By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
In the wake of the planned protest by some members of the civil society against the subterranean passage of the recent amended Act of the Central Bank of Liberia by the Liberian Senate and the subsequent concurrence by the House of Representatives, it was rumored and subsequently reported by some segments of the -Liberian media that President Sirleaf signed into law the Act, as agreed upon by both Houses of the Legislature.
Up to press time, with this persistent rumor which is spreading like bush fire, there has been no official statement from the Liberian government since the presidential press secretary Piah who was contacted said he was “not aware.” As such, the public is left in a state of misinformation, as to whether or not the President has actually signed this controversial Act unnoticeably.
Personally, since the rumor-mill started, I publicly told people that this cannot be true because the President’s activities should not be shrouded in secrecy, especially on a matter of public concern. At times, there are issues that do not generate much public interest as this present controversial Act, and so I do not believe that the President would sanction this without the government officially doing this in the know of the public, as this is part of the process of transparency and accountability.
The proposed amendment states, “the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia and members of the Board of Governors shall be prohibited to contest political office(s) while serving in their respective offices and shall not be qualified to contest any electable office within three years consecutively after the expiration of their tenure and in his/her resignation from the Central Bank of Liberia. ”
It is a known fact by now that since the signing of the Act, there have been objections from several persons, including some members of the civil society on the passage of this Act, which they feel intends to deprive other Liberians contrary to Article 20 of the Liberian Constitution.
That Article states:”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; and in all cases not arising in courts not of record, under court martial and upon impeachment; the parties shall have the right to trial by jury.”
Under our legal system, the signing of such Act by the President is one of the conditions precedence to it becoming law. The last condition is the printing of the Act into handbill, after which it shall actually become law, making it binding. But other than that, the passage of the Act by the Legislature and the signing by the President, if it is not printed into handbill, the conditions for an Act becoming a law has not been legally fulfilled, being fully aware that “what is not done legally is not done at all.”
It was in view of this that recently when some groups took the matter to the Supreme Court, which has the mandate to interpret constitutional issues, the court, through its Justice in Chamber, reportedly described the petition by the petitioners, as “premature,” because considering what constitutes a law, the issue of the amended CBL Act can only be considered a proposal.
As we know, constitutionally, the Supreme Court of Liberia, “shall be the final arbiter of constitutional issues and shall exercise final appellate jurisdiction in all cases whether emanating from courts of record, courts not of records, administrative agencies, autonomous agencies or any other authority, both as to law and fact except cases involving ambassadors, ministers or cases in which a county is a party and the Legislature shall make no law nor create ant exceptions as would deprive the Supreme Court of any of its powers…”
Howbeit, this piece is not intended to look at the legal issues, but the issue of communication as it relates to the ongoing rumor that the President of Liberia signed the controversial Act, without any official statement from the government.
Besides, the comment by presidential press secretary that he is “not aware” of this, or has not been informed of this by the President, is not clear e interpretations could be, I still find it difficult that the press secretary would not be in the know of such event.
and is therefore, subject to all kinds of interpretations. It could be that the Act was signed, without the press secretary being aware, or that it could be that it was signed by the President, and the press secretary not informed. No matter how debatable these interpretations could be, I still find it difficult that the press secretary would not be in the know of such event.
As far as I am concerned, the report by some media institutions, quoting sources, has not really established that it has been signed. I say this because this is a serious matter and that the signing should be done for the knowledge of the public. And so if this is not true, the government should comment. But to remain mute on this matter is what I am concerned about.
Many times when the issue of government’s poor communication is cited, the lack of funds and logistics are always cited as some of the factors responsible for this poor communication. Recently when I returned from a World Bank sponsored-workshop in Gbarnga, Bong County, I raised similar issue of government’s poor communication. The workshop was held against the backdrop of poor communication.
The issue of government’s poor communication formed part of LBS newscast last weekend when a former communication expert of the World Bank expressed similar concerns, as I did before. According to the station, the man who appeared on the station’s Super Morning Show on Friday, called on the government to pay more attention to this to adequately inform the public of its activities. He said much has been achieved, but the information is not getting to the people.
While I agree that government needs to do more in terms of its support to boost information dissemination, on this particular matter, it does not need money to do so. A press statement or release to just state whether or not the President has signed the Act would suffice in dealing with this for public consumption.
The public cannot be relying on rumor on such a serious matter. It is in the purview of the President to do so, and so if she did it, no need to keep it secret. Already, the public is in a confused state on this matter. Even during last week’s protest at the Capitol Building, the group supporting the passage of the Act, hold the view that the President had signed the Act. On the other hand, there are others who are not convinced that the President has signed same.
Once Again, the simple issue here is to say whether or not the President has signed or has not signed it. Until the government can confirm or deny this persistent rumor in accordance with some of the practices of good governance such as accountability and transparency, I Rest My Case