Ministry failed to advise President on constitutional matters

By Gilo Jr. Okwata

A member of National Constitutional Amendment Committee (NCAC) said the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and the Judiciary should shoulder the blame for not correctly advising the President on Constitutional matters regarding the appointment of state officials.

His message came after Tuesday’s Press Release from the Ministry of Presidential Affairs which stated that, “after extensive deliberations on a broad range of critical and pertinent issues revolving around the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), the meeting resolved to that completion of the process of the state governments be expedited, finalizing the list of nominations and issuance of the requisite Presidential Decrees, in the course of this week, effecting the appointments of state advisors, state ministers, state commission chairpersons and members, county commissioners, state legislative assemblies and county councils.”

Oyet Nathaniel Pierino, a member of NCAC stated that the Judiciary and Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs are the custodians of the legal systems which are vested with powers to advise the President on legal and constitutional interpretations.

“The Chief Justice and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs are partly to blame. The Judiciary is expected to check the excesses of the executive as one of its critical functions involves checks and balances of the executive powers of government. The Judiciary and Ministry of Justice bear part of the blame because they are the custodians of the laws of the land.

In fact, they (the Ministry of Justice and Judiciary) have no authority to punish or apprehend anybody in this country if they allow the executive to violate the law,” Nathaniel said.

He also said that the agreement requires the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) to devolve more powers and resources to lower levels of government adding that the decision of the presidency was a complete departure from the principles of the agreement and the constitution on which they had taken oaths.

“Obviously, South Sudan is headed for a willful constitutional crisis; the top executive is not following the Transitional Constitution 2011 as amended; Article 165 (2A) empowers the state governors to appoint deputies and lower constitutional post holders,” Nathaniel added.

In response to the assertion, the Minister of Information Communication Technology & Postal Service, who is also the government spokesperson, Michael Makuei Lueth stated that the President is rightly within his precinct and power to appoint the state government officials since the state laws have not been incorporated in the Revitalized Peace Agreement.

“These are personal opinions which are not based on anything. After all, the state constitutions are not incorporated in the agreement, even states up to now have no constitution and in the absence of the constitution, the President has the right to appoint in exercise of the power conferred to him by the constitution.

“If you have been following what happened during the CPA era, appointments were made up to the commissioner levels by the President so there was no law and constitution by then in the states,” Makuei stated.

Late last year, the President appointed six deputy governors for Eastern Equatoria State, Jonglei State, Lakes State, Unity State, Western Bahr El Ghazal State and Western Equatoria State. In January, this year, he appointed the Governor of Upper Nile Sate and his Deputy.

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