Liberia: Supreme Court Schedules Argument into CPP’s Request for Demarcation before Voter Registration for April 4 amid CPP’s Complaint of Delay by the Court
MONROVIA – Barely a few hours after being accused by the opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) for allegedly descending Liberia into chaos due to its delay in hearing a writ of prohibition filed against the conduct of the ongoing Biometric Voters Registration (BVR) exercise, the Supreme Court of Liberia has finally succumbed to issue a notice inviting the CPP and the National Elections Commission (NEC) to adjudicate the matter.
By Obediah Johnson
The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of justice in Liberia.
The CPP comprises of the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) and a break-away faction of the Liberty Party (LP) headed by its National Chairman Musa Hassan Bility.
It can be recalled that few days to the commencement of the ongoing BVR, the CPP filed a writ of prohibition at the Supreme Court of Liberia questioning the legality of the process.
In its petition, the party argued that the National Elections Commission (NEC) failed to setup a threshold for consituency demarcation in keeping with the census report released by the government, through the Liberia Institute for Geo-Statistics and Info-Services (LISGIS).
The High Court mandated its Bridgadier General General Amos B. Kesseh, Sr. to invite the parties involved in the case under the captioned: the constitutionality of the National Elections Commission planned conduct of the voters registration without the demarcation of the constitutional electoral constituency.
“You are hereby ccommanded to notify the Parties in the above Entitled Cause of Action orr their Legal Representative (s) that the Honorable Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia will hear argument in said cause on the 4th day of April A.D. 2023, at the hhour of 10:00aa.m, and that they are cited to be present for same,”, the notice issued under the signature of the Clerk of the court Counselor Sam Mamulu stated.
The notice, which was issued last Thursday evening came in the wake of accusation raised by the CPP, tthrough its Senior Advisor Ambassador Lewis Brown, that the country was heading for trouble due to the delay by Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia to hear the writ of prohibition filed by the party against the ongoing Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) exercise.
Speaking aat a news conference, Mr. Brown observed that despite the filing of the petition which is being discussed in various street corners in Monrovia and other parts of the country for a week now, the Supreme Court is yet to invite for hearing the parties involved.
He said the High Court is setting a bad precedence for the eruption of chaos in Liberia and a constitutional crisis is eminent due to its delay in adjudicating the compliant filed by the CPP.
He noted that cheating does not start on election day, but it is done during the processes leading to the casting of ballots.
Ambassador Brown maintained that the ensuing elections will be problematic and end in cheating if the Supreme Court fails to act or rule on the CPP’s petition.
He maintained that Liberia’s elections and democracy are being threatened as a result of the situation.
He said the noticeable action of the Supreme Court to play low on the prohibition filed is being down at the time there are increasing reports of confusion, violence and chaos at some voter registration centers in the country.
“Liberia is descending into Chaos. The place has become so lawless that people are starting to feel that it is normal to be lawless. Lawlessless will hurt all of us ultimately. I want to draw the attention to the fact that lawlessness will only multiple chaos in our country because those with the authority to act decided that they will not act even when they are required to do so. When you are to act act fearlessly, fairly and independently and you failed to do so, you are setting the basis for chaos in this country.”
“We filed a petition to the Honorable Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia drawing attention to the unconstitutional behaviour of the NEC, the body with authority to superintend and conduct credbile, free and fair elections in our country. The petition was filed on Friday and today is Thursday; one week later, the Supreme Court is yet to hear that petition or cite the relevant parties so that the case is adjourn or they can rule. If we continues with an unconstititional process, we will end with an unconstititional result.”
Ambassador Brown observed that lawlessness and disregard for the rule of law remain the order of the day in Liberia.
He stressed that the Supreme Court should desist from pretending that there is no issue before it in the midst of voters’ trucking in clear violation of the new election law and other “unconsititional behavior of the NEC.”
He said a ruling from the court on the petition will reassure the CPP, and Liberians in particular of the restoration of the respect for the rule of law and order in the country.
