Liberians crave for the implementation of the Code of Conduct; want NEC deny violators

By: J. Peter S. Dennis

The implementation of the National code of Conduct is paramount to the conduct of the general elections, many Liberians have told journalists.

The Liberians stated the law was made to be implemented, but not sidelined.

Section 5.2 of the revised code of conduct (CoC) instructs all desirous contestants to resign a year to the conduct of elections in Liberia.

In 2022, the Liberian Legislature amended certain portions of the 2014 Code of Conduct, particularly Part V, sections 5.2 under Political Participation and Part-X 10.2 under Declaration and Registration of Personal Interests, Assets and Performance/Financial Bonds on the grounds that those provisions were too high and unreasonable. The amended CoC was enacted, approved and printed into handbills on December 29, 2022.

Prior to the amendment, section 5.2 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 elective public 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 election”

In the amended portion of the code of conduct, Section 5.2 to be precise, public officials who wish to contest elections now have one year instead of two to resign before the next election.

The amended code, according to many interviewed; has become a subject of controversy.

Citizens’ Reactions

“Why will you make the law and don’t want to implement it? What are your motives… Which Country is this?” Mr. Bigboy Kollie, a resident of Gbatala, Yelequelleh district asks.

Miss Yamah A. Kollie, an aspirant of electoral district#5 in Bong County feels, the implementation of the law will enable a level political plain field for everyone.

President George Manneh Weah, according to the citizens, has caused huge controversy after he demanded the resignations of public officers and appointees who have ambitions to contest in the upcoming elections.

Now, with five (5) months to the conduct of the general elections in October and less than two (2) months to candidates’ nomination, many have doubted the full implementation of the code of conduct through many questions on the radio, in the streets and other public gatherings.

NEC Responds

The National Elections Commission, the constituted body for the conduct of elections head of Communications says the NEC will only deny people (aspirants) if they don’t follow the nomination guidelines.

Mr. Henry Boyd Flomo declined to comment further stating that “the nomination guidelines will be published after the committee completes its final review”.  He didn’t state when.

On the Ombudsman, the NEC’s head of Communications Mr. Henry Boyd Flomo, said the commission doesn’t have the authority to establish the Ombudsman.

Ombudsman, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Liberian Senate is an independent body responsible for the enforcement, monitoring, and evaluating the adherence of the Code of Conduct. Ombudsman should receive and investigate complaints against public officials, employees of government and national institutions.

Mr. Jessie Cole, Lead Human rights defender of the Delta Human Rights Foundation in Bong County says, all of these can be achieved if the president establishes the Ombudsman.

Mr. Shelor Flomo Namue, a law student of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law in Monrovia also says, “There was no need for the issuance of Executive Order #117 adding “it totally violates the law”.

The Code of Conduct, Namue echoed was designed to create a level playing ground for all aspirants during national elections stressing that it does not in any way undermine the rights of political appointees to hold office or participate in national elections but should be done in line with the law.

Like others, Namue says “the National Election Commission (NEC) must adhere to the code of conduct by not certifying presidential appointees who have not “resigned their posts and are vying”.

Many electorates feel when the politicians who are in defiance are denied, it will set the stage for obedience in any future election.

Elijah Togbah, a resident of Gbarlatuah in electoral district#4 feels “My brother, I don’t know what’s wrong with us in this country… We will make good laws and fail to implement them. I want NEC to deny these people because they aren’t respecting the law”.

Like Togbah, Sarah Mulbah of Totota stated that the law must be respected.

Exodus Lablah, a first time voter in Totota, Lower Bong County says “For me, I will support those who are respecting the rule of law because they have integrity. We gave you the power to make laws in our behalf, and you are not respecting it; do you expect to give you the same power?”

Winston Dolokelen, a resident of Palala in Bong County stressed “I will support you if you’re qualify because the code of conduct isn’t really in full swing. If the president were going to establish the Ombudsman, we’re not going to be confused about the whole thing”.

Unlike Dolokelen, Esther Yanquee wants the National Elections Commission bar violators.

Hawa Momo, an influential lady in Gbarnga maintains “the Code of Conduct is a good public document that ensures good governance, but it’s not respected. The only way the CoC can be respected is when the President establishes the Ombudsman.

Recently, the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL), a newly certificated political party, announced that it has filed a lawsuit against the Liberian leader over his alleged attempt to abrogate the Code of Conduct (CoC) for public officials.

The EFFL, through its Commander-In-Chief, Mr. Emmanuel D. Gonquoi is of the belief that such an Executive Order does not just seek to abrogate existing laws and statutes, but is unconstitutional and belated, and must therefore, not be adhered to but be quashed and all officials in violation of the CoC be made to face the full weight of the law. The party said is another abuse of power.

Recently, Cllr. Bornor M. Varmah, General Secretary of the Liberia National BAR Association (LNBA) told a local radio show, Okay 99.5FM, that it was wrong to issue an executive order on an already existing law; stressing that “the best thing President Weah should have done was appoint the officials of the Ombudsman instead of issuing an executive order”.     

“If you look at the recent executive order issued by President George Weah, one would say that it was not the right thing to issue an executive order in the face of existing and enforceable law. You are not to issue an executive order when we have laws that are supposed to be enforced on the subject matter that you are placing the executive order on,” he stated.

Already, President George Manneh Weah has accepted the resignations of those seem hooked by the Code of Conduct.

Meanwhile, it’s not clear whether any aggrieved citizens will seek an interpretation at the Supreme Court of Liberia like the case involving the government of Liberia VS Selena Polson Mappy, Bong’s former Superintendent and others in 2017.

Mappy and others had sought interpretation at the Supreme Court after being reportedly hooked by the Code of Conduct.

In late March, the Supreme Court through Justice Yamie Quiquoi  Gbeisay, issued an alternative Writ of Prohibition as prayed for by the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia, temporarily nullifying the then-expected compliance of President Weah’s issued Executive Order #117.

The issuance of the Alternative Writ of Prohibition invokes a “stay order” on the enforcement of Executive Order #117 and until and unless a final decision is made and a decision is either made either to quash the existing Alternative Writ of Prohibition or grant the EFFL’s prayer for the issuance of a Peremptory writ of Prohibition, presidential appointees had no obligation to resign as instructed by President Weah.

A Peremptory Writ of Prohibition is an absolute and unqualified written command issued by a Superior out to any government body, official or a lower court to perform an act the court finds is an official duty required by law.

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