20 February 2014

Liberia: Ball in Ellen's Court - After 4G Passage, Pres. Decides Jones Fate

Monrovia — Would she or wouldn't she? That's the question many are pondering after both the upper and lower house of the National Legislature swiftly signed, sealed and delivered an amendment to the March 18, 1999 Act authorizing the Establishing of the Central Bank of Liberia which could end the looming speculations regarding the presidential aspiration of Governor Mills Jones.

The legislation being dubbed in political circles as the 4-G passage, aims to prohibit the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia and members of the Board of Governors from contesting political office(s) while serving in their respective offices and shall not be qualified to contest any elected office within three years consecutively after the expiration of their tenure with the CBL.

In what is building up to be a hotly-contested but interesting 2017 elections, supporters of the bill fear that Jones' position puts him at an advantage. On the contrary, defenders of Jones also say, that those holding him to the fire are also at an advantage because of purported plans by the legislature to put up a candidate of their own in 2017.

Looming dogfight

It is becoming increasingly likely that Jones's supporters will take their fight to the Supreme Court depending on how the legislation which has now been submitted to the presidency is finalized.

FrontPageAfrica has learned that a number of civil society groups are weighing options on the issue which some say could become a dogfight due to the political undertones and the 2017 implications.

Sub-Section 3 of Part IV. Section 13 of the CBL amended Act calls for the removal of the board of governors from office upon a bill of impeachment by the House of Representatives, Upon finding by a majority of the Board of Governors and the recommendation of the President, for several reasons which include; Gross Breach of Duty, Misconduct of Office, Conviction of a Felony and Being declared Bankrupt and Violation of paragraph (a) and /or (b) of sub-section 1 of section 13.

The amended provision also gives power to the National Legislature to determine whether or not an impeachable offense has been committed by the Executive Governor or a member of the Board of Governors at the Central Bank of Liberia. The bill also gives power to the Legislature to take the necessary action such as impeachment in keeping with the relevant provisions of the constitution of the Republic of Liberia.

Dillon Calls for Veto

Darius Dillon, Political Strategist for the opposition Liberty Party declared a vote-of-no-confidence in the national legislature over the 4-G passage. "I disagree with the action of the Legislature and hereby declare a Vote-of-no-Confidence in that body for passing a bill of attainder against folks at the Central Bank of Liberia," Dillon told FrontPageAfrica Wednesday.

Dillon said the lawmakers' action contravenes the spirit and intent of several provisions of the Constitution of Liberia, and leaves him wondering what was the rationale behind th rash and embarrassing act in which the lawmakers neglected to consider Article 20a) of the Constitution which states that:

"No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, security of the person, property, privilege or any other right except as the outcome of a hearing judgment consistent with the provisions laid down in this Constitution and in accordance with due process of law. Justice shall be done without sale, denial or delay; and in all cases not arising in courts not of record, under courts-martial and upon impeachment, the parties shall have the right to trial by jury".

Dillon reminded the legislature that a person's desire to contest for any political office is a "right" guaranteed under our Constitution; and any action to deny a person or group of persons from exercising this "right" MUST be the result of a "hearing judgment consistent with the provisions laid down in this Constitution and in accordance with due process of law".The Legislature cannot pass a law that automatically denies any person or group of persons from the exercise or enjoyment of their constitutionally guaranteed rights without the benefit of a "hearing judgment".

The Liberty Party stalwart said the legislative body have committed a reversible error by targeting Governors of the Central Bank of Liberia who are serving their current

terms as enshrined in the CBL Act of 1999, because, according to Dillon, Article 21(a) of our Constitution clearly frowns on the passage of any "bill of attainder" or expo facto laws. It states that "no person shall be made subject to any law or punishment which was not in effect at the time of commission of an offense, nor shall the Legislature enact any bill of attainder or ex post facto law".

Dillon added that the purpose of the action of Members of the Legislature against Governors of the CBL is said to be premised upon their suspicion that the CBL is "dishing out state funds" for "political reasons". "Assuming, but not admitting that this suspicion is correct, the Legislature cannot now pass a law to punish for an act that was not in existence at the time of commission of said 'offense'. To do so is a gross violation of Article 21 (a) as quoted above. Also, to demand that Governors of the CBL who may wish to aspire to political office/s will be required to "resign" three years prior to any election in which they seek to participate, or be denied participation three years after they retired. As grossly wrong as this provision is, it cannot be applied to this current Board of Governors because it is "expo facto"."

Dillon said it is disappointing that the Legislature will continue to hold down Bills before that body that are relevant to the governance of our country and economic empowerment of our people, but would resort to pass laws that are draconian and selfish. The Legislature needs to consider passage of the Decent Work and the Code of Conduct Bills that have been pending before that body for years.

Jones Not Target, some say

Nevertheless, some political observers dismiss the notion that the legislation is targeting Jones with some suggesting that it is in fact a step in the right direction.

A senior ruling Unity Party official, who spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday said: "No individual should be allowed to use public office to advance his or her chances at holding an elected office. This is common practice even in the great America where Jones says his children went to school with white people. A white man is not permitted to abuse public office in America and Germany."

The official added that it is not unconstitutional at all for a bank governor to be stopped from holding political office for a period of time. "He can resign and then run. No one is stopping Jones. But he cannot be governor and trying to position himself to run. In the USA, political appointees are made to resign. Hilary Clinton resigned four years out to prepare for 2016. In fact USA has admitted the law to prevent people from running even at state and local governor."

The Jones debacle has taken the city by storm with discussions popping up on talk radio and Hatai shops. On the streets of Monrovia, many Liberians are divided on the issue. Eugene Karr, a Central Monrovia resident laments that the lawmakers' decision is disappointing, heartbreaking and mischievous.

"They are wrong to say that the Central Bank governor should resign three years before contesting any public office because the governor is appointed to serve a tenure. If during his tenure he wants to run as mayor of Monrovia or President of Liberia it is only fair enough he resign and not three years prior to election."

Amendment rubbish, some say

Solomon Harris, a resident of Paynesville went a step further in suggesting that the lawmakers were bias in their decision. "If you want make a law do for everybody today Central Bank tomorrow that Finance day after tomorrow you say that information Ministry, if you want to craft a law for all government officials including the lawmakers that's say anybody who wants to be president must resign three years before election is fine but do not restrict it to the Central Bank Governor alone. I think those lawmakers have something against the Central Bank Governor the man has not even pronounce that he wants to be president than they have amended the CBL act. What we been hearing is the legislature want to produce a consensus candidate for 2017 that is why they are opposing anyone they see as a threat to their ambition."

Others like Dennis Sabato Zeama says the amendment is rubbish. "I see this amended act as a rubbish, why is the National Legislature targeting the CBL now this act was created since 1999 why are hurrying to pass is because the Central Bank Governor is giving loan to ordinary Liberians and they think that is making him popular and he may likely be the next president. Since I was born I have not heard about a Central Bank Governor giving loan to marketers as is being done today." Zeama says if he had an opportunity to see the president, he would tell her not to sign it into law.

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