National Code of Conduct is the law of the land that cannot be ignored and separated from other laws to please Liberian politicians
By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh
A national Code of Conduct signed by President Sirleaf in 2014 and passed by the national legislature forbids “all officials appointed by the President of the Republic of Liberia” to not “engage in political activities, canvass or contest for elected offices, use Government facilities, equipment or resources in support of partisan or political activities or serve on a campaign team of any political party or the campaign of an independent candidate” for two years, finally reached the Liberian Supreme Court in 2017.
Article 56 (a) of the same code states: “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 elections.
Since the law was passed by the legislature in 2014, there has never been any sign of compliance coming from the Sirleaf administration, that would ensure that the law is enforced.
However, three years after the law was passed and almost seven months to the 2017 presidential elections, the Sirleaf administration did the unthinkable by letting the genie out of the bottle.
In a 3-2 Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Code of Conduct that got all of Monrovia talking, the justices noted that “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 petitioner.”
Bong County Superintendent Selena Polson-Mappy who filed the petition to the Supreme Court against the Code of Conduct, and is reportedly contemplating a run for the House of Representatives in Bong County, predictably sees the ruling as ‘unconstitutional.’
Since the law was passed by the legislature in 2014, there has never been any sign of compliance coming from the Sirleaf administration that ensures that the law, which supposed to discourage corruption is enforced.
Making matter even worse and unfair to some is the fact that the law was ignored as current and former officials who served in the president’s administration (and others) ran for office, even as the law hovers over the nation for years without any sign of enforcement.
However, three years after the law was passed and almost seven months to the 2017 presidential elections, the Sirleaf administration whom some believe is quietly behind this case, did the unthinkable by letting the genie out of the bottle to stir outrage and confusion during the upcoming electoral process.
If that is not the case, what is the purpose of a Code of Conduct that has never been enforced but made its way to the Supreme Court for a ruling that could change the scope of the upcoming presidential elections?
The Code of Conduct and the law behind it as interpreted by the justices is settled law of the land that is as clear as drinking water ready for consumption.
The presidential candidates and those running for office should have known that there are laws in the country that must be enforced, and the Code of Conduct is also a law of the land that cannot be ignored and separated from other laws to please Liberian politicians.
As a longtime critic of the Supreme Court of Liberia and the judiciary for their lack of neutrality and independence in most cases, and a proponent of building, respecting and upholding institutions in Liberia, the Supreme Court in this case met the threshold of judicial clarity when it interpreted the law as it did without any fear.
What is troubling, however, is the timing and the politics behind the court’s decision seven months to the national elections, which could lead some to point fingers at the ever-present and lurking imperial president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whose fingerprints (believe it or not) are rumored to be on every decision made in the country.