One of the lawyers representing the National Elections Commission (NEC) yesterday, during an oral argument, openly alleged that those Liberians who are opposing the holding of the Special Senatorial Election were interested in unseating the Full Bench of the Supreme Court.
“If you were to accept their petition and halt the holding of the December 16 Special Senatorial Election, all of you Justices will be losing your respective jobs, because there will be a change of government,” Cllr. Theophilus Gould emphasized during eight (8) hours of intense deliberation on whether not or to lift the stay order and allow the NEC to conduct its planned election.
“Their action is beyond the Ebola crisis. They are opting for an interim government; this is their motive and you have to stop them from doing so. They must be stopped now and immediately,” Cllr. Gould further stressed.
However, in counter argument, Cllr. Laveli Supuwood told the court that they were not interested in the establishment of an interim government, but they were interested in the violation of the constitution by the NEC and the National Legislature basing their arguments on Article 86 (a, b) and Article 88 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
In their ruling, Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor declared that “the High Court Judges will go into their robbing room and, as soon as possible, we would indicate which way we will go. Matter is suspended.”
Before the argument and subsequent reservation of its ruling, the Justice in Chamber, Associate Justice Philip A.Z. Banks on November 28 placed a stay order on all elections activities, after two political parties and eminent citizens, including Blamo Nelson, former minister of Interior Affairs, Emmanuel Bowier, former information minister in the regime of former President Samuel K. Doe, as well as civil society asked him to do so.
But, addressing the Full Bench at the Temple of Justice, Cllr. Gould reminded them that those individuals were opting for a Liberian conference, where they would call for an interim government, if the election fails to take place.
“They are interim government specialists; they are former government officials who want to see the setting of a transitional government, where they would have a part to play,” the NEC lawyer further alleged.
He went on to say that the ex-officials were protesting against the election so that the government can declare a vacancy at the House of Senate and subsequently a by-election can take place.
Delving into the Ebola crisis, Cllr. Gould clarified that NEC has put every mechanism into place to protect the spread and transmission of the virus, “NEC has put into place hand washing, temperature taking among other measures during the election and the campaigning process.”
The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) was one of the major issues. The petitioners (complainants) were asking for the postponement of the December 16 election.
In counter argument, Cllr. Laveli Supuwood told the court that they were not interested in the establishment of interim government, but they were interested in the violation of the constitution by the NEC and the National Legislature basing their arguments on Article 86 (a, b) and Article 88 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia
Article 86 (a states that “the President may, in consultation with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, proclaim and declare the existence of a state of emergency in the Republic or any part thereof. Acting pursuant thereto, the President may suspend or effect certain rights, freedom and guarantees contained in this constitution and exercise such other emergency power as may be necessary and appropriate to take care of the emergency, subject, however, to the limitations, contained in this chapter.”
Also 86 (b) states that “the state of emergency may be declared only where there is threat or outbreak of war or where there is civil unrest affecting the existence, security or wellbeing of the republic amounting to a clear and present danger.”
Article 88 also states that “The president shall immediately upon the declaration of a state of emergency, but not later than seven days , thereafter lay before the Legislature its regular session at a specifically convened session, the facts and circumstance leading o such declaration.”
It further states that “the legislature shall within seventy-two hours, by joint resolution either by two-thirds of the membership of each house, decide whether the proclamation of a state of emergency is justified or whether the measures taken thereunder are appropriate. If the two-thirds vote is not attained, the emergency shall automatically be revoked. Where the Legislature shall deem it necessary to invoke the state of emergency or to modify the measure taken there under, the president shall accordingly and immediately carryout the decision of the Legislature.”
In their argument, Cllr. Supuwood said, the Articles do not allot any power to the National Legislature to set election date contrary to the Legislature’s action to set the December 18 date for the holding of the Special Senatorial Election, which they alleged is a violation of the constitution.
“There is no provision in these articles that say the Legislature should set election date, it gives the President the right to suspend or affect any rights and not the legislature. They are only there to approve the declaration of a state of emergency,” he added, “if there is any constitutional crisis like this one, it is the people who have the right to set a new date and not the Legislature.”