Lead by the Force of Example, Not by the Threat of Force or Violence

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President George Weah has now forwarded a proposition to the national legislature to revisit the issue of tenured positions in government. The President’s action comes in the wake of challenges posed to his authority and power to dismiss appointed officials from tenured positions.

In its November 2, 2018 editorial, the Daily Observer cautioned President Weah to rethink his decision to scrap tenured positions in government. Additionally, this newspaper went at lengths to provide some insight into the matter by explaining the Pros and Cons of having tenured positions or appointing individuals to tenured positions in government.

Others have also entered the fray, offering differing perspectives on the issue. President Weah, rather than effecting summary dismissals, has taken the matter further by submitting his proposal to the Legislature for review. The plenary of that body has meanwhile forwarded the matter to its various committees for review.

This newspaper, while acknowledging that the President, under the authority of the Constitution, has the power to appoint and dismiss public officials, nevertheless it also acknowledges that the Constitution confers on the Legislature the power to create autonomous commissions as may be necessary to complement the smooth functioning of government. Such commissions are structured in ways that ensure they function without direct interference from the Executive.

For example, in Chapter X Article 89, the Constitution establishes the Civil Service, Elections and General Auditing Commissions.  Article 89 also says “the Legislature shall enact laws for the governance of these Commissions and create other agencies as may be necessary for the effective operation of Government.”  In view of this Constitutional provision, the President lacks the power or authority to scrap or abolish rules created by the Legislature for the governance of these institutions. Such rules may include provisions for tenure.

By extension it includes other agencies created by Legislative enactment such as the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission(LACC), the Public Procurement Concession Commission etc. While the President is clothed with the authority to appoint the heads of these Commissions, he does not have the power and authority to enact laws for their governance. Only the Legislature can enact such laws which the President, under the Constitution, lacks the power and authority to perform.

Thus, the President was quite in step when he referred the matter to the Legislature for review. But should the Legislature however, not defer to the President on this, there is little or nothing, Constitutionally speaking, that he can do to compel compliance with his request. Equally so and Constitutionally speaking, the Legislature cannot and does not have the power to delegate this responsibility to the Executive nor can it divest itself of the Constitutional responsibility to enact laws for the governance of these institutions.

Given the above, this newspaper holds the view that Article 56 (a) of the Constitution does not in any way contradict or conflict with Article 89 of the Constitution. Article 56 (a) reads: “All cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant cabinet ministers, ambassadors, ministers and consuls, superintendents of counties and other government officials, both military and civilian appointed by the President pursuant to this Constitution shall hold their offices at the pleasure of the President.” This newspaper cannot, in view of Articles 89 and 56 a, reconcile itself to bandied suggestions that such provisions can be interpreted to mean that the President can dismiss these officials simply because they serve at his will and pleasure. Those legislators who maintain this position are urged to read the Constitution, especially Article 89.

Aside from these Constitutional concerns this newspaper called on President Weah to make haste slowly in his attempt to scrap tenured positions in Government. And this newspaper did so in consideration of the immeasurable harm the “Imperial Presidency” has wrought on this nation, as it recalled that bitter memories of the legacy of dictatorial rule remain deeply etched in the national consciousness.

Moreover, in the face of rising public concerns about the rapidly declining state of the nation’s economy, it would do this government well to instead focus its attention on addressing concerns about the economy such as the rapidly depreciating value of the Liberian dollar against the US dollar, the missing billions and the infusion of 25m US dollars in the economy. These are all concerns flagged by the Legislature as those constituting the basis of their recall from recess by President Weah.

Additionally, such apparent preoccupation with the scrapping of tenure is proving to be nothing more than mere distraction from the real issues. Some legislators appear to be adding to the confusion obviously because they have not read the Constitution in totality, preferring instead to read Article 56 a in isolation of other relevant provisions especially Article 89.

Some legislators, preferring anonymity for unexplained reasons, have even opined that the President has the unrestricted power to preside and administer the Republic of Liberia without any hindrance as sovereign Head of State, Head of Government and Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. This newspaper simply cannot accept such blatantly false postulations because they are premised on a warped interpretation of the Constitution.

