The hearing chambers of the National Elections Commission (NEC) yesterday gave the Alternative National Congress (ANC) a 72-hour ultimatum to either conduct Montserrado District #17 primary or face sanctions.
Following the ruling in favor of aspirant George V. Curtis and thei mmediate acceptance of the political party’s chairman, Lafayette Gould, the Daily Observer obtained documents from a reliable source that Abraham Sesay, who Mr. Curtis is expected to contest against in the district, has already completed his nomination and has been cleared by the National Elections Commission (NEC). This means that the primary which is to take place within 72 hours, according to the ultimatum, will only be a formality.
In his ruling, the NEC chief hearing officer, Cllr. Muana S. Vile, said: “Wherefore and in view of what has been heard, the petitioner’s petition filed before the NEC requesting the immediate holding of district #17 primary by the ANC is hereby granted; the ANC is hereby ordered to proceed with the conduct of the primary for Montserrado District #17 within 72 hours as of the date and time of rendition of this ruling.”
The postponement of the primary came about when supporters of the two aspirants, Curtis and Sesay, clashed on two separate occasions due to disagreements. The Daily Observer gathered from yesterday’s ruling that Curtis’ supporters suspected foul play from the ANC hierarchy in the anticipated primary, which agitated them. Cllr. Vile said the “petitioner (George V. Curtis) filed a complaint against the ANC for their alleged failure, refusal and neglect to hold the planned primary for district #17, Montserrado County on June 30 this year.
“Petitioner further alleged that he is an aspirant of the said district on the ticket of the ANC and that the primary was postponed from June 21-22 with the quorum of 29 out of 34 delegates.”
He added that both aspirants agreed to participate in the process, which was expected to have commenced at 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 22, but only Curtis showed up at the time.
“The primary committee failed without any justification to conduct the primary, and therefore, it resulted into the camp of Curtis raising concerns with the executives of the party. When the district delegates were speaking against the delay of the primary, private security personnel of ANC reportedly manhandled the delegates; a situation that resulted in properties damage for which the party took a decision to postpone the primary for time indefinite,” he noted, adding that the petitioner immediately sought NEC’s intervention.
Cllr. Vile said citations were then served to the parties involved to appear for the hearing on the dispute on July 5, and that Curtis was represented at the witness stand by Cllr. J. Johnny Momoh and Associates Legal Chambers. Also present at the hearing was Cllr. Amara Sheriff, while the respondent (ANC) was represented by Atty. Benedict A. Yarsiah. He said the petitioner’s counsel presented four witnesses, namely George Varney Curtis (petitioner), James Wombia, Abu B. Massaley and Boryou Koloweah.
Witness James Wombia in his testament said that he was the vice chairman for administration and one of the delegates of district 17 for the ANC. “They told us to go for the primary at the ANC headquarters and the delegates were thirty in number from our district. The two aspirants in the persons of George V. Curtis and Abraham Sesay were brought before us. When the primary committee saw the two aspirants’ supporters were over-zealous, the primary committee thought to pause the district 17 primary and the delegates were told to stick around within 24 hours whether the primary could be held or not,” Wombia said.
He said Sesay was absent and even though there was a quorum to hold the primary, the primary election committee did not hold one. The Respondent presented two witnesses, namely Lafayette E. O. Gould, national chairman of ANC, and Askia Biago. Witness Gould testified that on the day the primary was scheduled to have taken place petitioner Curtis and Sesay’s supporters began to agitate among themselves and tension was brewing.
The atmosphere became so tense that they (supporters) were having skirmishes and insulting each other; as a result, Gould said he called for ANC’s security director to inquire as to whether they could put the situation under control and continue with the holding of the primary since he, the chairman, was leaving the office. He noted that the primary election chairman informed him (Gould) that the primary could not be held.
Briefly commenting on the ruling, Mr. Curtis who is the current City Mayor of Brewerville in Montserrado County, said he welcomed the decision of the Commission and looked forward to ANC, who has collected all fees required of aspirants to contest the primaries, to live up to expectation.
When informed of the Daily Observer’s findings of the NEC’s candidates nomination printout as well as the notice of receipt bearing aspirant Abraham Sesay, he laughed and promised the party a very serious legal challenge should it be confirmed that the pending primary is only intended as a formality. “We will go to court and they will prove themselves. No one will play with me by doing anything funny,” he noted.
The ANC must conduct the primary before Saturday, July 15, according to the NEC mandate.