20 December 2012

Liberia: Dr. Amos Sawyer Calls for Public Pressure

Professor Amos Claudius Sawyer is calling for public pressure to be exerted on members of the Liberian Legislature to pass the Code of Conduct into law. Since 2007, the proposed bill, seeking to confine public officials to basic provisions, calling for adherence to the highest moral and ethical standards has suffered setbacks in the corridor of power at the capitol.

But now Dr. Sawyer, current Chairman of the Governance Commission thinks it is time that the people (electorate) make this an issue at the ballot box when they go to elect lawmakers during the mid-term election in 2014.

He told the media that the passage of the bill would complement the implementation of concession reached at the recently endorsed Vision 2030 conference held in Gbarnga, Bong County.

Vision 2030's goals seek among others a fully reconciled and unified nation; a healthy and vibrant economy with the ability to provide enough jobs; empower the local Liberian business community and a free, just and transparent society with a set of core values, including strong sense of nationalism, and full empowerment of women and youth.

Sawyer, 67, is one of the principals behind the vision. He believes the people should mount pressure on their representatives to enact the code. The Code of Conduct, when enacted, would be applicable to all public officials and employees of the three branches of government and its parastatals.

The document seeks to restrain public officials from publicly speaking against issues if they have not been promulgated as national policy, especially without the approval of their bosses.

Public officials, the proposed act also states; commit an abuse of office and a crime of bribery if they received gifts or kinds with cash value more than US$10; while another section provides for punitive measure against sexual harassment.

Under the crime of sexual harassment, a punishable offense is committed if a man attempts to befriend a female working in the same office or entity with the intent to establish sexual relationship, among other provisions.

On Tuesday, 5 September 2012, the Senate took a unanimous decision after spending five hours, debating the bill, which many of them contend is characterized by "numerous inconsistencies".

Grand Bassa County Senator John Whitefield, said at the time that the clause was an attempt to silent the opposition, and could not be applied to elected officials, especially legislators, who represent national interest, and as such, were bosses in their own rights.

On the issue receiving gifts, Grand Gedeh County Senator Alphonso Gaye, also wondered who would foot the bill "If a lunch was offered at an expensive restaurant, where the cost was placed in the tune of US$200?"

During the same session, Bomi County Senator Sando Johnson cautioned his colleagues against the hasty passage of the Code of Conduct bill into law. He warned them to be mindful of similar hasty passage of the rape law by the 52nd legislature.

Johnson added that the erstwhile legislature failure to have provided guarantees for an alleged rapist in the absence of a guilty verdict has been the cause of so many men being victimized by false allegation.

Because of the unanimous voting during the course of the debate, the senate deferred the bill to their next sitting and agreed at the time that it be taken back to committee room for thorough cleansing against all forms or ulterior motives.

Fifteen (15) of the thirty (30) senators desirous of re-election in the mid-term election seem to have started a 'Jehovah Witness' style campaign already in their respective counties, one year to the poll.

Amongst those senators, seeking another nine years in office are: John Ballout of Maryland; Sumo Kupee of Lofa; Mobutu Nyenpan of Sinoe; Jewel Howard Taylor of Bong; and Joyce Musu Freeman-Sumo of Montserrado Counties.

Others are Isaac Nyenabo of Grand Gedeh; Prince Johnson of Nimba; Jonathan Banney of Rivercess; Gbehzohngar Findley of Grand Bassa; Abel Massalley of Grand Cape Mount; Theodore Momo of Gbarpolu; Cletus Wortorson of Grand Kru, and Lahai Lassanah of Bomi. Sources have it that River Gee County current Senator Fredrick Cheru may not contest.

Recently, the Chairman on Public Administration and Account at the Liberian Senate, Edward Dagoseh of Grand Cape Mount County told participants during a Public Forum held at Mamba Point Hotel in Monrovia that the lawmakers are yet to act on 90 bills before them.

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