Additionally, this newspaper must again unfailingly declare that President Weah should tread lightly on this matter which has the potential to undermine public trust and confidence in his government. As observed earlier, there is so much pressing concerns piled on the President’s plate. He must be careful to not bite off more than he can chew.

He must take charge not as a rough, high riding swashbuckler but as a caretaker with a charge to lead by the force of example and not by the threat of force or violence. As much as this newspaper would like this government to succeed, yet it cannot remain oblivious to such troubling concerns laden with a potential to reverse all the gains of the past.

Authors

3 COMMENTS

  1. The key and general argument from you people that government should not abolish tenured positions within the government because the government has pressing economic concerns to deal with is as unreasonable as there been tenured positions within the Executive Branch.

    So you people are simply saying should tenured positions be kept within the Executive Branch in spite of the proved uselessness, and encouragement of corruption, by and through these tenured positions, in the interest of a secret elite, that would be the durable and lasting solution to “pressing economic concerns”.

    As a state, country, nation , or as a machinery of government, for God in Heaven sake, even the most advanced economies (EU, USA, JAPAN, CANADA, CHINA, ETC.ETC.) always have pressing economic concerns.

    So that argument about “concerns of the economy” is as vague and as useless as tenured positions which are doing more harm than good. For a nation, whatever it’s capability analysis, is bound to have concerns about its economy throughout its existence.

  2. Considering its vast responsibilities, government is the greatest multitasking human creation; so it would simultaneously scrap tenure positions and seek solutions to our economic challenges, next…

  3. I say Bravo to Dr. Weah for referring the issue of tenure to the Legislature. I remembered in one of the president’s speeches, when he clearly stated that he is an ardent reader of the constitution. So, this is one of those situations when he has shown signs that he will abide by the presidential oath in executing the laws of the Republic of Liberia most especially those that are enshrined within the constitution.

    However, it is disheartening to note that there are still many Liberians whose thinking is entrenched in the 19th century mentality; they are calling for the government to muzzle the press because according to them, it will change the citizens’ opinion against Weah’s government. I hope that they will not express any regrets, if they get what they are praying for.

    What they do not understand is that once citizens begin to relinquish an inch of their rights, it will eventually lead to a floodgate of blackmail and abuses from the government. It re-enforces the fact that the making of tyrants is not left to the devises of the tyrants alone.

    A search into the life sketches of notorious icons of history like Hitler of Germany, Lenin of the USSR, Mussolini of Italy, re-enforces this point. They all similarly had elaborately vicious networks of henchmen and propagandists who laid the groundwork for exploiting their vulnerable citizens. These tyrants would not have been successful had it not been for the planning and strategies of the security forces as well as the wholehearted support and orchestration galvanized from throngs of the very citizens of those respective countries.

    Tubman’s Liberian brand of democracy (so says one so say all) was notorious for handpicking a few True Whig party sycophants from the various counties, who would often converge on Monrovia in droves whether it was under the sweltering heat or torrential rains to stage marches and submit resolutions requesting Tubman to resume power as president of Liberia for another 4year term.

    This dysfunction within the Liberian socio-political life continued until it transformed Tubman into a very shrewd and consummated tin pot dictator. He became one of the savviest African leaders in history known for suppressing press freedom and academic freedom.

    His fear of the opposition made him to develop a spy organization (PRO’s) under the guise of a superannuated (government pension scheme) to spy on both ordinary citizens and LU students whom he may had suspected of harboring dissenting views of him and his administration.

    An extensive literature exists on Tubman’s tyranny and it goes far beyond the scope of this anecdotal short piece. It includes the humiliation of decent statesmen like the late Honorable Tuan Wreh, the late Albert Porte, the late Honorable Henry B. Fahnbulleh, Sr., the late Honorable Raymond Horace; and so forth.
    An expert on African politics once wrote, “Power is like smoking. The more you smoke, the more you become addicted to it.” An attestation to this saying is that Tubman led Liberia for 27 consecutive years, thus exploiting the gullibility and docility of the Liberian people!

    Suppression of press freedom is not new in Liberia; even the indefatigable and fearless Liberian journalist, Kenneth Y. Best, was incarcerated by the late Samuel K. Doe.

    Are Liberians beckoning for a tyrant? I hope not. Once blackmail, forever blackmail!
    Reply

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