The Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) says President George Weah and his Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)-led government’s failure to provide adequate funding for the holding of the recently suspended senatorial by-elections in Montserrado and Bong counties violates the Liberian Constitution and undermines the country’s fledgling democracy.
An ALJA press release issued on May 14 by secretary general Charles Crawford and approved by its president Moses D. Sandy, said it is deeply troubled by the inaction of President Weah and the Liberian government in raising the money required for conducting the elections. The Association notes that the government’s action sets a bad precedent in the political governance of the country and further erodes the rule of law.
ALJA maintained that the blatant refusal of the Weah administration to support the NEC (National Election Commission) despite the numerous behind-the-scenes discussions held with members of the Commission, and the legislative and executive branches of the Liberian government led by Finance Minister Samuel Tweah, with the sole purpose of galvanizing the needed funds for the holding of the election in keeping with Article 37 of the Liberian constitution, does not augur well in upholding the rule of law in Liberia.
Article 37 of the Liberian constitution calls for the holding of by-election 90 days after a vacancy is announced in the legislature.
The United States-based Liberian journalists group said it finds it incomprehensible to see President Weah and his CDC officials literally shuttling from one community to another in Liberia making millions of US dollars commitments to redundant and unplanned projects while leaving critical matters such as the senatorial by-elections, which have constitutional implications, unattended under the guise of the “no money” syndrome.
ALJA noted that the suspended senatorial elections are imperative, and President Weah and the ruling CDC must exert every effort in ensuring the elections are held as required by the electoral laws of Liberia. “Any action other than the successful execution of the senatorial by-elections would create an unnecessary constitutional crisis for the country,” ALJA observed. The Association emphasized that it is contradictory for Mr. Weah and his CDC followers to masquerade in Liberia as champions and advocates of social justice, honesty, and accountability in the public sector while at the same time patently refusing to respect and adhere to the laws of the country.
The association has meanwhile reminded the Liberian Chief Executive and officials of the CDC administration to do the most honorable thing by declaring their assets in accordance with Section 4 of the approved National Code of Conduct. Section 4 of the Code of Conduct requires all public officials, who are entering or re-entering public office and have no record of declaring or re-declaring their income, assets, and liabilities to do so prior to taking office.
Article 90 (C) of the Liberian Constitution of 1986 authorized the Liberia National Legislature to prescribe a Code of Conduct for all public officials and employees. The Code of Conduct prescribes, among others, acts which constitute a conflict of interest or are against public policy and punishment for violation thereof.
ALJA said in keeping with the March 3, 2017, Supreme Court ruling, the National Code of Conduct is constitutional; and President Weah and officials of the Liberian government must honor and abide by the asset declaration requirement. ALJA said as a manifestation of good leadership, the president must take the lead in respecting the National Code of Conduct by declaring his assets with the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) as required by law. The Association noted that asset declaration is critical for curtailing theft and other corrupt practices in the public sector.
It may be recalled that the NEC on May 9, 2018, postponed the by-elections due to what the Commission called the lack of monetary support from the ruling CDC government. According to the NEC, it received from the Weah administration US $500,000 out of the approved US$2.7 million required for the successful hosting of the by-elections in the two counties.