Court Reserves Ruling In Disputed Senatorial Race
Legal arguments into the disputed senatorial election in Maryland County were advanced before the Supreme Court of Liberia with three lawyers given one hour each.
Taking the podium on behalf of Dr. Bhofal Chambers of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) Wednesday, Cllr. SnonsioNigba said the Supreme Court Bench has been pushed, and that election is not a mere event, but rules must be followed.
Cllr. Nigba told the court that the appellant, Dr. Chambers filed a complaint against the magistrates of the National Elections Commission for gross irregularities allegedly committed during the conduct of the senatorial election in Maryland County in 2014.
Cllr. Nigba argued that the NEC magistrates failed to conduct the election consistent with due process of law because after his client had complained of gross violation, NEC magistrates refused to conduct an investigation into the allegation.
He averred that investigation into the allegation of election fraud commenced on December 27, 2014 after the matter was reported on December 23, 2014.
The lawyer contended that all principles laid down in the Election Law of Liberia were not adhered to by NEC because Election law requires that all parties of interest must be present during an investigation.
He disclosed that during the December, 27 hearing, only Dr. Chambers along with his two witnesses appeared, but J. Gbebo Brown of the ruling Unity Party, who was declared winner was not present.
In counter argument, Cllr. Joseph Blidi, who is the legal counsel for the NEC said the absence of Mr. Brown has no legal harm to the issue at bar.
Cllr. Blidi insisted that Dr. Chambers appeared and produced witnesses, who testified and cross-examined.
He said Mr. Brown was not accused directly of irregularities, but that it was the NEC magistrates. Cllr. Blidi said Mr. Brown’s absence was tantamount to waiver.
At that point, Justice Philip A. Z. Banks, III interrupted him, saying that the Supreme Court has held that it is mandatory that parties of interest must be present at all stages of an investigation.
However, Justice Korkpor said it is a cardinal principle of law whether administrative forum, notice should be served on all party litigants.
Appearing for Mr. Brown as his legal counsel was Cllr. Gloria Elliot, who argued that Dr. Chambers’ right to due process of law was never violated as claimed by his lawyer.
She told the court after election that Dr. Chambers requested for all the tally sheets and called on the NEC magistrates to recount ballot papers, but the magistrates said they had no jurisdiction to do so.
However, one of counsels for Dr. Chambers prayed the High Court to send the matter to the NEC to hear their client’s side of the story.