Solicitor General distinguishes Ministers’ role

Critical Review Of The Functions And Responsibilities Of The Minister Of State For Presidential Affairs And The Minister Of Foreign Affairs In The Executive Branch of Government

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Critical Review Of    The Functions And Responsibilities Of The Minister Of State For Presidential Affairs And The Minister Of  Foreign Affairs In The Executive Branch of Government

By:   Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus,

Former Special Assistant & Assistant Minister to the Minister of  State for Presidential Affairs, 2001-2005.

In the last few days, my hands have been itching to write an article that will serve as a form of workshop to help educate   most of fellow compatriots who many not understand the different functions and Responsibilities of the Ministers of State for Presidential Affairs and Foreign Affairs pursuant to Title-12-Liberian Code of Laws— The New Executive Law, chapter 2 section 2.1 and 2.2 and chapter 20 section 20.1 and 20.2 in the executive branch of government.  It has been quite a decade now, since I left the profession of earning my living from pen-pushing but thank God, I managed to garner the energy to do this as my own contribution to the ongoing debate between the two ministries.  This is specifically article relying on the New Executive Law of 1972, and the 1986 Constitution as its fulcrum, and will clearly   define the administrative powers, respective roles as well as the limitations of each of the ministries in the management, control, and execution of their respective duties.  Again, let this be a form of workshop, and so, I desire no credit, and wish not to have one now or even in the future, and believing that my action represents light in darkness, I must do this as a form public education.  That said, my action is consistent with Article 15(a) & (b) of the 1986 Constitution and I am prepared if the intent of this article is unduly misconstrued as an abuse of such a constitutional right.

While sitting quietly at home, I took the liberty to   carefully careful analyze the  ACT ADOPTING A NEW EXECUTIVE LAW, REPEALING THE PRESENT EXECUTIVE LAW AND PUBLIC WELFARE LAW, AND AMENDING OR REPEALING OTHER ACTS IN RELATION THERETO,  which  was   enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Republic of Liberia, in Legislature Assembled at the  First Regular Session of the Forty-Sixth Legislature in May 11, 1972,  and was subsequently  published on June 9, 1972.  The ACT principally defines the functions and responsibilities of the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and the Minister of Foreign Affairs as follows:

  1. Section 2.1 of the New Executive Law titled: “Minister of State for Presidential Affairs” states: “The President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate shall appoint an official within the Office of the President, with the title of Minister of State for Presidential Affairs. He shall be a member of the Cabinet and shall serve as the Principal Assistant to the President. He shall serve at the pleasure of the President, and shall perform the following duties:

(a) Follow through and coordinate all decisions of the Chief Executive;

(b) Organize, as the President shall direct, Cabinet Meetings and be responsible for the proper maintenance of all records of such meetings;

(c) Exercise such operational authority, intrinsic to his office, as the President may from time to time direct; and

(d) Perform such other duties as may be assigned by the President.

Section 2.2 of the ACT  titled:  “Assistants to Minister of State for Presidential Affairs” states: “With the advice and consent of the Senate, the President shall appoint such assistants to the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs as the President shall deem necessary for the effective performance of the duties assigned to the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and

Section 2.3. titled:  “Organization of Office of Minister of State for Presidential Affairs” provides: “The Office of the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs shall be organized in such manner as shall be determined by the President.”

In the case the of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chapter 20, Section 20.1 titled: “ Ministry authorized; appointment of Minister” states: “There shall be in the executive branch of the Government a Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who shall be appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.”

However, section 20.2 of the same ACT  titled: “Organization of the Ministry” states” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs shall be organized to include the following:

(a)Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs

(b) Office of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs

(c) Office of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Administration

(d) Office of the Counselor

(e) Office of the Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs

(f) Office of the Special Assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

(g) Office of the Foreign Service Inspector General

(h) Office of the Chief of Protocol

(i) Bureau of Asian and African Affairs

(j) Bureau of European Affairs

(k) Bureau of American Affairs

(l) Bureau of International Organizations Affairs

(m) Bureau of Economic Affairs

👎 National Archives and Records Management Service

(o) Division of Administrative Services

(p) Division of Finance

(q) Division of Passports and Visas

(r) Division of Publication

The statute also provides that: “The Minister of Foreign Affairs is authorized to determine the internal organization of each of the agencies listed above, subject to the provisions of this Chapter.”

