Liberia’s Supreme Court Trashes Unity Party Bill of Information
Monrovia – The bill of information seeking the change in the date of the runoff presidential election has been denied and dismissed by the Supreme Court of Liberia.
Report by Bettie K. Johnson Mbayo, [email protected]
The court at 19:30 on Thursday, December 21 ruled that the bill of information is premature and cannot be accepted on grounds that the National Elections Commission (NEC) was gradually complying with the court’s mandate.
Chief Justice Francis Korkpor reading the opinion of the court said it will be in “bad faith to grant the request by the Unity Party”.
The Unity Party requested the court to issue a stay order on grounds that the election commission has failed to comply with the mandate of the high court after it ruled against Liberty Party and order that the cleaning up of the final registration roll of voters.
But UP, in its bill of information, stated that the NEC lacks the constitutional and statutory authority to set December 26, 2017 as a new date for the runoff.
The party also requested the court to disqualify the chairman and executive Director of the commission from participating in or having anything to do with the runoff election.
The bill of information was resisted by the NEC who argued that it was filed in bad faith and prayed the court to suspend or disbar the lawyers representing UP.
But in the majority opinion, Chief Justice Korkpor said there were four issues that the court will speak upon.
Namely: whether or not NEC failed and neglected, and proceeding wrongly with the court’s opinion, if the Executive Director and Chairman should be disqualify, if NEC was in error for the date set and if the bill of information should be accepted by the court.
Chief Justice Korkpor ruled that court does not agree that the NEC failed and neglected but rather believe that there is cleaning of the FRR, commending the NEC for collaborating with ECOWAS.
On the disqualification of the chairman and Executive Director, Korkpor said the court in its mandate ordered the NEC to refrain from making statements that will prejudice the runoff elections.
The court’s mandate states: “Ensure that the Chairman and members of the Board of Commissioners of the NEC and any staff of NEC are prohibited from any public or other pronouncements and utterances relating to any matters which may grow out of the run-off election or any statements in regard to any complaint filed with the NEC, as could create any semblance of bias, prejudice or view of the case.
After the mandate on Dec 7, NEC Public relations officer told journalists that the FRR was already clean and he has no knowledge of what the court was talking about.
“As far the NEC is concern the FRR is already clean and we don’t have anything else to do with it.”
The statement in which the court described as abusive and a gross disrespect to the court’s order or mandate.
Korkpor said, “When this court issued a mandate no one should treat it lightly, failure to comply, the PR Mr. Henry Flomo is fined US$500 to be paid within 72 hours in government coffers and receipt be given to the Marshall of this court, he is also ordered incarcerated for 2-days at the Monrovia Central Prison.”
Flomo is currently at the Monrovia Central Prison after he met Commissioner Boakai Dukuly of the NEC.
The Court, however, said NEC was in no error of setting December 26 on grounds that the Unity party misinterpreted Article 83 (B).
He said Article 83 B &C supports the NEC setting the date which is enshrined in the Liberian constitution.
“We can’t accept the contention that NEC unilaterally set the date of the run off, the intervention of the Legislature is not invested in them,” the chief justice said.
“We can’t sustain the argument for the informant (UP) bill of information, NEC did not err, and the decision not to grant this bill of information is strictly in compliance of our Dec 7 opinion.
Associate Justice Kabineh Jan’eh dissented the majority opinion.