Falling On The Sword

Minister of Information Lenn Eugene Nagbe has rubbished as unfounded and hypocritical, an article published titled: Do The Right Thing.. The Right Way written by former Liberia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Lewis Garseedah Brown about the appointments as Chairman and Co-Chairman, Mrs. Davidetta Browne Lasannah, and Mrs. Teplah Reeves respectively at the National Elections Commission (NEC).

Minister Nagbe expressed dismay over the manner, form and double-standard reflected in the article regarding the appointments by the former Information Minister Brown of Lasannah and Reeves who earlier, were both appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate as deputy chairman and Commissioner.

As the second appointments of these two ladies to occupy the Chairmanship and cochairman due to the controversy that denied the appointed chairman, this sparked out serious debate in around the country with a divide views of pro and con, while some noted that the president was in error to appoint individuals who have already been appointed and confirmed by the Senate in tenure position and then stepped up the very persons’ nomination or appointments to another tenure positions in the same institution.

Other argued that the president performed his constitutional obligation and it is left with the Senate to confirm or reject because at the end of the day, it will read thus: “with advice and consent”, such and such person has been confirmed.

Minister Nagbe being critical over the degree of hypocracy demonstrated pointed out that during the administration of Charles Ghankay Taylor in the 1990s, while he (Brown) was being appointed as Managing Director of LPRC, Mr. Wellington Vamba serving as Senator for Gbapulu, a tenure position, was asked to serve in the Executive Branch as Justice Minister of which Brown is aware of.

Equally, one of Liberia’s renowned Lawyers, Arthur Johnson also took a strong position against the elevated-appointments of the same two ladies in a tenure status upon already been confirmed from the first appointments as co-Chairman and Commissioner of NEC.

Amidst the rigmarole, pundits are now critically asking then who is falling on the sword as the chips are bound to drop under the tree.

Ambassador Brown in his article noted that appointing qualified women into leadership of Liberia is the right thing to do. However, where precedence for good governance is to be established by the action, and the rule of law and consolidation of the country’s democratic aspiration is to be seriously impacted; it is never enough to seek only to do the right thing. The right thing must be done the right way.

The former Information Minister intoned that without prejudice to the qualifications of Mrs. Davidetta Browne Lasannah, and Mrs. Teplah Reeves, their recent nominations as Chair and Co-Chair of the National Elections Commission will establish a dangerous precedence that reasonably extends to undermining the independence and autonomy of the NEC, and to violate the spirit and intent of the law. It also risks security of tenure and trivializes the important confirmation power of the Honorable Liberian Senate.

Therefore, I respectfully request the President to withdraw the nominations, and humbly appeal to the Senate not to confirm.

The former Information Minister intoned that without prejudice to the qualifications of Mrs. Davidetta Browne Lasannah, and Mrs. Teplah Reeves, their recent nominations as Chair and Co-Chair of the National Elections Commission will establish a dangerous precedence that reasonably extends to undermining the independence and autonomy of the NEC, and to violate the spirit and intent of the law. It also risks security of tenure and trivializes the important confirmation power of the Honorable Liberian Senate.

Therefore, I respectfully request the President to withdraw the nominations, and humbly appeal to the Senate not to confirm.

The authority of the President to appoint the Chair, Co-Chair and members of the National Elections Commission of Liberia is derived from Section 2.2 of the New Elections Law of Liberia, which states:

The President shall nominate and, with the consent of the Senate, appoint and commission the Chairman, Co-Chairman and other members of the Elections Commission, who shall hold their offices during good behavior for a period of seven (7) years, effective as of the date of their commission; they may however be removed upon proof of misconduct.

Accordingly, the Co-Chair, in the person of Mrs. Davidetta Browne Lasannah, has been recently nominated, confirmed, appointed and commissioned “for a period of seven (7) years”. While she can be removed “upon proof of misconduct”, short of resigning (no free person can be forced to work), it follows that she can neither be removed, nor have her seven-year tenure interfered with or disturbed, after her commission. While Co-Chair Lasannah still occupies the office, to nominate another for the same office is to constructively disturb Co-Chair Lasannah’s tenure, and possibly, cause her removal, outside the contemplation of the law.

Obviously, the law could not have intended that Mrs. Lasannah be commissioned Co-Chair for seven years, and have the same position of Co-Chair, without the expiry of her tenure, resignation, or removal upon proved misconduct, opened for nomination by the President, and be exposed to Senate confirmation, processes whose constructive intent is to cause a removal, and replacement.

Some may contend that Mrs. Lasannah is not being removed but rather is being promoted within the NEC. As such, no harm is done to the spirit and intent of the law. This reasoning does not account for the entirety of the process of the ‘promotion’.

Far from the ‘promotion’ being a transfer or elevation that is solely internal to the NEC, this ‘promotion’ is being designed and executed from outside of the NEC. The ‘promotion’ of Mrs. Lasannah, who is already in-tenure, is at the instance of the President, and requires the confirmation of the Senate. Effectively, two of the political branches of the government from which the NEC should be shielded, are offering the recently-commissioned Co-Chair a ‘promotion’, only a few months into her seven-year tenure.

By its most basic definition, promotion is a reward. When given by a political official, it is a political reward. Simply put, political rewards are intended to influence. By law intended to ensure the credibility of its functions, the NEC must continue to be, and publicly regarded as, beyond the reach of political influences and interferences, especially in the award of political considerations, rewards/promotions, and favors because they present opportunities to corrupt the autonomy and independence of a Commissioner, and by extension, the Commission.

Writes GDJ

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