Hearing its first Code of Conduct case Tuesday in Monrovia, Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia restated the constitutionality of the law, frowned on its violators and referenced the two-year resignation clause stipulated within the law as vital point of adherence.
The jurists told lawyers representing a junior government minister that his complaint against the National Election Commission (NEC) for rejecting his nomination for a legislative seat is the worst case scenario currently before the high court for adjudication.
Chief Justice Korkpor leading the full bench said “He who disrespect the law cannot get justice and protection from the Court which has the statutory responsibility to uphold the law.”
Justice Korkpor told Assistant Post and Telecommunication Minister Abu Kamara via his legal team: “Your complaint is the worst case scenario because you fragrantly violated the Code of Conduct by still serving as government officials and wanting to contest the 2017 presidential and general elections.
“You are still violating the law even as we speak. You have not even resigned as this High Court hears your case. It seems to us that you are in fragrant violation of the law.
“I assumed that your client must be aware of the Supreme Court saying that the Code of Conduct is constitutional. So, you expect NEC to allow your client contest these elections in total violation of the COC which says that government officials wanting to contest must resigned two years prior to elections. Cllr. Johnson, you are the one advising your client to disrespect the Code of Conduct and the Supreme Court.”
“Cllr. Johnson it is the fact that you and your client have been disrespecting the law. The law is: resign; whether you agree or not and you come today [saying] please protect me, NEC has wrong me. Who are you coming to? When you have disrespected the law,” The Chief Justice stated.
The Chief Justice said some government officials resigned two years before the Code of Conduct came into law. “We look at the public records and we know that Augustine Ngafuan, than Minister of Foreign Affairs did that.”
Associate Justice Philip A. Z. Banks for his part said the junior minister up to this point is still in office pretending as if to say the Supreme Court does not cover him under the Code of Conduct.
Justice Banks said even though he had dissenting opinion with respect to the High Court’s March, 2017 ruling, which upheld the constitutionality of the Code of Conduct for government emeployess and public officials, the majority opinion is the law of the land. “I myself I have the obligation to comply with the law. I cannot tell anyone out there to disobey the decision of the Supreme Court. it is the law.
Cllr. Arthur Johnson during the hearing had only basis argument that his client (Kamara) was not accorded due process; a hearing was never held at the point of registration, followed by review of the matter at the Elections Commission, based on petitioner’s initial appeal.
Lawyers representing the National Election Commission called for the dismissal of Mr. Kamara’s complaint and confirmed the Commission decision to reject the the minister. “As to the entire petition, respondent National Election Commission (NEC) says same is a fit and proper subject for dismissal because petitioner has proceeded by the wrong form of action.”
According to one of NEC lawyers Cllr. Frank Musa Dean, after the rejection of Mr. Kamara on July 1, 2017 in accordance with its guidelines, the junior minister should have excepted to the commission’s ruling, filed a bill of exceptions and perfected his appeal to the high court but he failed to do same.
Cllr. Dean said Minister Kamara was accorded due process; a hearing was held at the point of registration, followed by review of the matter at the Elections Commission, based on petitioner’s initial appeal.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has announced that it will give its final judgment of the case upon notice.
The vice presidential aspirants of the opposition Liberty Party and the Alternative National Congress, Mr. Harrison Karnwea and Jeremiah Solunteh candidate nomination applications for vice president have been rejected on the basis of the law as earlier reported by this paper.
Upholding the constitutionality of the law in its March opinion, the Supreme Court ruled: the Code of Conduct Act was enacted, in the wisdom of our National Legislature, in 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 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.
Part (V) of the Acts that reads “5.1 All Officials appointed by the President of the Republic of Liberia shall not:
a) engage in political activities, canvass or contest for elected offices;
b) use Government facilities, equipment or resources in support of partisan or political activities;
c) serve on a campaign team of any political party, or the campaign of any independent candidate.
5.2 Wherein, any person in the category stated in section 5.1 herein above, desires to canvass or contest for an elective public position, the following shall apply;
a) Any Minister, Deputy Minister, Director-General, Managing Director and Superintendent appointed by the President pursuant to article 56 (a) of the Constitution 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 (2) years prior to the date of such public elections;
b) 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.”
Writes P. Nas Mulbah