MONROVIA – The hope of some government officials intending to contest various positions in the ensuing general elections while at the same time holding on their appointments was dashed last week when the Supreme Court ruled that the Executive Order #117 (EO#117) issued by President George Manneh Weah was in order to mandate all presidential appointees contesting for elective positions to resign because EO#117 protects the integrity of the October 2023 elections.
The ruling from the apex court was in respect to a writ of prohibition filed March 28, 2023 by the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL) challenging the constitutionality of the Executive Order in which the EFFL contended that the bill was counterproductive to the amended Code of Conduct Act, as it is only seven months before the scheduled October 10, 2023 general elections.
“We, request Your Honor to declare the Executive Order #117 illegal and should have no force and legal effect. It is the contention of the petitioner that laws are not retroactive and therefore not applicable to anyone appointed by the President of Liberia of this point in time, since the publishing date December 29, 2022 and the election date October 10, 2023 is ten (10) months and, as such, ten (10) months cannot be equated to one year threshold,” the EFFL said.
“It is also the contention of the petitioner that the December 29, 2022 Act amending Section 5.2 and 10.2 of the 2014 Code Conduct has prospective effect and therefore cannot be equated to any governmental appointees in the pending October 10,2023 General and Presidential Election,” the party stated.
But the Supreme Court in its decision through Associate Justice Cllr. Yarmie Gbesay noted that the Code of Conduct (CoC) seeks to protect the sanctity and integrity of the 2023 electoral process wherein a competitive atmosphere will be involved in the process without undue advantage given to some politicians at the detriment of others.
Further defending the ruling, Gbeisay said that the preamble of the Executive order emphasizes that the action was taken by the President to fully enforce the intent of the amended CoC, as envisaged by the legislature, to protect the resources of the Liberian state from abuse by public officials in public elections.
“The executive order intends to create a plain and level field to prevent Liberia’s competitive politics from unfair and undue advantages, in which public officials in charge of public finances could be preferred by voters, over others in the election process.
“The fact is that the amended CoC of 2022, ‘as is’, cannot compel public officials who intend to contest the October 10 election to resign from office before participating in the election. The President has taken additional measures to protect the integrity of the process, which the court must applaud,” the Justice added.
The EFFL, which is the complainant, having listened to the ruling from Associate Justice Gbeisay, said it was taking an appeal to the full bench of the Supreme Court for redress, expressing its confidence that the full bench will grant them their prayers.
It is not certain if the full bench of the Supreme Court will grant them their request or not but pundits who have been following the trend of how final judgments are handed down when the full bench of the court sits to decide on ruling passed by a Justice in Chambers who is part of the five justices of the court, told The Analyst last night, that the chances of the ruling by Associate Justice Gbeisay being overturned is very slim and all those hoping on that should perish their thoughts.
“We all know how cases of such which were first heard by a justice in chambers end up at the final end when the full bench of the highest court in the land sits to decide and it has been a tradition where the full bench supports and sustains the ruling handed down by a justice in chambers who happens to be one of the five justices on the Supreme Court bench”, a pundit who did not want to be named in the paper said.
As it stands, it appears that some of those who intend to contest but also want to hold on to the jobs will have to now throw in the towel to quit so as to focus on their campaigns or just forget about contesting and hold on to their jobs until the end of first term of President Weah. If the president succeeds, then they have a good chance of maintaining their jobs or even getting higher postings based on their roles in re-electing him.
It can be recalled that on or before the April 7, 2023 expiration date, a number of government officials including formerly Director General of the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority (LCAA) Moses Kollie, former Executive Director, National Identification Registry (NIR) J. Tiah Nagbe, former Inspector General at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry Josephine Davies, among others resigned their portfolios to contest for various legislative seats in the next dispensation.
The President’s executive order, issued on March 14, mandated all government officials desiring to contest the October 10 elections to resign before April 7.
According to the Executive Mansion, the President’s action was in accordance with Section 5.2 of the amended 2014 Code of Conduct.
However, Weah has faced significant criticisms for implementing the law within such a short period. Section 5.2 of the amended law reduces the resignation period for officials from a maximum of three years to just one year.
The President acknowledged the one-year resignation clause but pointed out that with only seven months left until the elections, the amended Act cannot prevent public officials from participating in the October 10 election.
Weah added that the executive order was necessary to establish a fair political playing field, citing national interest.