The Supreme of Court of Liberia’s recent decision to uphold the legality and legitimacy of the Code of Conduct enacted by the Legislature in 2014 has no bearing on the candidacy of presidential hopeful, Dr. Joseph Mills Jones, the Citizens Solidarity Council (CSC) has said.
The CSC, which is backing the former Central Bank Executive Governor’s quest for the presidency, said “The ruling of the Supreme Court has nothing to do with Dr. Jones’ candidacy for President of Liberia. He was not a party to the suit and in our opinion has no reason to challenge the Code.”
The group, through its chairman, James Brooks, however said Dr. Jones will remain a formidable candidate in the forthcoming Presidential and Legislative elections.
A fortnight ago, a legal argument and voting process ensued at the Supreme Court among five justices, with three favoring the 2014 National Code of Conduct, with the remaining two going against it.
Justices Philip Banks and Jamesetta Wolokollie were those who opposed their colleagues’ decision to accept the Code of Conduct, while Chief Justice Francis Korkpor along with Associate Justices Kabineh Ja’neh and Sie-A- Nyene Youh favored the Act.
According to the CSC, Dr. Jones brings a lot to the presidency if elected, saying that as a result, Liberians cannot be denied such a brilliant chance.
However, the area of contention with the Code of Conduct is Section 5.1, which requires that “All officials appointed by the President of the Republic of Liberia shall not: (a) Engage in political activities, canvass or contest for elected offices; (b) Use government facilities, equipment or resources in support of parties or political activities; and (c) Serve on a campaign team of any political party, or the campaigns of any independent candidate.
Section 5.2 says, “Wherein any person in the category stated in section 5.1 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 Director, who desires to contest for public elective office shall resign said post at least two (2) years prior to the date of such public election.
“(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 (3) years prior to the date of such public election.
The contention over the Code of Conduct started on August 5, 2014, when CSC filed at the Civil Law Court a “Declaratory Judgment” seeking a declaration from the court on the unconstitutionality of sections 5.1 and 5.2 of the Code.
They argued that the clauses did not only contravene the Constitution, but also infringed on certain fundamental rights of citizens, especially those seeking elective political office.
“Nowhere in the law did it say that citizens making up their own mind cannot ask a former official to run in an election. Therefore, whether or not the Code of Conduct is constitutional or unconstitutional has no bearing on Dr. Jones’ decision to be persuaded by the people who petitioned him to continue to proclaim his candidacy to be President of Liberia,” Brooks said.
“He (Dr. Jones) is a man with a record of performance. This is the verdict of the Liberian people; the ordinary, poor people who his policies have affected directly. We know the schemers who want to feed the public with false information,” he said, describing them as enemies of progress.
“No one should be fooled sixteen years into the 21st Century that they can trample on the rights of the Liberian people,” he stated.
He indicated that perhaps, many people don’t fully comprehend the key provisions of the Code of Conduct. “People think, perhaps, that it is only about government officials resigning to participate in elections. There are many provisions that are not being enforced,” he said, making reference to the part that deals with nepotism.
The Code defines Nepotism in count 1.3.16 as “when a public official appoints, employs, promotes, or recommends for advancement family members in any agency of Government or branch of Government in which he/she works.”
Brooks said by this definition, the sons of the President within the government should have left their positions. “Are they still in their positions because the law does not apply ex post? If that is the case, doesn’t the ex post situation cover the application of the code in all other instances?” he asked.
He added that laws are passed to single out individuals. “We say that such individuals must be mindful of the law of unintended consequences. In Liberia, we say, ‘you pull rope, rope pull bush and the entire forest could be cleared.’”
Brooks said the Code of Conduct did not say, as it is being reported by some media, that officials of government should resign at a particular time to participate 2 or 3 years before an election. “The specific wordings of the Code in part states that any public official who desires to canvass or contest for an elective public office should resign within 2 or three years. The word “desire” means to want, to wish for, to long for or hope for or to express a wish for.
“Those who want to challenge Dr. Jones’ participation in the upcoming elections should go to the Supreme Court; and given the Court’s definition of “standing”, those who object will have to show individually or severally how the participation of a citizen who meets all the criteria required of other citizens would injure those who are bringing the suit,” Brooks said.
He said there should be no doubt as to the validity of the candidacy of Dr. Jones for President of Liberia in 2017. “This disinformation campaign is yet another reason by the unscrupulous politicians who love themselves more than they love Liberia,” Brooks concluded.