A Supreme Court ruling endorsing a National Code of Conduct as legal may bar Liberia’s former Central Bank Governor Dr. J. Mills Jones, ex-Coca Cola Company executive, Alexander Cummings and several other presidential appointees who may have refused to be guided by the instrument to resign two years prior to seeking elected posts.
“…[The] Code of Conduct Act is declared legal and binding in the Republic, for all intents and purposes,” the Supreme Court ruled on Friday, 3 March at the Temple of Justice on Capitol Hill.
Dr. Jones, a former CBL Executive Governor heads the opposition Movement for Economic Empowerment or MOVEE, after serving his two terms at the bank on the appointment of President Ellen Johnson –Sirleaf. But failed to resign two years prior to his presidential ambition and may be hooked by the code of conduct now declared legal by the Supreme Court.
Like Dr. Jones, Coca Cola former executive Cummings who heads opposition Alternative National Congress or ANC may also be affected and barred from running in the presidential elections on grounds that he was also appointed by President Sirleaf as an eminent member on the board of the Booker T. Washington Institute or BWI, and there is no indication that he ever resigned.
Dr. Jones and Mr. Cummings are not alone, given the fact that Forestry Development Authority Managing Director Mr. Harrison Kanwea from vote-rich Nimba County who would soon flee the ruling Unity Party to join the opposition Liberty Party just few days ago could also be affected. Others include Gender Minister Julia Duncan Cassell who aspires for representative posts, among others, are still working in government.
A National Code of Conduct which surfaced from the Executive Branch and later passed by the Legislature in 2014 dictates that “all Officials appointed by the president” shall not engage in political activities, canvass or contest for elected offices or serve on a campaign team of any political party or for independent candidate.
Wherein the appointed official like minister, deputy minister, director-general, managing director and superintendent that area appointed by the president, and a managing director that is appointed by a board of directors, the Code of Conduct says such official shall resign the post at least two years prior to the date of public elections for the new job they may be pursuing.
As for an official who is appointed by the president and holds a tenured position like the one Dr. Mills Jones held at the Central Bank of Liberia or CBL, the Code of Conduct says if such officials desires to contest for public elective office, he or she shall resign the post three years prior to the date of such public elections.
Having witnessed the passage of the Code of Conduct in 2014, Dr. Jones did not resign as CBL Governor until his tenure ended; leaving himself to fall into a ditch despite pressure that mounted here on Capitol Hill among lawmakers who felt uneasy by the way he handled the bank’s loan scheme across the country.
But the passage of the Code of Conduct forced Liberia’s then Foreign Minister Mr. Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan to resign in October 2015 to enable him play an active role in the 2017 political process.
However, the first legal test filed against the Code of Conduct by Bong County Superintendent Madam Selena Mappy- Polson failed flat at the Supreme Court, after the Highest Court found that the instrument was enacted by the Legislature in the “supreme interest of the Liberian people”.
In endorsing the instrument, the Supreme Court cited the protection of resources of the country from being abused by public officials and creation of a plain level political field for all contesting candidates.
“[The] Act is not in our opinion, repugnant to or in conflict with any provision of the Constitution to warrant its declaration as being unconstitutional as contended by the … petitioner”, the Supreme Court ruled Friday, March 3.
Sup. Mappy had claimed that the Code of Conduct, specifically Section5.2 was discriminatory, arbitrary and capricious and tantamount to amending the eligibility [of] provisions of the Liberian Constitution for public officials to qualify as candidates for public offices.
After confirming the instrument as being legal, the Supreme Court ordered that the Office of Ombudsman which is authorized in the Code of Conduct to receive and investigate all complaints regarding violation of the instrument shall be made operational.
But MOVEE National Vice Chairman for Press and Mobilization Mr. Robert Sammy says the Code of Conduct does not in any way deny his party standard bearer Dr. Jones from contesting the October elections.
Mr. Sammy has argued that Liberia’s laws are not retroactive, suggesting that Dr. Jones was already into his job when the Code of Conduct was passed. He claimed that the law can only take effect against Dr. Jones if it had existed before his appointment.
Mr. Sammy told this paper via mobile phone Saturday morning, March 4that the Supreme Court ruling was accepted, but warned that nobody within the electoral process should think that they would have free ride on grounds of the Code of Conduct.
By Winston W. Parley & E.J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Edited by Othello B. Garblah