And Section 20.3 of the statue titled: “Duties of Minister of Foreign Affairs” expressly  states: “It shall be the duty of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, under the direction of the President to —

(a) Formulate and implement the foreign policy of the Government of Liberia;

(b) Promote beneficial intercourse between Liberia and other countries;

(c) Protect Liberian rights and interests throughout the world;

(d) Direct the conduct of the Foreign Service;

(e) Issue regulations governing the activities of foreign diplomatic and consular missions accredited to the Republic of Liberia;

(f) Issue passports and visas;

(g) Act as custodian of archives of the Republic of Liberia;

(h) Promote, in cooperation with other Government ministries and agencies, improved records management practices and supervise the preservation, storage, and disposal of Government records;

(i) Oversee the publication of all papers and documents required by law to be published and required for the use of any of the agencies of Government;

(j) Publish an official newspaper;

(k) Act as custodian of the seal of the Republic;

(l) Certify public documents in the custody of the Minister and authenticate the signatures of public officials;

(m) Inform elected officials of Government of their election;

👎 Issue certificates of incorporation to business corporations formed in Liberia and register foreign corporations doing business there;

(o) Register patents, copyrights, and trademarks.

The misconception that arises in functions, roles and responsibilities between the two ministries  is grounded in two  basic fundamental legal  questions, which are stated  as follows:

  1. Whether or not the legislative intent of Section 2.1 of the New Executive Law  that gives  the President the power and authority  to appoint an official within  his/her Office, with the title of Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, and  who then becomes both a member of the Cabinet and  the Principal Assistant to the President, automatically  elevates or places  that minister  above all other  ministers, directors, and commissioners  in the executive branch of the Liberian Government as it  specifically relates to the    the  office the President;
  2. Whether or not the legislative intent of Subsection (h) of the New Executive Law that gives the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to: “promote, in cooperation with other Government ministries and agencies, improved records management practices and supervise the preservation, storage, and disposal of Government records”, also places him/her above all other Ministers in the executive branch of the Liberian government including the office the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs.

In addressing these critical issues, I am constrained to look at the yardstick used in interpreting both statutory and constitutional terminologies, provisions and phrases international law as well as the principles of general and specific constructions. To do this,   one must look at three basic processes, namely (1) the actual wording and text of the statute or constitutional provision; (2), the legislative intent and (3) the purpose. The rule is that where there is a general or a specific construction regarding the interpretation of the intent and purpose of a statutory phrase, the former takes precedence. For instant, if the statute says “all women are short” in the preamble and in one of the sections, it says “all girls short”, there’s no confusion. The reason is, all girls are women but not all women are girls. For instant all members of the cabinet are ministers but not all ministers are ministers of state or ministers of foreign affairs.  This means   all cabinet ministers are not equal in ranks and assignments but in title, they all called “ministers”—there’s always the first among equals.

Using this argument as my reliance, I have decided to answer in the AFFIRMATIVE the first  question of whether or not the legislative intent  of Section 2.1 of the New Executive Law  that gives  the President the power and authority  to appoint an official within  his/her Office, with the title of Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, who then becomes both a member of the Cabinet and  the Principal Assistant to the President, automatically  elevates or places  that minister  above all other  ministers, directors, and commissioners, including but not limited to the minister of foreign affairs   in the executive branch of the Liberian Government as it  specifically relates to     the  office the President.  The source of my argument and which is the law extant regarding the power and authority of the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs is provided for, under Section 2.1 of the New Executive Law titled: “Minister of State for Presidential Affairs” and it expressly states: “The President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate shall appoint an official within the Office of the President, with the title of Minister of State for Presidential Affairs. He shall be a member of the Cabinet and shall serve as the Principal Assistant to the President. He shall serve at the pleasure of the President, and shall perform the following duties:

(a) Follow through and coordinate all decisions of the Chief Executive;

(b)Organize, as the President shall direct, Cabinet Meetings and be responsible for the proper maintenance of all records of such meetings;

(c) Exercise such operational authority, intrinsic to his office, as the President may from time to time direct; and

(d) Perform such other duties as may be assigned by the President.

