— Cllr. Findley Karnga on the delay in Senator-elect Samukai’s certification
A Liberian lawyer, Cllr. Findley Karnga, has blamed the Executive Branch of Government for influencing the National Election Commission’s decision to delay the certification of Brownie Samukai, Senator-elect of Lofa County. He is basically pointing accusing fingers at the Minitry of Justice’s action led by the Justice Minister, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean, and Solicitor General Syrenius Cephus, to write the NEC ordering it to halt to certification of Mr. Samukai.
Cllr. Karnga, who is a legal counselor for the Collaboration Political Parties (CPP), said legally, Samukai should be certificated but, because of the interest in Lofa County, the Executive is doing everything in its power to pull the Senator-elect down.
“The Executive is dominating everything. They [have] all of the resources and they control everyone,” he noted.
He said NEC as an integrity institution heading election matters in the country only has the legal responsibility to execute and implement election laws.
“NEC commissioners owe loyalty to those who appointed them; therefore, they are doing what they are because of the influence of their bosses, which is totally against our laws.”
In a 30-minute interview via mobile phone on the Truth Breakfast Show on Truth FM 96.1, Cllr. Karnga said MOJ seems to rely on Section 3.2,3 of the election law. It provides that “Once a year in December, MOJ should submit a listing of individuals affected by court order, the individual name, address and their voter registration card.”
He said since the ministry failed to carry out that process, it has violated that law because it did not provide a list of convicts before the election; thereby allowing individuals to participate. In this regard, Cllr. Karnga said MOJ cannot advise NEC to halt Samukai’s certification, which according to him is a clear manifestation of the Executive’s influence.
It can also be recalled that the Supreme Court placed a Stay Order on the Certification of Samukai again on grounds that a writ of prohibition was filed by the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) seeking the halting of certification of Samukai who was found guilty for misapplication of entrusted funds belonging to the Armed Forces of Liberia.
MPC argues that since Samukai is now a convict, the law prevents convicts from ascending to any elected position until after five years of serving the punishment for which the person was convicted.
Cllr. Karnga said MPC’s action against Samukai is totally against the law because it (MPC) did not participate in the December Senatorial election and therefore has no legal standing in this electoral matter. “MPC is only being used as a scapegoat to influence the court of MOJ’s action, but it knows well that it does not have any legal standing in the electoral process.”
According to Section 5.1 of the election law, “All eligible citizens may vote or contest in an election except one who has been judicially declared to be incompetent or of unsound mind or who has been barred from voting as a result of his/her conviction and imprisonment for an infamous crime which disenfranchised him/her as a voter and has been restored to full citizenship,” but in this case, Samukai was declared free by the court.
Though the NEC did not prevent Samukai from contesting, Cllr. Musa Dean and the Solicitor General, Cllr. Syrenius Cephus sent a letter to the NEC after the conduct of the election asking that electoral body not to certificate the Lofa County Senator-elect because of his conviction for misapplication of pension money belonging to the Armed Forces of Liberia.
The Supreme Court had earlier withheld ruling by Criminal Court ‘C’ with some modifications that Samukai should restitute the US$1,147,656.35 used from the AFL pension money that he [Samukai] says was used on the orders of his boss, former President Sirleaf. The Supreme Court went further to warn Samukai that if 50% of the said amount cannot be paid in six months, he would be incarcerated until full payment is made.
Without naming the date and time or what led to the agreement, Cllr. Karnga argued that there was a decision reached between the Government of Liberia and the past administration about payment of the money in question. In said arrangement, the Weah Administration agreed to restitute the money through budgetary allotment, of which a part payment of about US$400,000 has been made.
He also stated that the court cannot render one guilty in a criminal case without a jail term, but if convicted without a prison term, then, you cannot be considered a convict.
“He’s not a convict. He was adjudicated because the court canceled that aspect. Samukai is not going to serve the two-year jail term anymore because it was being canceled,” Cllr. Karnga added.
He recalled ruling by the court that Samukai is to pay in 6 months 50% of the said amount and the 6 months is yet to expire while they are denying his certification. “They said if he fails to satisfy these two requirements, then, he should be incarcerated in a common prison. So after six months, you can call Samukai a convict. That’s why Samukai is free today,” Cllr. Karnga said.