‘Delay Is Dangerous’

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“What is dangerous is not whether the Supreme Court upholds or rejects those contentious provisions of the Code of Conduct. What is really dangerous is if the Supreme Court delays this ruling until the late stages of the 2017 electoral process or refuses to rule at all,” Former Foreign Minister Augustine
Kpehe Ngafuan has said, urging the Supreme Court (SC) to hand down final ruling in the National Code of Conduct case before that Bench.

“This case was heard a few months back but no ruling has been handed down as yet. The entire country and, no doubt, even some presidential and legislative aspirants want clarity in order to determine who is qualified to run,” he said.

It can be recalled that Bong County Superintendent Saleena Mappy sought redress before the Supreme Court few months ago, but the Court is yet to rule in the matter.

Speaking further, Mr. Ngafuan urged the high court to “expeditiously, conclusively, and unambiguously rule” in the case brought by Superintendent Mappy against some provisions of the Code of Conduct.

“Assuming that the Supreme Court decides to uphold the Code,” he added, “those to be disqualified would need to know sooner than later in order to stop expending their time and resources towards the achievement of a futile goal. If such a ruling comes late, it would be too painful and too costly for those who may be affected; and one cannot precisely determine how they and their frustrated supporters could react. On the flipside, even those who want those contentious provisions of the Code to be upheld may easily accept and adjust to a ruling from the Supreme Court that quashes those provisions if such ruling were issued sooner than later. In short, taking it from either side, delay is dangerous,” he warned.

Though he himself has not sought redress at the Supreme Court in the same matter, the former Foreign Minister resigned his post in October 2015, in obedience to the existing Code of Conduct, having decided to contest for the presidency.

“I have said it before, I had to resign because I am a respecter of law, no matter if I had a disagreement with the law,” he said in October 2015.

The law, which the nation’s former chief diplomat referred to is the National Code of Conduct for All Public Officials and Employees.

He emphasized that he specifically disagrees with Part V (Five) of the Code, which is on Political Participation.

Part 5 of the Code of Conduct states: 5.1 – All officials appointed by the President of the Republic of Liberia shall not a) engage in political activities, canvass or contest for elected office; b) serve on a campaign team of any political party, or the campaign of any independent candidate.

5.2 – 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 public elective office shall resign said post at least two (2) years prior to the date of such public elections.

According to the former minister, he totally disagrees with this provision, which he said “disenfranchises Liberians from exercising their political franchise,” adding, however, that “the law is the law.”

Ngafuan spoke Saturday, October 22, in Gbarnga, Bong County, where he had gone to formally launch his fan club—Friends of Augustine Ngafuan. He used the occasion to call upon all stakeholders in this political process to commit to doing nothing, wittingly or unwittingly, that could undermine the fairness of the upcoming elections and the peace of the country.

“My fellow compatriots, we are barely a year to the historic 2017 elections, which is so critical to the consolidation of the nascent Liberian democracy. The holding of free, fair and transparent elections must be the collective commitment of all Liberians – whether in government or out of government, whether in Liberia or out of Liberia. The freeness and fairness of an election is not only determined by what happens on elections day alone. What happens before and after Election Day are also critically important. So anything that casts a pall of darkness or uncertainty over the holding of free, fair, transparent, and peaceful elections needs to be quickly identified and dealt with.”

One danger Mr. Ngafuan, who has announced his ambition to vie for the presidency on the

Victory for Change Party in 2017, sees “dangling over our heads like a sword of Damocles” is the uncertainty over whether the provisions of the Code of Conduct for Public Officials that relate to participation in the 2017 elections by political appointees will hold or not.

“Already, aggrieved parties protesting provisions of the Code of Conduct have gone to the Supreme Court seeking the quashing of some provisions, which they consider discriminatory and injurious to their fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. Let me say for the record that I decided to resign from my post as Minister of Foreign Affairs in compliance with the Code of Conduct despite my disagreement with certain provisions of the Code, not only because I did not want to undermine the rule of law but because I did not want my political future to be dogged by the lingering and potentially debilitating uncertainty of whether or not I was qualified to seek political office. I am not opposed to anyone who has gone to court to protest some provisions of the Code, neither am I against some of our compatriots who have vehemently defended the Code. What I am against is the protracted delay in clarifying this matter. We need to bring predictability to the political field.”

He used the occasion to commend the Chief Justice and members of the Supreme Court Bench for the recent decision not to go on recess in 2017 in order to have ample time to hear and expeditiously decide on cases that may emanate from the political field before and after the October 2017 elections.

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