By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
A misunderstanding ensued on Monday over the issue of who really filed the writ of prohibition that was granted by the Supreme Court, this, issuing a stay order on the enforcement of Executive Order 65. Some officials of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) who appeared on the Truth FM morning program, “Truth Breakfast Show,” came down hard on Information Minister, Lewis Brown who announced about the stay order based on a petition by independent candidate Robert Sirleaf.
They disagreed with the Minister, using all kinds of words, which I am not prepared to repeat that he misled the Liberian people on the matter in that it was the 14 lawmakers, who pledged support to Amb. George Weah who did file the petition, and not Robert Sirleaf, as the Minister claimed.
Unsurprisingly, during the show, the minister interjected and maintained that he was ‘not in the know’ of any petition filed by the lawmakers and that what was in his possession was the one filled by Mr. Robert Sirleaf. Even with this, the CDC officials still maintained that the minister was playing deceit, as there was no writ filed by Mr. Sirleaf.
Two other issues that the CDC officials raised which they believed set the basis from their argument that Mr. Sirleaf did not file, as the minister stated because Mr. Sirleaf, during an interview with the VOA, promised to file his suit by Monday. And as such, the claim of the minister was not true because this man told the world that he would file on Monday. It was also argued that the court could not receive two of such petitions.
As I listened to the officials of the CDC and the minister who called during the program, I surmised that this simple situation would result to unnecessary noise. I say this simply because this is a matter of documentation and that whether or not anyone filed any writ with the Supreme Court was something that could be ascertained. Similarly, if there was any writ filed, the time would be indicated. Therefore, there was no need for any acrimony on the matter.
Regarding the issue that Mr. Sirleaf promised to file his suit, instead it was filed on Saturday. This was again a simple matter. The best to have been done was to check with the court to find out as to whether or not this man filed this petition with the court. He may had promised to do it on Monday, but his lawyers, being fully conversant of what is known as “Procedural Law, decided to do it that time for certain reasons. But to argue that he promised to do it on Monday, but instead, the writ was filed on Friday, is not a strong argument. The issue here should be whether or not he did file, as reported.
According to the FrontPage African newspaper, Court documents in the possession of this paper indicated that Robert Allen Sirleaf, independent candidate for the Montserrado County senatorial elections, of the City of Monrovia, County of Montserrado, Republic of Liberia, filed a petition for writ of prohibition on the 5th day of December A.D. 2014. The court documents indicated that Justice in Chambers, Cllr. Banks acted on the Robert Sirleaf’s petition by issuing the Stay order on December 6, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.
Furthermore, according to the paper, a copy of the petition by the fourteen lawmakers, including Edwin M. Snowe, Jr. Gabriel Nyenkan, Munah E. Pelham-Youngblood, Bill Twehway, Solomon George, A. Vamuyah Corneh, Adolph Akwe Lawrence, Saah H. Joseph, Julius F. Berian, Edward S. Forh, Acarous Moses Gray, Thomas P. Fallah and William V. Dakel; all Representatives of Montserrado County, of the City of Monrovia versus the Government of Liberia by and thru the Ministry of Justice, it is stated that the lawmakers filed their petition against the constitutionality of Executive Order #65 on December 6, 2014.
The paper said the documents show that Justice Banks mandated the clerk of the court to issue the Stay Order at 4:30 p.m. on December 6, 2014. In a stay order issued by Justice Banks following the fourteen lawmakers’ petition before the high court for a writ of prohibition, the Supreme Court placed a stay order on the executive order.
Indeed, it has been established that two separate writs of prohibitions were filed with the Justice in Chamber- one from Robert Sirleaf and another from the 14 lawmakers, who earlier opposed the Executive Order 65 issued by the President, which among other things banned mass movement, gathering, rallies and parades during the campaign period.
I decided to bring this issue out today because sometimes we find ourselves in unnecessary wrangling or confrontation on simple matters that do not deserve such treatment. This is a matter that could be ascertained to establish the veracity, rather than resorting to all kinds of confrontations, or sometimes bring unwarranted chaos, thereby polluting the air of tranquility in the country.
I am aware that election is a contest in which participants want to emerge victorious. Notwithstanding, it should not reduce us to unnecessary confrontation and acrimonious exchanges. In the democratic process, people support candidates because of what they believe those candidates can deliver. By being supporters of various candidates, should in no way create a situation of enmity.
Specifically, journalists have a greater responsibility to ensure that tension and bickering are not introduced in the ongoing political process. As the conduit between the newsmakers and the public, we have a role to make sure that all is well to keep the peace. Lest we forget, if we do not manage this process properly, we stand to be blamed, as members of the media, who broadcast, circulate and decide on what is good for public consumption.
This is time for journalists or media practitioners to go beyond “Stenographic Reporting” to “Investigative Journalism” to ferret the truth. This is no time to rely only on ‘attribution” (what someone says) by going further for the truth.
To conclude, the lesson we as a people and nation can learn from this situation is that before we go public, it is imperative that we check our facts or crosscheck information available before going public because sometimes, we may be furnished with the wrong information, thus bringing us to public ridicule. I Rest My Case.