-NEC’s hearing officer rules
A legal battle sought by four executives of the former ruling Unity Party (UP), including former President and standard bearer, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who were expelled by the party during the 2017 elections period, suffered a major setback on Monday, April 15, 2019, when National Elections Commission (NEC) hearing officer, Cllr. Muana Ville, rejected a petition seeking the reinstatement of the expelled officials.
Cllr. Ville spoke of the lack of evidence to support the petitioners (executives) arguments that they were not given due process of the law, as they were “illegally expelled on mere allegations of violating the bY-laws and constitution of the UP.”
On January 13, 2018, Madam Sirleaf and three other party members that included Patrick T. Worzie, deputy secretary general; Commany B. Wesseh, Senator of River Gee County and his wife, Madam Medina Wesseh, former executive committee member, were expelled as a result of violation of the party’s constitution, and other acts inimical to the existence and reputation of the party, the party had earlier said.
Both Sirleaf and Madam Wesseh did not show-up to testify against their expulsion when the case was called for the hearing. Rather, it was Sen. Wesseh and Mr. Worzie who availed themselves to testify on behalf of the two other expelled executives.
The party at the time claimed that Article VII, which spells out the obligation, rights, and entitlements of members of the UP, was violated by the President.
“Section 1(e) states that the role of partisans in elections: (e) To support the UP’s candidate through campaigning for the election of the party candidate, and to provide any other support within his/her capacities for any candidate of the UP at any election; and (f) To demean and conduct himself/herself in a manner that would bring credit to the UP at any election.”
Ville’s ruling was hailed on Monday by UP national chairman, Wilmot Paye, as a victory for democracy. However, Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi, who represented the legal interest of the four expelled executive members of the party rejected the judgment, and openly announced an appeal to the NEC Board of Commissioners (BOC) which may eventually land at the Supreme Court.
“Their behavior also constitutes sabotage, and undermines the existence of the party, and they acted inappropriately so that decision was necessary to serve as deterrence, because the officials had violated the party rules requiring members to support all UP candidates in elections,” Mr. Paye noted.
Although Ville’s judgment comes few months to the conduct of the senatorial elections, he explained that his decision during Worzie’s testimony was based on previous testimony admitting that he went to Bomi County during the 2017 presidential elections where Worzie campaigned against a UP’s representative candidate, which caused the party to lose the county seat.
“The party said they tried calling Worzie during the elections process to assist, but his phone could not be reached, the claim Worzie did not refute,” Ville judgment declared.
He added, “the UP claims that all of the expelled members openly supported the opposition now ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) of George Weah during the elections, but none of the expelled members denied the accusation.”
On the issue of due process not accorded them prior to the expulsion, Cllr. Ville quoted Worzie as saying, “I was called for a meeting by some members of the party National Executive Committee, hosted at the private residence of then standard bearer Joseph Nyuma Boakai, and so, I walked out of the meeting, because there was no quorum. To that, the minority members agreed to our expulsion.”
“But Worzie failed to subpoena the UP’s executive committee to produce minutes from the meeting, which decided on their expulsion, and so, I am convinced that the expulsion was done in line with the by-laws and constitution of the UP.”
He added, “therefore, the petitioners argument to overturn their illegal expulsion is hereby denied.”
The expelled officials, in their petition, argued that 16 minority members of the party’s National Executive Committee in various leadership positions, hosted by the standard bearer at his private residence, conspicuously targeted for expelling the standard bearer emeritus, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Senator Company Wesseh, Mrs. Medina Wesseh, and Patrick Worzie, all of whom were executive committee members.
“The 16 votes taken and other motion to expel us fall short by the required votes as can more fully be seen from the party’s constitution Article VI, section 3, which requires for two-thirds members to expel or punish any member (s),” Worzie said.
Worzie also accused the UP’s Executive members of denying him and others due process of law as a result of which petitioners were illegally expelled on mere allegations of violating the by-laws and constitution devoid of a single iota of truth.