As a consequence of this law, it is my considered opinion, that the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs   is more than just being   an ablest, and dedicated ‘principle assistant’ to the President but also a true and a committed confidante who understands and knows the implicit and explicit actions and activities of the President and possesses the courage to administer them within the executive branch. In other words, the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs by the content and character of Section 2.1 of the New Executive Law is the anchor or swivel around which the cabinet is built-the frontline commander and the gate-way to the presidency. He carries out the following functions and responsibilities:

  1. Serves as a Principal Assistant to the President with the exclusive and unfettered authority to coordinate, direct, control and supervise all decisions and polices of the Executive Branch of the Liberian government. The key words are (1) coordinate, (2) Direct, (3) control and (4) supervise all  decisions and policies not some of the executive branch;
  2. Exercises operational authority to include but not limited to all functions  and operations of the agencies and institutions within the executive branch either  demonstrably or inherently at the behest of the President;
  3. Performs such other duties including but not limited to coordinating, planning, organizing and arranging all appointments of the President, visitations for residents and foreign guests including but not limited to cabinet ministers, traditional chiefs and zoes, private citizens; ranging domestic and foreign travels, and  addresses all communications both foreign and domestic,  among others. No Cabinet Minister in the executive branch of the Liberian government carries more weight and responsibilities in terms of functions and powers than the Minister of State for Presidential affairs. The statutory context in which the phrase” Principal Assistant” to the President is used, means the Minister of State is the President’s direct and immediate “helper” or “deputy” to the President—the first person to whom the president turns for inquiry if there are problems and answers or solutions on every issue facing the government in the management, control and the administration of the Liberian State. As principal Assistant in administrative succession of power and authority, often devolves upon him/her by the President as in keeping with the New Executive Law, the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs is the only one who is or may always be left in charge of the government in consultation with the Vice President to administer the affairs of the state when the President travels out of the country.

However, it must be noted that by the dictate of Article 51 of the 1986 Constitution, the Vice President is the constitutional “principal assistant” only in constitutional succession principle but statutorily and administratively, that responsibility falls upon the shoulders of, and is duly exercised by the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs.

Further,  by statute,  the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs is also the eyes, nose, ears and the walking stick of the President on all matters of the government. Just as the president,  the minister of state  has an absolute security clearance, and attends all critical national security meetings along with the President; he is the only Minister (as the gate-way to the President) who has unfettered access to all actions, activities, all records and communications private and officials of the President—He is thee confidante of the President.

Constitutionally, the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs intrinsically exists in character and function under Article 50 of the 1986 Constitution under which the President acts as Head of State, Head of Government, and Commander-In-Chief of the Liberian Armed Forces. As Head of Government, the President is Chief Magistrate or  Chief Administrator of the Liberian State and his ‘Principal Assistant’, in administering, supervising, directing  and guiding his administrative functions under Article 50 is the Minister of State for Presidential  Affairs consistent with Title-12- Liberian Code of Laws Revised-The New  Executive Law Chapter 12, Section 2.1.  No Minister in the Liberian cabinet exercises these functions except the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs.

That said,  I am impelled by common sense to answer  resoundingly in the  NEGATIVE the second question of  whether or not the legislative intent of Subsection (h) of the New Executive Law  cited inter alia, that gives the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to: “promote, in cooperation with other Government ministries and agencies, improved records management practices and supervise the preservation, storage, and disposal of Government records”, also places him/her above all other Ministers in the executive branch of the Liberian government including the office the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs.

The power of the Minister of Foreign Affairs  as in keeping with sub-section (h), is limited  in scope and character to merely interacting with other ministries or ministers in the executive branch for the promotion of harmony and the preservation of goodwill in order  to improve records management practices, i.e. register patents, copyrights, and trademarks,   acts, seals, and major proclamations issued by the government of Liberia relating to the statutory functions of agencies, commissions and ministries, and their preservation and storage.

