But NPA Managing Director remains in the confines of the law
The reported violation of the National Code of Conduct (COC) as a result of the recent appointment of several top presidential appointees by the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) is causing an apparent row within the government with mixed reactions from officials.
Since the pronouncement by CDC Chairman, Mulbah Morlu, of a 500-man campaign team headed by the Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Wilson Tarpeh, the public has been outraged over what they call the blatant violation of the COC, with many calling on President George Weah to not allow his officials to take up those positions.
But in an apparent reaction to Liberians who are criticizing the CDC’s decision, Minister of States for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel McGill has said that those who feel offended by the party’s decision should rather go to Court.
Speaking at a press conference in Monrovia on Tuesday, Minister McGill said that the COC has been violated in the past, especially during the regime of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and wonders why Liberians are now pointing accusing fingers at the CDC.
“Let me tell you something about the COC that you are talking about. When the COC was crafted, we challenged people on the basis of our thinking that the code was being violated as some people who were contesting in the 2017 elections had not resigned two years prior to the elections as indicated by the COC. But the Supreme Court told us that we were wrong,” Minister McGill said.
Another issue raised by the President’s Chief of Staff is the absence of an ombudsman who is tasked by the COC to enforce the law. “The next thing we should know is that there is no ombudsman to enforce the Code,” he said.
The minister now wonders from whence now do Liberians come to question the decision of the CDC.
“So, where were the Liberian people when the High Court dismissed our case? People even resigned the same day and contested the elections the same day when the law says they should resign two years before the elections—it is in the COC. Who said these things were not correct? Wasn’t it the Supreme Court that made the interpretation?” he asked rhetorically, adding, “So if you think anyone is violating the COC, they should go to court.”
Minister McGill mentioned former Information Minister, Lenn Eugene Nagbe, as a case in point for previous violations of the COC.
“My friend, Eugene Nagbe, was Minister of Information and at the same time serving as Secretary-General of the Unity Party at that time. Did he resign? But that’s our time now you want to say we are violating because you can talk,” he said.
Prior to Minister McGill’s press conference, the Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), Bill Twehway, said in an interview early Tuesday morning that the President was about to ask all presidential appointees to relinquish their party-appointed positions in accordance with the code of conduct.
Mr. Twehway insinuated that President Weah will call on those wanting to retain their posts in the government to resign from the CDC campaign team for the pending December 8, senatorial elections.
The NPA boss assured that as an appointed official, he will not violate the law, noting that he has already tendered his letter of resignation to Chairman Morlu.
But the statement from Twehway, who himself was appointed by Chairman Morlu, was rebuffed by Minister McGill who insists that the President will only act if the ruling party is challenged in court and proven wrong. “If you go to court and challenge the party’s decision and prove it, then the President will take action—everything President, President, President,” said.
But the NPA MD has since tendered in his resignation from the party’s campaign team in respect to the COC.
“I have tendered in my letter of resignation and it is in the office of the party chairman,” he said.
Twehway said his appointment is a violation of the Code of Conduct and, as a law-abiding citizen, he cannot perform a task that is in violation of national law.
The ruling Congress for Democratic Change has set up its campaign team with an approach of re-enforcing its political strength from the grass root, especially in Montserrado County where 500 campaign managers would work along with the national campaign committee ahead of the December senatorial elections.
The CDC Chairman named Prof. Wilson, Mr. Twehway as County Coordinators, along with Liberia’s Accountant and Comptroller General (CAG), Janga Kowo, as Head of Campaign Secretariat, while Education Minister Prof. D. Ansu Sonii was named Chairman for Region-1. Professor Tarpeh is still in the public eyes for the way he has been handling the stimulus package that the government intended to give households whose livelihoods were severely constrained due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Also, as a university Professor believed to be very popular in the student community, Professor Tarpeh had contested two elections in Montserrado for the senatorial seat but lost all.
However, the Elections Coordinating Committee (ECC) said it is disappointed in the ruling CDC over the appointment of top officials to its campaign team — terming the move as a gross violation of section five of the Code of Conduct.
Section 5.1 of the Code of Conduct states that: All officials appointed by the President should not engage in political activities, canvass, or contest for elected offices and serve on a campaign team of any political party.
ECC Chairman, Atty. Oscar Bloh, noted that CDC’s action is in breach of the COC—a move that greatly undermines the integrity of the country’s democracy — adding that democratic governance is meaningless when the laws governing the conduct of elections are disrespected, ignored, and violated.
“The conduct of election does not guarantee democracy, as the foundation of democracy is grounded in respect for the rule of law — noting further that when this happens, democracy grows, deepens, and consolidates,” the ECC boss said.
Atty. Bloh added that the ECC is not ignorant of marring ongoing elections in the region, especially in neighboring Guinea and Ivory Coast, and calls on the political parties to demonstrate restraint, diligence and due care to avoid any form of electoral violence.
He said the peace in the region is already fragile due to the ongoing political processes and President Weah must do all he can to reduce the high risk of fragility.