In an article (The Analyst, September23, 2013), I observed that “the local (Liberian national) and international hue & cry raised about press freedom & free speech in our country; the closure of the FrontPageAfrica newspaper; and the imprisonment of the paper’s managing editor is not so much about our Libel Law or the whopping, US$1.5 million damage award, but about the approach, the manner, in total, in which the entire case was handled that gave or gives rise to the conclusion that closure, permanent silencing of the paper (indeed of the press critical of political power) was or is the sole objective” and that “this condition – socio-economic and political – obtains because of the awesome, but constitutional power of the Liberian presidency”.
To this “premise/conclusion an “Observer”, according to the Analyst (Analyst, September 23, 2013), responded that “proscribing it (presidential appointment powers) will not only be a tall order, but that it (the achievement) will also create a constitutional anomaly that will be difficult to correct . . . because (the prevailing, presidential appointment power) is part of the contemporary executive prerogative, subject to legislative review that is practiced, even, in the US and other democratic countries without creating a weak judiciary . . . what Mr. Gbala observed as executive overbearing on the judiciary and blamed on Article 54 of the Constitution of Liberia is a distorted view of the presidential appointment power”. The un-identified Observer provides the following reasons (1-3, US analogy and 4, social cultural) in support of his argument:
1. That “our constitution provides sufficient security for court officials against executive interference. . . That judges continue to bend to the whims of the Executive Mansion, if there is such a thing, suggests their own incompetence and the failure of the Senate Conformation Committees to uphold public trust”.
2. That “Article 71 of the Constitution provides that the Chief and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and subordinate courts of records shall hold office during good behavior; they may be removed upon impeachment and conviction by the legislature based on proved misconduct . . .”.
3. That the prevailing, presidential appointment power “. . . is part of the contemporary executive prerogative, subject to legislative review that is practiced, even, in the US and other democratic countries without creating a weak judiciary . . .”.
4. That “it (prevailing presidential appointment powers) is (our social) qualification, and professional conviction . . . proscribing it will not only be a tall order, but that it will also create a constitutional anomaly that will be difficult to correct”.
The “Observer” however, according to the Analyst, “Preferred to remain anonymous (secret, un-identified) for fear of or “to avoid being labeled as condoning the prevailing view of executive overbearing”. It is important to note that the caveat placed on public disclosure of his/her identity is deeply troubling, because it suggests, apparently, that he/she is one of the privileged few who lacks the “guts” to express views publicly that may be construed inimical to such presidential powers, “for fear of losing it all, including being labeled a ‘trouble-maker who wants to rock the boat’ and ostracized socially, economically and politically”, as I indicated. The views expressed privately, with the reasons advanced, should be made public, if he/she believes those views to reflect reality in the context of our country. I shall come to that later, in terms of the Observer’s analogy of the “US and other democratic countries”.
I claim not to be the depository or the only depository, if there is any, of ideas for rational solutions of our multi-faceted problems, neither do I entertain opposition to presidential, appointment powers as such or use such emotional terms as “overbearing”, but do so, only, in the context of the prevailing, socio-economic and political conditions of our country, while I welcome and expect to learn from presentations/exchanges of ideas in an atmosphere that is free, open, candid and cordial, with respect for the views of others, however controversial and in opposition.
A. US Analogy
The “Observer” says that the existing presidential appointment power “is part of our contemporary executive prerogative, subject to legislative review that is practiced, even, in the US and other democratic countries without creating a weak judiciary . . .” This analogy, however, is woefully invalid; it is like comparing night with day. For, the United States :
1. Has 240-year experience and record of classical democracy versus Liberia’s 166-year, turbulent, socio-economic and political history of “Tyranny of the few”.
2. Is a federal state, with political, economic, financial, administrative power and decision-making decentralized versus Liberia’s system of unitary-structured governance with all decision-making power tightly centralized and vested in, controlled and dispensed by an imperial presidency from Monrovia.
3. Almost all citizens of the US are literate, informed, with a minimum of high school education, actively engaged in politics, understand and utilize the citizen’s local/national political power in securing political benefits; moreover, in per capita terms, US citizens posses undergraduate/graduate education and, also, gross per capita income of US $48,585 versus majority of Liberia’s relatively illiterate, un-informed, economically poor population.
B. Social, Cultural
The “Observer” posits that the existing presidential appointment power is our (Liberian) “cultural qualification . . .” and that “proscribing it” or introducing change at this time will be a “tall order” and, also, “create a constitutional anomaly that will be difficult to correct”.
1. This analytical approach, in seeking peaceful, rational solutions to critical, public policy challenges, is a defeatist approach; and that if we are dealing with Culture or a cultural ethic, a way of life, then I argue that culture is dynamic, not static, and that, for example, throughout human history, culture changed from generation to generation in some form or the other, due to evolution of ideas, social, economic, political and industrial/scientific/technological developments.
2. Contemporarily, note rapid population growth, migration, urbanization, fast travel, ethnic/tribal, socio-cultural mix and diversity, dress, mannerisms, etc., etc. – the new culture and life-style of the day. The internet, cell phone and related “social media”, including the term “life-style” just came on stage during our lifetime.
Therefore, in the effort to achieve peace, security, justice and liberty, and the “pursuit of happiness” on this planet, nothing is a “tall order” nor “a constitutional anomaly” to change.