Constitutionally, the Minister or Ministry of Foreign Affairs inherently exists in the function and practice of Liberian foreign policy under Article 57 of the 1986 Constitution which gives the President of Liberia the power and authority to serve as the Chief Architect of Liberian foreign policy.  The president’s immediate agent in that direction is the minister of foreign affairs.  It is in the exercise and performance or execution of Liberian foreign policy with other nations that the Minister or Ministry of Foreign Affairs becomes relevant consistent with Chapter 20, Sections 20.1 and 20.2 of Title 12, Liberian Code of Laws Revised-The New Executive Law which outlines the duties and functions of the minister under the direction of the President as follows:

(a) Formulate and implement the foreign policy of the Government of Liberia; (b) Promote beneficial intercourse between Liberia and other countries; (c) Protect Liberian rights and interests throughout the world; (d) Direct the conduct of the Foreign Service; (e) Issue regulations governing the activities of foreign diplomatic and consular missions accredited to the Republic of Liberia;

(f) Issue passports and visas; (g) Act as custodian of archives of the Republic of Liberia; (h) Promote, in cooperation with other Government ministries and agencies, improved records management practices and supervise the preservation, storage, and disposal of Government records; (i) Oversee the publication of all papers and documents required by law to be published and required for the use of any of the agencies of Government; (j) Publish an official newspaper;

(k) Act as custodian of the seal of the Republic;

(l) Certify public documents in the custody of the Minister and authenticate the signatures of public officials; (m) Inform elected officials of Government of their election;

👎 Issue certificates of incorporation to business corporations formed in Liberia and register foreign corporations doing business there; (o) Register patents, copyrights, and trademarks.

Miscoptions/ Impediments

The misunderstanding is that some government officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs  believe that subsections  (h), 👎 and  (o), that  give the minister of foreign affairs the power to(1) promote, in cooperation with other Government ministries and agencies, improved records management practices and supervise the preservation, storage, and disposal of Government records;  issue certificates of incorporation to business corporations formed in Liberia and register foreign corporations doing business there;(2) issue certificates of incorporation to business corporations formed in Liberia and register foreign corporations doing business there; and (3) register patents, copyrights, and trademarks, place him above all other ministers.  This is wrong and it is any wonder that anyone in his rational mind would pathetically and erroneously construe these statutory provisions   to mean the minister of foreign affairs has oversight responsibility over the agencies and ministries of government or is above the Minister of State.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs by law and practice is a complete “stranger” or ought to be a complete ‘stranger’ if he/she is not a fugitive, in his own country when it comes to implementing or building diplomatic ties with other civilized nations. He/she is always in and out of the country on a mission of the government. The Minister that is responsible to conduct the entire affairs of the government along with the President is the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs. In fact, under the New Executive Law, and  by assignment and practice, the Minister of State with the direct supervision of the President exercises control, direction, and guidance over the execution or implementation of Liberian foreign policy  decisions.  He is  above all ministers in assignment and is the “inter primus par”—the first among equals in the Liberian cabinet when it comes to the presidency.

However, on the other hand, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is recognized and venerated  as “DEAN” of the CABINET” ONLY at official government functions, but beyond that, he is absolutely nothing but a mere  cabinet minister, and is  lower than the Minister of State when it comes to the office and welfare of the President both statutorily and constitutionally.

Finally, what I did not say however, and which is very  important  for you to know   is that I served as Special Assistant and  Assistant Minister to the Minister of State for presidential affairs from 2001- 2005,  and so,  I understand the inner workings and the luxurious trappings of power associated with the ministry state.  Having said that, and relying on Article 50 of the 1986 Constitution where the President exercises one of the powers, as Head of Government, and   “Chief Administrator,”  and Title 12, Liberian Code of Laws Revised-The New Executive Law which gives  a wide range  of responsibilities  to the Minister of State for President Affairs, as the  President’s “Principal Assistant”, openly and   incontestably, exercising the powers thereof, concomitantly,  it is  candid opinion  and legal reliance that the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs is superior to the minister of foreign affairs  in stature, rank  and public service in the executive branch of government.

The Minister of State exercises the power of a Prime Minister–the first Minister to see and leave the president; he is the closest, trusted, and the gateway to the Liberian presidency, and is therefore not just loftier in assignment, or practice but decision when it comes to the presidency— no one, not even the Vice President can report directly to the President except through him.  Every action of the Minister of State is seen and undoubtedly construed as that act of the President because of his proximity to power and no sees or goes to the President except through him. If you disagree, kindly do the right thing to write a counter article.

 

 

 

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