Special Awards In Pictures

-As NEC Sharpens Claws To Deal With Aspirants
The implementation of the National Code of Conduct seems to be sending intensely shocking waves down the spines of presidential and representative aspirants as they may be getting increasingly jittery over the latest disqualifications of some legislative candidates from contest the ensuing elections on October 10 this year.

It is considered a ‘seeping fever’ for some presidential and legislative aspirants deemed to be in violation of the instrument – Code of Conduct - approbated by the Supreme Court of Liberia following legal tussle brought before it by a concerned civil society grouping.
The apparent fever or anxiety is against the back of the huge resources they have already committed to the election processes including registration of political parties.

First Victims
The NEC, about three days ago, rejected the candidatures of Mr. Abu Kamara, a representative aspirant for District 15, Montserrado County and the assistant superintendent of Gbarpolu County.
They became the first victims of the rigorous process of candidates of accreditation which takes into account the Code of Conduct.
Their rejection, it is alleged, is on the back of the Code of Conduct which calls for resignation of those occupying public office wishing to contest for elected office.
An assistant minister for administration at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, Mr. Kamara did not resign as demanded of appointed officials before filing his credentials before the NEC.
It could be a huge blow for Mr. Kamara, who was about making his second push for the District 15 legislative slot at the National Legislature.
He flopped in the polls in 2011, miserably beaten by current Representative Adolf Lawrence. The Code of Conduct continues to generate controversy in many quarters as it is not seen prudent to implement it at this time.
Several stakeholders including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf have hinted that it should not be considered in these elections.
Recently the National Legislature removed the issue of elections under the jurisdiction of the office of the Ombudsman and placed same under the NEC.
Nervous aspirants
Other presidential and legislative aspirants who fall in the category of the two disqualified individuals may be in the heat of distress, apparently trying to figure out which way to go.
Another reason is that the disqualification of Kamara and the other man signaled NEC’s unflinching determination to adhere and uphold the Code of Conduct to the later, regardless who is involved.
Presidential Aspirant Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE), Harrison Karnwea, vice running mate to Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party, Jeremaiah Slunteh, running mate to Alexander Cummings of the Alternative National Congress are under code of conduct spotlight.
All presidential appointees, they fell short resigning their posts before joining the race

The Supreme Court`s Decision
On March 3, 2017, the scene of the Temple of Justice was of shock and disbelief, after three of the five justices of the Supreme Court favored the 2014 National Code of Conduct Act, with the remaining two going against it.
The three reached their decision following a tense legal argument and voting process, in which Associate Justices Philip A.Z. Banks and Jamesetta H. Wolokollie refused their colleagues' decision to accept the Code of Conduct.
Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, together with Associate Justices Kabineh M. Ja'neh, both of Nimba County, and Sie-A- Nyene G. Youh were in favor.
Bong County Superintendent Selena Polson-Mappy had filed a petition to the Supreme Court against the passage of the Code of Conduct that was submitted by the Executive Branch of Government in 2009, arguing that it was unconstitutional.
Superintendent Mappy was expected to contest one of the representative seats in her county during the October elections.
However, the three justices said that the code of conduct Act was enacted on the wisdom of the 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 high court`s decision 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 petitioner.

Passage of Code of Conduct
In March 2014, Liberia’s legislature passed a National Code of Conduct (CoC) for all public officials and employees of the Government of Liberia; 28 years had elapsed since the legislation was first mandated by Article 90 of the 1986 Constitution.
The originators of the 1986 basic law included this provision to protect the integrity of public service and guard against conflicts of interest among officials holding public office. The CoC contains an exhaustive list of actions – including bribery, nepotism, lobbying and unethical behaviour – that could give rise to a conflict of interest or undermine the credibility of public policy. Ahead of the 2017 elections some of its provisions are proving particularly controversial.
Part V of the CoC, which focuses on political participation, states that “all officials appointed by the president” are not allowed “to engage in political activities”. This covers contesting for elective office, campaigning for a political party or candidate, and using resources and facilities of government to back partisan politics.
The instrument further provides that appointed officials who want to canvass or participate in an election must resign at least two years before elections (three years in the case of tenured officials). Controversy arises because most people who stand for elective office in Liberia are active public servants, local government appointees or officials in state-run public enterprises and autonomous agencies.

A Divisive Judgment
According to Africa Research Institute, like many other pieces of reform legislation in Liberia, the CoC was passed into law only to be shelved. However in October 2015, the Superintendent of Bong County, Selena Mappy-Polson, who aspired to stand in the 2017 elections, filed a petition before the circuit judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court for Bong County for a declaratory judgment of the unconstitutionality of clauses in Part V. In its November 2015 ruling, the circuit court referred the matter to Liberia’s Supreme Court. In March 2017, the Supreme Court ruled – by a 3-2 majority vote – that the petition “both in law and in fact, is hereby denied” and saw “no compelling basis to declare the Code of Conduct Act unconstitutional”. The decision by two of the five justices to refuse to affix their signatures to the ruling and to publish their dissensions fuelled a tense and intractable political debate.
Critics of the judgment, including a former Chief Justice, were stunned by the decision to uphold legislation that could, if rigorously enforced, prevent experienced and competent public servants from standing – or even campaigning – in October’s elections.
In the long run, suitable people could be deterred from taking up policymaking or executive roles in government. Political parties, almost all of which are fielding prospective candidates who are in open and flagrant violation of the CoC, have so far continued to insist the law is unconstitutional despite the March 2017 ruling.
The secretary general of the ruling Unity Party, one of its vice chairmen and several leading party activists continue to hold key cabinet positions. Harrison Karnwea, recently named vice presidential candidate of the opposition Liberal Party, is a former director of the Liberian Forestry Development Authority. The leader of the Movement for Economic Empowerment, Mills Jones, has assured his supporters that nothing will stop him from contesting the election despite the fact that he too is potentially affected by the ruling.

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