–As S/Court Backs Code Of Conduct
It appears that the presidential ambition of Dr. J. Mills Jones, former Executive Governor of the Central of Liberia (CBL) and the dreams of several Executive appointees of becoming members of the 54th House of Representatives may just be over if the recent ruling of the Supreme Court of Liberia is something to consider.
Last Friday, the High Court quashed a petition filed by Bong County Superintendent Selena Polson-Mappy in which she prayed the Court to declare unconstitutional the Code of Conduct Act that bars Executive appointees from contesting elective posts, unless they resign two years before elections are held. In the case of other appointed officials who hold tenured positions and desire to contest for public elective offices, the Code of Conduct dictates in Section 5.2 (b) that such officials “shall resign said post three (3) years prior to the date of such public elections.”
In its ruling, three Justices of the High Court voted in favor of the decision, while the other two dissented in which it ruled that the Code of Conduct Act was enacted, in the wisdom of the National Legislature, the supreme interest of the Liberian people to protect the resources of the country from abuse by public officials and to create a plain level political field for all contesting candidates.
The Court also said “The Act is not, in our opinion repugnant to, or in conflict with any provision of the Constitution to warrant its declaration as being unconstitutional as contended by the appellee/petitioner.”
The Supreme Court further said the petition filed by the petitioner, praying it (Court) to declare the Code of Conduct Act unconstitutional for reasons that Section 5.2 of the Code of Conduct Act is discriminatory, arbitrary and capricious, tantamount to amending the eligibility provisions of the Liberian Constitution for public officials to qualify as candidates for public offices is not tenable in law.
The High Court said “that the enabling office of the Code of Conduct Act, the office of Ombudsman established under Section 12.1 and 12. 2 of the said Act, authorized to receive and investigate all complaints in respect to adherence to the Code of Conduct Act, is yet to be made operational. Accordingly, the office of Ombudsman being the forum of first instance for handling matters relating to violation of the Code of Conduct Act as intended by the National Legislature shall forthwith be made operational and appeals therefrom should lie to the Supreme Court.”
“Wherefore and in view of the foregoing, the petition seeking to declare the Code of Conduct Act, or any provision thereof unconstitutional, same being unmeritorious, both in fact and in law, is hereby denied and dismissed. The Code of Conduct Act is declared legal and binding in the Republic for all intents and purposes, and it is so ordered,” the Supreme Court ruled.
It can be recalled that Dr. Jones left the CBL February 2016, less than two years before the holding of the October 10, 2017 representatives and presidential elections.
It is not known whether the Code of Conduct Act will be retroactive or not considering that Dr. Jones was serving as CBL Governor when the law was passed.
Dr. Jones is not the only presidential aspirant that may be affected by the Supreme Court ruling, as Dr. Jallah A. Barbu, former Chair of the Law Reform Commission who declared his candidacy for the presidency in 2016 may be affected as well.
There is also the issue of Harrison Karnwea, the embattled head of the Forestry Development Authority who recently crossed over to the opposition Liberty Party.
He is highly tipped to become the vice presidential standard bearer for the LP political leader Charles Walker Brumskine.
Former Ambassador to the US Jeremiah Sulunteh is also among those expected to be affected by the ruling. It is also not clear whether the latest Supreme Court decision would affect Alex Cummings, standard bearer of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) who was appointed on the Board of the Booker Washington Institute (BWI).
The latest ruling by the Supreme Court also dashes the hope of several Executive appointees who have openly declared their intentions to vie either for representative seats.
The Code of Conduct applies to all officials covered under article 56 of the constitution including Ambassadors, Ministers, Consuls, Chief Justice, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Judges of the subordinate courts, Superintendents, other county officials of other political subdivisions; members of the military from the rank of lieutenant of its equivalent and above; and marshals, deputy marshals and sheriffs.
Section 5.2 (a) of the Code of Conduct dictates that any Minister, Deputy Minister, Director-General, Managing Director and Superintendent appointed by the President …. and a Managing Director appointed by a Board of Directors, who desires to contest for public elective office shall resign said post at least two years prior to the date of such public elections.