Code of Conduct: It Is Not Too Late to Change Course

3
869

The Code of Conduct debacle which has threatened to split the electoral process at the seams is not an issue that is impossible to fix. Political will is required, but not impossible.

This did not have to be complicated; unless, that is, that was the intent.

When a law such as the controversial Code of Conduct is enacted – aside from the lengthy consultations with stakeholders from every sector that it should involve – IT SHOULD NOT BE MADE RETROACTIVE.

What do we mean by that? We mean that it should not apply to government appointees that were ALREADY in office at the time the law was enacted. With hundreds more elections to come, there would have been ample opportunity to apply it.

But why the rush? What was the hurry, so much that without thoroughly weighing the impact of applying it immediately, it was enforced?

The rushed enforcement of the Code of Conduct, retroactively applicable to those already in appointed positions, makes it appear suspect. It appears to be a town trap that was set to catch a certain rat, but ended up catching possum, groundhog, deer, monkey and baboon!

Even the enforcement of said Code is apparently being done selectively. Government vehicles are still being used for campaign purposes, and ministers are still serving in party leadership positions. Who is really in charge of enforcing the Code of Conduct? The Ombudsman? The National Elections Commission? The President? Or the Supreme Court of Liberia?

We as a media institution that has seen countless elections turn ugly in the history of this nation, urge our national leadership not to play Russian Roulette with the peace and stability of this Republic.

We urge Liberians of every creed and ethnic background not to push for the Code of Conduct along the historical divisions of this country. If indeed we are happy with the Code of Conduct – it has already been enacted as law, let it not be applied retroactively.

The manipulation of historical divides, of the lawmaking process and of positions of power and influence is an extremely dangerous game to play at such a critical juncture in this nation’s history.

We urge the appropriate authorities to render the Code of Conduct, if it must be applied, applicable only to the post-2017 election cycle and going forward, if it must be enforced.

We would further urge that the Code be reviewed by an independent body for fairness and balance, so that it is not interpreted as targeting certain individuals.

Generally speaking, however, the radical changing of laws prior to an election is not considered best practice. Some have even cited an ECOWAS statute that prohibits the changing of laws six months ahead of an election. The bottom line here, of course, is that Liberia is a democracy. Constitutionally speaking, guidelines already exist for a Liberian’s eligibility to run for elected office; and our constitution does not prohibit past or present officials from running for office.

If anything, one’s performance and experience as a public servant should serve as a litmus test for his or her fitness for said elected position; and in the final analysis, the electorate (the very voting public) will be the judge of that.

It should also be pointed out that the Liberian Constitution does not permit the passing of extra-constitutional codes and laws that contradict the body and language of the supreme law of the land. The Code of Conduct seems to fly directly in the face of the Liberian Constitution, placing infringements upon the rights of constitutionally eligible Liberians to run for elected office. In our view, that renders the Code of Conduct, as it currently stands, unconstitutional.

A code of conduct should address issues such as the use of public funds and vehicles for campaign purposes; not the already granted constitutional right to run for office.

Where does that put the Supreme Court of Liberia? On the wrong side of history, and responsible for the consequences.

There is still time to change course; to do the right thing. Where to, Liberia?

3 COMMENTS

  1. According to Webmaster Admin, “The Code of Conduct seems to fly directly in the face of the Liberian constitution,placing infringements upon the rights of constitutionally eligible Liberians to run for elected office. In our view, that renders the CoC as it currently stands, unconstitutional.” Please listen to the wisdom of the Webmaster in the interest of fairness and peace. Liberians can take so much and nothing more.

  2. A previous Daily Observer editorial had suggested in a headline to the leader of a political party: “Brumskine, Why not Test the Supreme Court?” So a veteran corporate lawyer took that advice and tested the highest court of the land; and, eureka, a (hopefully temporal) Solomonic solution found errors in NEC’s rejection of his running mate. Now another Daily Observer editorial asserts that it isn’t too late to change course on the Code of Conduct. It makes one to wonder ….

    Anyway, in retrospect the CoC was religiously meant to be “retroactive” which makes the “town trap” analogy refreshing. For instance, we all remember how a usually cowed and quiet House of Representatives was roused from deep sleep to wave the relevant section of the CoC in frightening CBL governor Dr. Mill Jones, who was threatening their tenuous hold on the support of constituents they’ve neglected. Because, overnight, whether right or wrong, he did something rarely seen in Liberia: empathize with the downtrodden through loans meant to empower them engage in entrepreneurship at such a huge scale since the telling closure of the Agricultural Bank. Here was an individual with the insight to sense that a regime which uses a third of annual budget on compensating few officials in a sea of poverty was courting trouble.

    However, instead of our representatives saying wait a minute, Brother Mill, this isn’t your private funds, come and talk with us so that together we can craft better procedures for the loan scheme to impact more lives and correspondingly be repaid in order keep it solvent, they went on an orgy of frenzy by running him out of the bank.

    Supposedly, although the presidency was aware of the intention and gave blessings, it was also blindsided by the new – found popularity of the CBL governor. And the perception then and now is that keeping presidential appointees loyal happens to be the main goal of a law requiring resignation few years before seeking elective office. Put another way, the law was meant to be “retroactive”, hence let it be enforced to the letter. On the other hand, a bad law ought to be changed. And that should be the second task of any incoming administration after perks & salary stabilization to stop wasting a third of annual budget on few while many lack opportunities, and suffer immensely as a result.

  3. This is funny that a law should be scrapped because it affect some people….the law is meant for everyone and no one should be excluded because they do not like the law. This editorial by Webmaster Administration is not only flaw, but very disingenuous in its context and what the writer is trying to advocate.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here