Questioning High Court’s Independence
Ambassador Brown questioned the independence of the Supreme Court to fairly hear appeals brought before it by candidates after the pronoucement of the final rresults.
He observed that lawlessness and disregard for the rule of law remain the order of the day in Liberia.
Ambassador Brown indicated that Liberia cannot be a law abiding society when those clothed with the authority to promote the rule of law by upholding the constitution are acting on the contrary.
He said the ongoing BVR process is highly characterized by trucking of citizens who do not reside in those areas and the infiltration of foreigners to partake in the exercise.
He emphasized that it is the consitutional responsibility of the High Court to look into complaints filed by citizens or a group of individuals without fear or favor.
“If we begin to see the signal now that the court will either suppress or not hear petition reguarly brought before it, will you hear appeals when they come considering the outcome of the elections? What outcome do you want people to have when they come to you peacefully asking you to determine the constitutitionality of the VR relating to the elections? Do we have to wait until people start taking cutlasses to voter registratio centers before we wake up and act?”
Trigger for conflict
Ambassador Brown recalled that Liberia has trascended into chaos as a result of electoral matters.
He described elections as “a trigger for conflict” and the best way to which it can be avoided is to guarantee the conduct of free, fair and transparent electoral processes.
He said the ensuing elections must be secured under the country’s constitution.
Ambassador Brown promised that the CPP will not relent to forge ahead if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the NEC in the matter.
“There are some of you sitting down and saying we want to disturb, we better disturb now so that we don’t disturb tomorrow. Lawlessness is even in our traffic; it has crept into our elections. The CPP is not saying that they are right; they have an opinion or view. Only the court can say whether our action is constitutional or unconstitutional.”
He said petitioners can only go to the court to find remedies to their dissatisfactions, but wondered why the Supreme Court is delaying acting on the party’s petition.
Ambassador Brown blamed the delay by the court on the entrenched compromise among Liberians on issues, including those bordering on constitutionality.
He, however, called on Chief Justice Sie-Nye-ne Youh to live up to her commitment made at the opening of the current term that the High Court will jealously guard the country’s independence beginning with the hearing of the CPP petition.
He stressed that the court will be sending a wrong signal to Liberians and others if it fails to hear and render a judgment on the petition.
“If we do not have the chance to challenge issues now, will we be able to challenge them after the results? We want to beg the Supreme Court to spear his the danger”
Ambassador Brown said the breakdown in the rule of law does not affect the CPP alone, but it affects Liberians from other political parties.
“This is a citizenship issue and if you are a citizen of this country and you are sitting down watching the rule of law collapse, it will soon collapse on you. Our democracy and elections are in trouble and being threatened. Elections are a problem issue and to get it right, we must start from the beginning and not wait to fix it at the end.”
“If the NEC is acting constitutionally say it, but if the NEC is acting unconstitutionally as alleged, say it to spare all of us the danger that is ahead.”
Don’t sign undemocratic Bill
Ambassador Brown further used the occasion to call on President George Manneh Weah not to affix his signature to a bill passed by members of the National Legislature to nullify the effectuation of appeals filed against the outcome of election results by their political opponents.
He said the bill passed at this time is undemocratic.
He noted that it is unhealthy for elected Representatives and Senators to take their respective seats or offices at the time their political opponents are opposing and filing an appeal against the election.
Ambassador Brown maintained that such a move is an attempt to nullify the effectiveness of ensuring that those who are disenchanted with the outcome of the elections file in an appeal to the Supreme Court.
He added that the filing of appeals to the court to challenge the outcome of elections will not be guaranteed if the bill is signed into law by the President.
“Liberians, wake up and open your eyes and ears. This is our country. If the court can’t hear the constitutionality of the voter registration now, they will hear any appeal from you after you have elected an official and you sense cheating.”
It remains unclear why the Supreme Court has not issued the writ of prohibition on the ongoing Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) exercise or called for a hearing between the CPP and the NEC on the matter.