By Edwin G. Wandah
The Supreme Court last Saturday quashed the Writ of Prohibition filed on November 24, 2014 against the holding of the Special Senatorial Elections on December 16, 2014 by some individuals and groups. They include, former Internal and Information Ministers Blamo Nelson and Emmanuel Bowier, first petitioners, and the National Democratic Coalition and Movement for Progressive Change, second Petitioners, along with a registered voter, Edwin K. Martin.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC); Cllr. Jerome Korkoya told this paper recently yesterday that the polling will now take place instead of December 16 as was previously announced because of the lost days as a result of the legal matter which has now been resolved by the Supreme Court.
In its ruling, three out of the five Justices, including Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor Sr. came down with a resounding opinion in denying the Writ of Prohibition, thus quashing the writ and lifting the suspension placed on the electoral process.
The ruling which reflected the views of three of the Justices including Justice Jamesetta Howard-Wolokolie, Sia-neh-Yoh and Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor Sr., was sufficient enough to make the verdict in the case, leaving the minority two, Justice Philip A.Z. Banks III, and Kabineh Ja’neh to agree in parts and also descending in parts.
For them, Justices Banks III and Ja’neh, the National Elections Commission-NEC and Government of Liberia did not do well in setting up a date for the holding of the Special Elections.
The Justices bitterly frowned on the decision taken by both NEC and the Government of Liberia to have the elections set for the 16th of December this year when indeed the current prevailing health condition of the country was desperately deplorable.
The two Justices believed, having the elections at such a time risk the lives of thousands of citizens at the expense of just fifteen Senators. Although, the Justices in their deliberations basically took into consideration the health status of the country, but yet respected the views of their colleagues but also could not consciously agree to the ruling.
However, Chief Justice Korkpor’s ruling which according to him centered on Article 29 of the Liberian Constitution, took into account the issue of rights as was one of the sticking issues addressed by the two parties, the Petitioners and the Respondents.
Chief Justice Korkpor Sr. ruled that Petitioners failed to produce evidences in line with law to prove their case, but instead, raised political issues, some of which have to do with the rights of the people, linking it to political issues.
According to Chief Justice Korkpor, the issue around rights, political in nature was beyond the Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court’s opinion as according to him, the court has limited jurisdiction over political issues which are left solely to both the Executive and Legislative Branches of Government.
In his lengthy deliberation, three cardinal issues were raised by the petitioners: a. the joint resolution which petitioner said was unconstitutional, b. National Elections Commission failure to publish Voter’s role and c. The unfavorable condition of he Ebola scenario, in which elections date was set for citizens to vote.
Inspite of these issues, the Supreme Court’s ruling, which was centered on Article 29 of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia; which states the setting of election date left to the two Branches of the Liberian Government, the Executive and Legislative, and was considered political issues beyond the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, as the Court is not a political institution and thus, cannot decide issues belonging to other branches of Government.
Elaborating further on the issue of rights as spelt out in Article 1 of the Liberian Constitution, which explained that’all powers are inherent in the people, all free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require’.
‘In order to ensure democratic government which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the ‘right’ at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments’.
According to Chief Justice S. Korkpor Sr., Petitioners in the instant case differed; he said 1st Petitioner lawyer, Cllr. Saymah S. Cephus, in his argument before them argued that the right as being discussed here and as spelt out in Article 1, gives the people the right, and not in the National Legislature, while, Cllr. Lavelah Supuwood, 2nd Petitioner argued that the right is solely given to the President of the Republic of Liberia and not the Legislature.
Passing on the issue, Chief Justice Korkpor Sr. said, the right as defined by law means, the People’s rights are limited to voting and selecting their leaders and making or setting dates for elections.
In his ruling he solely left the issue to the Legislature and the Executive Branches of Governments as spelt out in Article 34 of the Liberian Constitution, saying, the Legislature and Executive shall decide these issues which again according to him, are left solely to these two branches of Government.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court bitterly frowned on Cllr. Supuwood’s action and fined him US$300,00 for randomly filing motions which according to law was not supported. A total of three petitions were filed by Cllr. Supuwood after he had filed other amended petitions.
The Supreme Court also frowned at the action of the 2nd Petition dropping the first petition and replacing it with a new one and signing on behalf of the petition instead of the petitioners signing for themselves. One of the Petitioners, Edwin K. Martin’s was forced on the document without the prior notice of the court.
In the ruling, 1st Respondent, the National Elections Commission was seen to have done no error, but was only the Government of Liberia which did not file their returns on time, after it was to file its returns on December 2nd but failed to do so until December 3rd 2014, but that could not tamper with the outcome of the ruling.
By Edwin G. Wandah