The effectiveness of any law needs the collective involvement of all citizens or residents to meet that objective. This is why our constitution sets provisions to include freedom of speech, which gives every citizen the right to voice out his/her view on any issue, bearing also in mind that he/she is responsible for the abuse thereof.
Every civilized and democratic society wherein laws are respected and withheld has citizens that know their law and are adaptable to respecting it. For instance, in the United States, the laws are there and the institutions are built, but citizens being conscious of their own peace and better livelihood respect the laws and abide by them. While we cannot rule out deviants in that society, the majority of citizens there adhere to their law beginning from the least to the highest. Since it is instituted that no one urinate in the street or make the environment filthy with trash and other kinds of wastes, this law is withheld by all citizens and residents, and visitors there follow suit. Law has its origin from culture and tradition, and because it is U.S. citizens’ tradition and culture, any public or private official caught in unwholesome practice does not have to be told to quit his or her position, but will immediately resign. Moreover, the person will go further to clear off stigma that may come by going through court proceeding if he or she has a case.
Even right in Ghana, in our West African neighborhood, people strictly go by queue rule when they converge to conduct any public activity, and because citizens endorse and respect the policy, they all cooperate and endure whatever the constraints are. No one bypasses or bribe to be the first, but first come first serve. In the east African state of Rwanda, the Paul Kagame Administration instituted that no Rwandan calls anyone of his compatriots Hutus or Tutsi, and citizens adhere to this law by calling one another Rwandans, always recalling the dark days of tribal divide that brought anarchy in that country.
Why do we cite these instances to lay premise? It is because in a democratic country where the people’s rights are respected, there is a need to exercise these rights in defense and protection of the law above personal interest. The rationale is that protecting and defending the law, and allowing it to take its course will provide the environment for everyone to feel safe and secure.
In contradiction to these democratic principles, many Liberians feel that they should know and understand the law only to protect them even if they go against it. Research has shown that many Liberian students enrolling at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia are studying law to learn the loopholes that could give them an advantage against the interest of the state.
Despite this evil and egocentric mindset that some have in our society, there are still others, who for the sake of the country and the public good, are conscious of defending the Constitution and upholding the law. One of such persons is Miatta Fahnbulleh, among others, who on Thursday, May 3 peacefully protested at the headquarters of the National Elections Commission (NEC), calling for respect of the law in the uncertain citizen status of NEC Chairman, Jerome Korkoya. The issue of Chairman Korkoya allegedly holding a U.S. passport and being a citizen of that country has been debated in the public about a month now. However, Korkoya has not been definite to clarify his status in the U.S. but only maintained that “I am a Liberian.” He has gone further to challenge concerned people to take him to court if they have any claim against him about his citizenship, reminding that the burden of proof lies with the accuser.
As Ms Fahnbulleh has begun the campaign for respect of our organic law, it is our hope that other Liberians will support the rule and protection of our law above personal interest. Now that Chairman Korkoya has thrown out the challenge, it is time that Liberians with interest in this legal issue be realistic to take him to the court to establish whether he lied under oath or it is an unsubstantiated accusation that he is a US citizen. The civil duty to protect our law and withhold its rule is binding on all of us. We laud Ms. Fahnbulleh and others for the bold step taken to advocate for respect of the law.