Jubilation and songs of praise took the center stage at the Unification Pavilion in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County when the Bar Election Commission (BEC) declared Cllr. Moses Paegar as the winner of the presidential post of the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA).
Cllr. Paegar won by 144 votes out of 302, which is 47.6%, the BEC, Cllr. Fredrick Cherue said, after several voters, including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, His Honor Francis S. Korkpor, described the process as “free, fair and transparent.”
One of Paegar’s rivals, Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe, who earlier announced Saturday’s election as a victory for the LNBA, came close with 123 votes, which is 40.7%. A third candidate, Cllr. Koboi Johnson, collected 38 votes, which or 12.5% of the votes cast.
Members of the LNBA Election Commission were composed of several former presidents of the LNBA.
The voting process was well organized with the Chief Justice and the four Associate Justices being the first to cast their votes by secret ballot after waiting in queue to vote.
After the Justices cast their votes, the next to do so were the Judges, followed by senior lawyers, magistrates, counselors and attorneys, who also stood for long hours in queue to cast their votes.
Interestingly, the Full Bench of the High Court, after voting, remained in their seats on the podium as observers to ensure that the process was free, fair and transparent.
Another important moment in the process was the incumbent Theophilus Gould, who also cast his vote. He was barred by the LNBA constitution from running for a third consecutive term.
Speaking after he was announced winner of the election, Cllr. Paegar called on the opposition to join him in a national accord to tackle the many critical issues facing the Bar.
Cllr. Paegar, managing partner of the Sherman and Sherman Law Firm, admitted that the Bar over the years had been silent, adding “there is no question about this; we have been reacting to issues very late. It is now time that we take a proactive role not only in our internal organization but also at the national level.
“We are going to engage national leadership but we are going to do it responsibly. We are going to build bridges; we are going to establish relationships with relevant key stakeholders,” he declared.
“We are going to look at issues of national concern and refrain from fragmenting the institution.
“If anybody is thinking that we are going to take decisions harshly and quickly, they would be disappointed because this leadership will take decisions based on consultation,” he added.
Prior to the voting process, Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe, in a two minute address to the voters, including the Full Bench of the High Court, declared that he was not afraid to take any decision that would be in the interest of the LNBA.
“I will not remain silent. If you vote me into office, I will comment on issues in our society, as I have always done,” Cllr. Gongloe told his colleagues.
According to him, on several occasions he had disagreed with decisions of the Full Bench of the Supreme Court, emphasizing that these disagreements were “based on law issues.”
“Many of you can remember in the newspapers, when I disagreed with this Bench on the issue with journalist Rodney Sieh and former Agriculture Minister Chris Toe in the millions of United States dollar libel case.” His comment was greeted with applause from the crowd.
He explained that his action followed after the Bench decided to hear the case, instead of dismissing it, because, according to him, the failure of Sieh’s lawyers to complete his appeal process against the ruling of the lower court signified that there was no case before the Full Bench.
“I told them that they should not have heard the matter, while Sieh failed to complete his appeal process, because under the law, there was nothing before them to hear,” Cllr. Gongloe told his fellow Bar members.
Interestingly, after that statement, the Justices were observed on the podium simply looking at each other.
According to Cllr. Gongloe, under the leadership of Cllr. Gould the presence of the Bar was not felt.
“Under past leaderships, we felt the presence of the Bar. We were able to attend conferences in Abuja, Nigeria and Accra, Ghana. But, nobody felt the presence of the Gould leadership. If you were to elect me, I would make you to feel the presence of our noble institution,” Cllr. Gongloe assured the assembled Bar.
Candidate Paegar, in his two-minute remarks, made it known that he would not be confrontational in his leadership style. Instead, he would engage in extensive consultations, “in order to move the Bar Association forward.”
Other positions contested for included, vice president, secretary general and treasurer.
The vice president post was won by Cllr. Bima Lansanah who received 110 votes out of 302, which is 36.4%.
The position of secretary general was won by Atty. Dallamah Sulonteh, who took 183 votes out of 302, which is 60.5%.