Many Liberians in the government with the desire to run for office in the 2017 elections are anxiously waiting to see the Supreme Court of Liberia’s decision on the Code of Conduct that many think infringes on the rights of Liberians to decide their political life.
The Supreme Court of Liberia has just begun its October term of court and interviews conducted with many Liberians, including lawyers hold the opinion that it will make decision that set the standard for future events in the country.
“Since Liberia’s return to constitutional democracy, the Court has been faced with a number of very challenging cases,” some of which, involved constitutional challenges to the democratic sphere that has actually determined the direction and guarded the course of the nation,” said a Liberian lawyer who begged not to be identified.
The lawyer who is in his late 30s, added, “As the Court opens for the October term, perhaps more than ever because the 2017 Presidential and Nationals Elections are drawing nearer, the public’s attention is again focused on the Court. This time the challenge to the recently enacted Code of Conduct for All Public Officials and Employees is from a group calling itself Citizens Solidarity Council.”
He recalled that, “Like the 2011 Presidential and National Elections, the current challenge to the Code of Conduct could have the effect of the Supreme Court deciding which candidates would be eligible to contest in the 2017 Elections.
“I remember when the 2011 elections approached, a group of persons and one or two political parties decided to challenge almost all of the other political parties and their announced presidential candidates who had been recognized by the National Elections Commission as eligible to contest the presidency and other open positions.”
He told the Daily Observer that in that decided case the aggrieved challenged the right of other candidates to contest the Presidential and general Elections on the grounds that they had not resided in the country for more than ten consecutive years.
“The challengers completely ignored the fact that the country had just recently emerged out of a civil war that dislocated more than half of the country’s population and many people were apprehensive that if the challengers had succeeded it could place the nation’s new found democracy in serious danger.”
He noted that the Supreme Court recognized that the records of the Liberian Constitution did show that the Liberian people had in fact decided that no person who had not lived in the country for at least ten consecutive years prior to the date of the elections would be eligible to contest the presidency and other elected positions.
“But the Court held that the drafters of the Constitution never anticipated that the country would experience a war that would cause the displacement of more than half of its citizenry, hundreds of thousands of them, including almost all of the presidential candidates, to seek refuge for their life and safety in many other parts of the world. “
“Looking back, one could easily make the case that it was the decision of the Court that enabled persons such as President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Senator George Weah, Cllr. Charles Brumskine, Cllr. Winston Tubman and many others to contest the 2011 Elections.”
Another Liberian contributing to the discussion who identified himself as Joe Tweh of central Monrovia, said, “Liberians applauded the decision and the bravery of the Supreme Court in recognizing that no Liberian could or should be deprived of rights granted by the Constitution for circumstances that they had no control over.
“We do not believe that Liberians would have expected their brothers and sisters to sacrifice their lives or made the choice between dying (or being killed) and saving themselves by seeking safety or safe havens in other lands merely because some time in the future they may desire to seek or hold elective political office, a right guaranteed them by the Liberian Constitution.”
He added, “I believe that this was the thinking of the Supreme Court when it said that the war years could not be counted as part of the ten consecutive years stated in the Constitution.”
Many other Liberians interviewed particularly made reference to the Code of Conduct, which they claimed could deny well-meaning Liberians a chance to serve their country.
“Whatever the motive behind the Code of Conduct Act,” said a business man, who spoke to the Daily Observer at a Hataye Center on Benson Street in Monrovia, “it seeks to de-recognize and deny other citizens the very right they fought for in 2011 to preserve the democratic recognition of the right of every citizen to have access to that democratic elective arena.”
The young lawyer who was quoted earlier said, “The decision the Supreme Court makes (on the Code of Conduct) could have the same effect, as it did in 2011, in deciding who could be the next President of Liberia.
“Following the resignation of Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan, speculation was widespread that he resigned based on the mandates of the Code of Conduct and not wanting to see his political ambitions for the presidency jeopardized.”
He explained that the unfairness in the Code of Conduct to deny potential Liberians a chance to exercise their constitutional rights compelled the Citizens Solidarity Council to challenge the Act that is before the Supreme Court.
“We have sufficient faith in the wisdom of our Supreme Court and we are convinced the Supreme Court will render a decision that could preserve the open democratic sphere and keep the competitive democratic flame alight,” he stated.
He also said he does not expect a decision that could narrow the democratic competition anticipated by the framers of the Constitution and by the people in adopting the Constitution, to become, in his opinion, meaningless.