National Elections Commission (NEC) to bar their respective political parties from taken part in the 2017 elections.
The Chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Cllr. Jerome Korkoya, has publicly vowed to uphold the recent Supreme Court’s ruling on the code of conduct to the letter.
Cllr. Korkoya statement came two days after the decision by the country’s final Arbiter of justice to declare the contested Code of Conduct constitutional.
The court last Friday, March 3rd 2017 dismissed a petition seeking to allow officials of government from participating in the upcoming presidential and legislative elections.
Appearing on a local talk radio show, The Truth Breakfast morning magazine, on Truth FM recently the NEC boss said, under the constitution of Liberia that supports three branches of government, the legislature makes the laws and the court interprets the laws.
He said it is now up to the elections commission to implement.
“What the National Elections commission will be doing is to obey the court’s opinion and comply strictly with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the code of conduct.
I don’t want to comment on this further but I can tell you this: Whatever then Supreme Court, says will be followed to the letter.
If the Supreme Court broadens the language on the code of conduct we will follow that opinion if it narrows the language on the code of conduct we will follow any thing the Supreme Court says is what we will follow.”
The majority opinion was objected by Associate Justices Justice Philip A.Z. Banks and Jamesetta Wolokolie while Chief Justice Korkpor, Kabineh Ja’neh and Sie-A-Nyene Gyapay Yuoh ruled in favor of the code of conduct.
The majority said the code of conduct was constitutional while Associate Justices and Banks and Wolokolie said the code of conduct was unconstitutional on grounds that they were infringing on the rights of Liberians.
“In Wherefore in view of the foregoing, the petition seeking to declare the code of conduct act, or any provision thereof, unconstitutional, same being unmeritorious, both in fact and on law, is hereby denied and dismissed, the code of conduct is declared legal and binding in the Republic of Liberia, for all intents and purposes. And it is so ordered.”
Already politicians, especially those wishing to be voted for are now sickening of this development, questioning their journey for the pending 2017 general and presidential elections in October of this year.