The exclusion from certification by Justice-in-Chambers Philip A.Z. Banks of three senatorial candidates declared winners by the National Elections Commission (NEC), has come under sharp criticism by Speaker J. Alex Tyler, warning the Supreme Court to not meddle in political affairs.
Speaker Tyler on Saturday during the formal program marking the certification of winners in last month’s Special Senatorial Election, argued that there are three separate and coordinate branches of government and the Supreme Court should deal with constitutional issues.
Though the Speaker’s brief remarks did not detail what he meant, some political commentators believed that he was referring to Articles 2 and 3 of the Liberian Constitution.
Article 2 says that the Supreme Court, pursuant to its power of judicial review, is empowered to declare any inconsistent laws unconstitutional if any laws, treaties, statutes, decrees, customs and regulations found to be inconsistent with it shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void and of no legal effect.
And Article 3, states, that Liberia’s form of government is Republican with three separate coordinate branches: the Legislative, the Executive and Judiciary, and consistent with the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances,… no one branch shall exercise any of the powers assigned to either of the other two branches except as otherwise provided in this Constitution.
The stay order from the Supreme Court denied the certification of Cllr. Varney G. Sherman (Grand Cape Mount); Atty. Morris G. Saytumah (Bomi) and Dr. Jim W. Tornonlah (Margibi), meaning that if they are not certificated they would not be inducted as Senators on Monday, January 12, 2015, as prescribed in the Constitution.
Some pundits believe that the “stay order” is political owing to his sour relations with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and his interest in the President Pro Tempore position.
They also argue that Cllr. Sherman is reportedly the only freshman Senator who is capable of becoming the President Pro Tempore owing to his wealth of legal and political experience and his financial strength.
Atty. Saytumah of Bomi and Dr. Tornonlah of Margibi Counties were also prohibited from certification by the Supreme Court on account of alleged voters or elections fraud.
Those who were certificated include Senators Jewel Howard-Taylor (Bong), Jonathan L. Kaipay (Grand Bassa), Marshall A. Dennis (Grand Gedeh), Albert T. chie (Grand Kru), Stephen J.H. Zargo (Lofa0 and J. Gbloh-bo Brow of (Maryland Counties).
Others are Senators George M. Weah (Montserrado), Prince Y. Johnson (Nimba), Francis S. Paye (Rivercess), Commany B. Wesseh (River Gee) and Milton J. Teahjay (Sinoe).
According to the Director of Communication at NEC, Mr. Joey Kennedy, the stay order was the first-time in the history of Liberia for an aggrieved candidate to not follow the protest procedure by complaining first to the County magistrate and then to the Board of Directors of NEC before going to the Supreme Court but instead filing a protest straight to the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the President of the Liberia Bar Association, Cllr. Theophilus C. Gould, has expressed disbelief and disappointment in Speaker Tyler, who is an Attorney-at-Law, for judging the wisdom of the Supreme Court.
Cllr. Gould added that the Speaker should be held in contempt for his public assertion against the Supreme Court.
It can also be recalled that the Justice-in-Chambers of the Supreme Court, Philip A.Z. Banks III, issued a stay order on the December 16 Special Senatorial Election pending hearing into petitions filed before the Supreme Court of Liberia.
The Justice-in-Chambers ordered the Chairman of the NEC to halt all campaign activities leading to the Special Senatorial Election.
The petitions were filed on November 24, 2014 by a concerned group of eminent citizens due to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
Justice Banks took the decision based on two separate petitions for a Writ of Prohibition filed against the NEC and the Government of Liberia by Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus and Atty. Edwin Martin.
After arguments, the stay order was lifted and the election was held on Saturday, December 20, 2014.