Although President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has rescinded the appointment of Massa Jallabah from the Office of three-man Ombudsman, the likes of Chris Massaquoi to chair that office, and Edward Dillon as a member has claimed the attention of the Election Coordinating Committee (ECC), a reputable non-partisan professional civil society organization in the country.
Oscar Bloh, ECC’s Coordinator, told reporters yesterday at a news conference in Monrovia that the ECC is deeply concerned about the President’s appointment of “certain individuals” to enforce the implementation of the Code of Conduct in line with the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Office of the Ombudsman, he noted, is an independent autonomous body in keeping with Section 12.1 of the Code of Conduct, therefore the selection of individuals to serve in such an office should meet the consensus of every stakeholder.
“So to appoint Cllr. Christian C. Massaquoi,” whom Bloh describes as a “confidante of the President” to be chair of the Office of the Ombudsman “raises more questions than answers,” the ECC Coordinator said.
“Mr. Massaquoi (now a lawyer) held several top security positions in the current government and is considered to be a confidante of the President, while Attorney Edward Edward Dillon has close ties with the opposition Liberty Party (LP). Though the party has dissociated itself from Mr. Edward Dillon’s appointment, he is a biological brother to Darius Edward Dillon, LP vice chairperson, and has previously worked in the law offices of Brumskine and Associates/Pierre, Tweh and Associates Law Firm.
“The LP is on record for saying that it has in no way violated Section 5.2 of the Code of Conduct by the selection of Harrison Karnwea as it vice standard bearer, but Atty. Edward Dillon’s presence in the Code of Conduct Ombudsman ‘s office poses a risk factor that could create conflict of interest,” Bloh added.
It is the view of the ECC, that the closeness of the two individuals to the ruling establishment and an opposition party undermines the “spirit and intent of the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman and therefore the ECC says they are not the most suitable Liberians to occupy the positions.”
The ECC therefore called on the President to withdraw or recall Massaquoi and Edward Dillon, and undertake a wider consultative process with diverse stakeholders in nominating individuals to fill the Office of the Ombudsman.
“In the event where this call is not considered, we urge the Senate not to confirm Mr. Massaquoi and Atty. Edward Dillon because they both are not qualified for the posts,” the ECC said.
According to Mr. Bloh, “Given the sensitive nature of the implementation of Sections 5.1 and 5.2 of the Code of Conduct and their implications for the peace and security of the country during this electoral process, we call on the President to withdraw or recall the names of the two individuals and undertake a wider consultative process with diverse stakeholders in nominating individuals to fill the office.”
In the event that the President does not consider the ECC’s call, Mr. Bloh urged the Senate not to confirm the two men.
According to him, although the Code of Conduct falls short of stating the qualifications, competencies, experience and tenure of individuals to run the office of the Ombudsman and how they can be removed, this does not in any way suggest that the President can appoint any character to the office.
“The President has used her executive power, and rightly so, to address this gap by issuing Executive Order #83,” Mr. Bloh said.
However, he said Section 4 of the Executive Order gives additional power to the Office of the Ombudsman that is not prescribed in the Code of Conduct (Section 12.2) formulated in keeping with Article 90 (C) of the Liberian Constitution. Article 90 (C) talks about the power of the Legislature to prescribe Code of Conduct against conflict of interest.
“The additional power includes the ability to investigate on its own initiative violations of the Code of Conduct,” Bloh declared.
Code of Conduct:
The ECC says it respects the opinion of the Supreme Court regarding the legality of the Code of Conduct, noting, “Given this country’s history of political and socio-economic exclusion and in the spirit of consolidating our democracy and increasing citizens’ participation as well as strengthening the constitutional provision of all persons being equal before the law, we call on the Legislature to amend Section 5.2 of the Code of Conduct. While this process would take some time, the ECC is calling for a national conference to look at the modality in the implementation of the Code of Conduct particularly around Section 5.2, which states, “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 years prior to the date of such public elections; b) Any other official appointed by the President who holds a tenured position and desires to contest for public elective office shall resign said post three years prior to the date of such public elections.”
A code of conduct is a set of rules outlining the social norms and rules and responsibilities of, or proper practices for, an individual, party or organization
The ECC is the largest civil society platform that observes all aspect of elections in Liberia. The elections work of the ECC is conducted in partnership with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) with funding from USAID. It is a non-partisan professional network of civil society organizations that monitors documents and reports on election issues to promote transparency and accountability in the democratic process.
Yesterday’s press conference was attended by many of ECC’s partners, among them the executive director of NAYMOTE, Eddie Jarwolo, Barbara Smith, The Carter Center Electoral Expert, and Jeremy Meadows, USAID Director for Democracy and Governance Office.