With the opposition Liberty Party vice standard bearer Harrison Karnwea’s fate hanging on the decision of the Supreme Court at 3 p.m. today, the Daily Observer has obtained credible information that the LP is holding a closed door meeting with Nimba County Senator Thomas Grupee as a substitute for the LP vice standard bearer position. Sen. Grupee is a staunch member of the governing Unity Party (UP).
According to the our source, the LP approached Sen. Grupee to replace Mr. Karnwea and the discussion was reportedly concluded in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, the party’s stronghold, over the weekend.
However, during a mobile phone interview last night with the Daily Observer, Sen. Grupee denied ever being approached by the LP, but confirmed that he was in Buchanan for a workshop.
“No, the information is not true. I went to Buchanan for a workshop on Local Governance Land Rights Acts, but not for any other political reason,” Grupee said.
“Harrison is my friend and kinsman, so we will all wait for the Supreme Court’s decision. But in a real sense, I have not been approached on anything that has to do with replacing him as the number two to Brumskine. If it happens that the LP wants me it will be in the open, because I don’t hide.”
Today’s ruling comes three days after the court disqualified a representative aspirant for Montserrado County District#15, Abu Kamara, who is currently holding the position of assistant minister for administration at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, to contest the upcoming polls.
Kamara was rejected for violating the Code of Conduct (CoC) Act for public officials. Karnwea, however, resigned his position as managing director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) in March this year.
Although Karnwea had resigned his position, the National Elections Commission (NEC) on July 7 rejected his nomination on grounds that he did not resign his post prior to the passage of the controversial CoC Act in 2014.
The code was enacted and approved on March 31, 2014, and published into law on June 20 the same year.
The NEC decision was challenged by Karnwea, who later appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the electoral body’s action to allow him to contest, “because my resignation was in compliance with the code, which the NEC has refused to accept,” he said.
Article 5.1 and 5.2 of the Act provides that “All officials appointed by the President of the Republic of Liberia shall not (a) Engage in political activities, canvass or contest for elected offices (b) Use government facilities, equipment or resources in support of parties or political activities.” It also says such persons cannot “(c) Serve on a campaign team of any political party, or the campaigns of any independent candidate.”
5.2 says: “Wherein any person in the category stated in section 5.1 desires to canvass or contests for an elective public position, the following shall apply: (a ) Any Minister, Deputy Minister, Director-General, Managing Director and Superintendent appointed by the President pursuant to article 56 (a ) of the Constitution and a Managing Director appointed by a Board of Director, who desires to contest for public elective office, shall resign said post at least two years prior to the date of such public election.
“(b) Any other official appointed by the President who holds a tenured position and desires to contest for public elective office shall resign said post three years prior to the date of such public election.
“(c) However, in the case of impeachment, death, resignation or disability of an elected official, any official listed above desirous of canvassing or contesting to fill such position must resign said post within thirty days, following the declaration of the NEC of the vacancy.”
In the ruling that disqualified Kamara, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor said that “as at the date of the interpretation of the CoC by the Supreme Court in the Serena Mappy Polson case, every imaginable shadow of doubt regarding whether or not the Act was unconstitutional was removed.”
“Therefore, it was expected that as a part of the rudiments of adherence to the rule of law, every affected public official appointed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, including Kamara, should have taken due note, not only of the court’s declaration of the constitutionality of the code, but also of the coverage of the code, in holding the code constitutional,” the Chief Justice emphasized.
Madam Polson is currently the superintendent of Bong County, who early this year challenged the constitutionality of the CoC; but, the justices of the Supreme Court on March 3, 2017, voted three in favor and two against, thereby making the CoC Act constitutional.
In Karnwea’s complaint, he argued that the NEC misconstrued Section 5.2 of the Code of Conduct (CoC), and subsequently prevented him from running for the position.
“The erroneous decision of the NEC is evident by the fact that Karnwea did not desire and could not have desired, two years ago, to be the running mate to Cllr. Charles W. Brumskine, the presidential candidate of LP, and therefore could not have resigned,” Karnwea said in his complaint.
“The case of Karnwea serving as the running mate to Brumskine is without the intent and spirit of the code. No one desires to be the running mate of another; it is the standard bearer that selects his or her running mate.
“Karnwea could have desired to be the running mate of Cllr. Brumskine even before Brumskine announced his candidacy, and for which reason, we ask this court to overturn the determination of the NEC,” Karnwea’s lawyer argued.
The NEC, however, argued that Karnwea’s intent and desire to engage in political activities was long before his resignation from the FDA, where he served as the managing director.
“Karnwea’s resignation from the ruling Unity Party and his joining the LP… is an egregious violation of the CoC,” the NEC contended. “The fact that his political leader and standard bearer, who was and remains aware of his (Karnwea) egregious violation and (ineligibility) to contest would choose him to be his running mate suggests a disregard for the rule of law.”
The NEC claimed that Karnwea engaged in political activities while serving as managing director of the FDA.
“The inference is that Karnwea used government facilities, equipment and or resources in support of partisan or political activities, prior to his resignation publicly from the UP and joining the LP,” the NEC contended. “This has given Karnwea obvious undue advantage over other candidates, which he intends to employ for a personal electoral lead. He should not be rewarded for his egregious violation of the CoC by allowing him to contest.”