By Edwin G. Wandah
Hearing into the long awaited Writ of Prohibition filed by Petitioners against the holding of the Special Senatorial Election took place yesterday at the Supreme Court of Liberia on Capitol Hill in Monrovia.
First and second Petitioners’ lawyers representing the National Democratic Coalition, Movement for Progressive Change-MPC, Political leader Simeon Freeman, former Internal Affairs Minister, Blamo Nelson of the Alliance for Peace and Democracy-APD, and former Information Minister, Emmanuel Bowier of the former People’s Redemption Counsel-PRC, versus the National Elections Commission, and some political parties made their applications yesterday before the full bench of the Supreme Court.
Taking the stand, Cllr. Serinius Cyfus, 1st Petitioner, in his initial application before the Supreme Court raised the issue that the adversary party, the Ministry of Justice failed to file in their returns to the first petition that was amended by them, but said argument was later dismissed by the Chief Justice on grounds that the issues before the court was substantial and never wanted any distraction into the main issue before the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor Sr. further stated that for the sake of record, Cllr. Cyfus, 1st Petitioner lawyer did not raise the issue which could have formed part of the meaning and so, it could not form part of yesterday’s hearing.
Hence, Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor Sr. stated that since the case has been called for hearing, Cllr. Cyfus’ motion raised against his colleagues could not have been granted and was so ordered.
However, two hours were allotted to each party to make their points, amounting to eight hours in all. Petitioners’ lawyers in their deliberations cited several conditions they said were not conducive to the holding of the Special Senatorial Elections.
Taking the stand, Cllr. Cyfus, 1st Petitioners’ lawyers told the court that the holding of the elections violated the right of the health condition of the citizens and the respondents claimed they seemed to seek their interest and do not want to have a constitutional crisis.
Cllr. Cyfus also stated that since the elections were not held as per the October 14, 2014 date set by the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, the country and people were already in a deep constitutional crisis and cannot afford to risk the lives of thousands of citizens only because they want to elect fifteen Senators.
Cllr. Cyfus who presented these points also stated that his paramount concern before the court was basically of two major issues; 1, the holding of the Special Senatorial Elections in the midst of serious health crisis, the Ebola, and 2; the Lawmakers’ setting of elections dates, which Cllr. Cyfus considered a breach of the constitution of the Republic of Liberia.
According to Cllr. Cyfus, there are certain powers given to the Lawmakers, only to make electoral laws and not to set elections date. Also arguing that the process leading to the setting elections date should have been left to the people alone and not the Legislature as was done in this case.
However, 2nd Petitioners’ lawyer, Cllr. Lavalah Supuwood slightly took another path, leaving his colleagues Cllr. Cyrinus Cyfus on the other side, saying that instead, powers are fully given to the President of the Republic of Liberia to set Elections date and not the legislature.
According to Cllr. Supuwood, if this precedence is set by the legislature, it will give room for further chaos where certain group of people will misuse the limited powers given them to hold the country hostage by the actions.
Both 1st and 2nd Petitioners’ lawyers argued that it would have been necessary for a National Assembly under the caption, “National Leadership Conference ,”where all stakeholders will come together to make decisions as the way forward instead of an election.
The Petitioners also argued that the 1986 Constitution which was adopted during a military rule was not in error as it distanced itself from bias and issues that may ferment tension.
They also argued the some of the recent campaign launching of Congress for Democratic Change-CDC Senatorial Candidate George M. Weah and Senator Prince Y. Johnson’s recent launching in Nimba and Montserrado Counties respectively.
Meanwhile, respondents in the opening applications observed that petitioners made lots of errors in their arguments, one of which respondents believed petitioners were not mainly looking at the health issues in the country, but wanted an unconstitutional arrangement.
Respondents made specific reference to the National Leadership Conference, referring to that arrangement as an “All Liberians Conference,” which respondents said, the action on the part of Petitioners is cardinal to ushering a constitutional Government out illegally.
Three respondents, Cllr. Theophilus C. Gould, acting Justice Minister Benedict Sannoh and Solicitor General Betty Larmie Blamo pleaded with the Supreme Court amongst other things to dismiss the pending petition before the Supreme Court and in the same vein pass judgment in granting the holding of the Elections.
Some of the issues presented by Cllr. Gould and supported by his colleagues were the issue considering the constitution. Cllr. Gould told the Court that although there is sibling of the Ebola virus in the country, the National Elections Commission-NEC has put measures in place to conduct a much more credible and transparent elections in the country.
According to him, the Center for Disease Control-CDC, World Health Organization-WHO and Ministry of Health and Social Welfare regulations are seriously taken into consideration to provide a safe and conducive environment for this year’s elections.
Both acting Justice Minister Benedict Sannoh and Solicitor General Bettie Larmie Blamo said in separate statements that Petitioners failed to prove their case on legal grounds that were expected.
Solicitor General Bettie Larmie Blamo said that they were not served copies of the amended petition filed by the Petitioners and that the information given by them that more than 16,000 persons would be affected in the three countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where Liberia amounts for 7,000 of this number cannot be accepted for lack of documentary evidence.
Respondents further stated that Petitioners’ intension is to create tension and asked that the petition filed by them should be dismissed and allow the process to go ahead.