Liberia’s Justice Ministry and counsels representing reinstated Bong
County Superintendent Ms. Selina Polson Mappy clashed at the Supreme Court Monday, 18 July over sections of a 2014 legislated Code of Conduct, restricting certain presidential appointees to resign two years prior to contesting for elected public positions.
The High Court reserved rulings after entertaining arguments into a petition for declaratory judgment filed by Supt. Mappy’s lawyer Cllr. T. Negbalee Warner, basically confronting portion of the Code of Conduct he sees as discriminatory against certain appointed public officials.
But Justice Minister Cllr. Frederick D. Cherue, who left the Senate after the December 2014 Special Senatorial Election and Liberia’s Solicitor General Cllr. Betty Lamin Blamo counter-argued that all sections of the Code of Conduct met Constitutional requirements and must not be tempered with, pleading with the Supreme Court to declared them lawful.
Section 5.2 (a) of the Code of Conduct dictates that any Minister, Deputy Minister, Director-General, Managing Director and Superintendent appointed by the President…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 years prior to the date of such public elections.
In the case of other appointed officials who hold tenured positions and desire to contest for public elective offices, the Code of Conduct dictates in Section 5.2 (b) that such officials “shall resign said post three (3) years prior to the date of such public elections.”
The petitioning party which challenges the Code of Conduct however says it agrees with Section 5.1 of the document on grounds that it restricts all officials appointed by the President against engaging in political activities, canvassing or contesting for elected offices or using government facilities, equipment or resources in support of partisan or political activities, among others.
But their qualm expressed against the Code of Conduct is that it does not apply to everyone, emphasizing that once it applies to ministers, directors it should be applied to all officials including the President, Vice President and the lawmakers.
In an interview aired on state broadcaster ELBC, Madam Mappy said she did not take the ruling Unity Party or UP to court; but had gone to court to know whether for those of “us” who may develop interest in the 2017 elections, the Code of Conduct would violate their rights.
Instead, Cllr. Warner says the Code of Conduct is applicable only to some top level appointed public officials which he says is in itself, discriminatory. According to Cllr. Warner, research shows that several countries around the world have laws that restrict officials, but they do not go to the extent of forcing them to resign from offices prior to elections like it is being applied in Liberia.
The counsel argued that when a legislation interferes with the constitutional right of the citizens, the court must put it to halt and the process be declared unconstitutional. But in the argument of the Justice Ministry, the intent of the Code of Conduct is to stop the undue disadvantage that others suffer at the hands of those that are in power, specifically presidential appointees.
Citing an instance, Justice Minister Cllr. Cherue said the jeep that ministers ride and the expenses incurred for fuel, repair and other things are paid by the government, while in the case of lawmakers, such expenses would come from their allowances, concluding that it was such unfairness that the lawmakers saw.
He concluded that all of the provisions in the Code of Conduct met Constitutional requirement and in the wisdom of the lawmakers, they must not be tempered with, as he appealed to the court to declare them as lawful.
By Winston W. Parley-Editing by Jonathan Browne