The Liberian Senate has voted to request Justice Minister, Cllr Musah Dean, to write a letter to the Elections Commission, withdrawing the one written earlier by his Solicitor General, Saymah Syrenius Cephas, requesting NEC not to certificate Lofa County Senator-elect Brownie Jeffrey Samukai.
Proferring the motion after almost two hours of interventions by Senators, Grand Bassa County ranking Senator, Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence declared that “In the spirit of coordination, I like to move that the Minister of Justice write a communication to the National Elections Commission, withdrawing the communication written by his Solicitor General, and a copy be sent to the Liberian Senate tomorrow ( today Friday).
“Madam Vice President, the presiding officer of the Senate, honorable members of the Liberian Senate, I don’t want to belabor the point; the provision of the law, Section 2.3 of the New Elections Law… empowers the Minister of Justice to inform the Commission (NEC) of the names of all persons judicially prosecuted and sentenced for disenfranchisement… I was out of the vicinity of the city (Monrovia)… the Solicitor General tells me that due to the urgency of the matter, he informed the National Elections Commission that Mr. Brownie Samukai has been convicted. I may be wrong, and stand corrected that I guess part of the issue we are having is that this letter seems to be regarded as instructions to the Elections Commission, though largely it was the information to Elections Commission, as required by law. As he having now explained to me, I have reviewed the matter, I have approved his action, thank you.”
However, appearing on Tuesday, Minister Dean told Senators that he was not in receipt of the letter, but only read it in the social media; and that the best to speak on it is the author.
But in the concluding paragraph, the Solicitor General’s letter stated: “It is my considered opinion that it inarguably allay any and all concerns that may arise and you will, therefore, proceed not to certificate him.”
But countering the Justice Ministry’s arguments, Margibi County Senator, Emmanuel Nuquay maintained that the letter to NEC served two purposes — to inform and request them not to certificate Mr. Samukai.
In a strong-worded comment, Senator Nuquay furthered that the letter be revoked; “if this is continued, then I am sorry to say that the electoral process cannot be respected. The next thing, people will take the law into their own hands, and nobody wants to go back to the dark days.”
Outspoken Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon reminded his colleagues that, “What this communication has done does not impede or obstruct the functions of the Senate, but it sets a dangerous precedent for our democratic governance where when we sit and allow the Executive to arm-twist a democratic process against especially a critical voice, they will prepare a trump up charges against you, get you convicted in that court and then one Solicitor General will pick up Solicitor General Cephas letter for precedent to deprive people of the electoral process; this is dangerous.
Softspoken Margibi County Senator Jim Tornolah for his part said the Minister and his Solicitor General who are supposed to thrive on integrity, “Can be in our midst in the Senate to share deception, I’m baffled. One of the cardinal hallmarks of leadership is integrity. Leadership wise, the Minister and his deputy have violated all of the norms of qualitative leadership; distinguished colleagues, we must hold the Justice Minister in contempt and decide action against.”
While the Senators were concluding their debate, Senator J Milton Teahjay informed his colleagues that NEC has been turned into a football that anybody who has influence is now going to kick them around: “As we speak, the National Port Authority is saying that they are going to credit the National Elections Commission US$40,000.00 to do recounting in River Cess County, with intention to deny Senator-elect Wellington Geevon Smith.”
Meanwhile, in a short closing statement, Minister Dean declared that he has come from the legal community to the political community, “And some of the sentiments that I have heard, I wouldn’t be truthful, if I told you I am not disheartened; but again I am not broken, I am not discouraged. When we appeared here, we told you we have not had the opportunity to view the matter, and if you wanted an explanation on that day he was the best evidence; this is a vindication of the truth of my character. I’m glad that I usually take heat from all sides in this town- from the opposition, from the ruling party and everybody; but I will continue to be stable, static, constant and upright. The law is the law.”
In a related development, the Supreme Court Associate Justice Cllr Sie-A-Neh Yuoh yesterday reserved ruling in the petition of stay order prayed for by the National Elections Commission, against the Liberian Senate on a contempt charge relating to the delayed, announcement of elections results beyond the Constitutional timeframe. No date was announced.