Rep. Samuel Gayah Karmo has appealed against the ruling of the Bomi County Election Magistrate in his case against Rep. Edwin Melvin Snowe of Montserrado County Electoral District #6.
On June 15, Rep. Karmo filed a complaint to Washington V. Farmah, Senior Magistrate of Bomi, against the alleged ineligibility of Rep. Snowe to register to vote, lest to run, for any public office in the upcoming October polls in Sinjeh, Bomi Electoral District #1, which Karmo currently represents at the Lower House.
In his ruling, Magistrate Farmah said the respondent’s (Snowe) counsel filed a motion to dismiss the complaint contending that the ground cited in the complaint is not a ground for objection, and also that Karmo has not alleged any violation of elections law, and therefore the complaint must be dismissed.
“The magistrate heard the arguments on the motion and denied the same holding that in election contests, the petitioner must be accorded a clear opportunity to prove what is alleged,” the Magistrate said. “The petitioner’s counsel presented two witnesses and after their qualification, his first witness, Kumba Karmo, took the witness stand and said she visited the Weakama Public School Exhibition Center and saw the photo of Rep. Snowe displayed as a registered voter; that she requested an objection form, which the NEC staff filled out in favor of the petitioner; that she went through the complaint form and the complaint she wanted to file was not listed, but her complaint was violation of the fixed 73 threshold,” he pointed out.
Magistrate Farmah said the witness (Kumba Karmo) claimed that, as a sitting representative in Montserrado County Electoral District #6, Rep. Snowe registering at Weakama Public School in Bomi is a violation of the law.
“The petitioner’s second and final witness, Ernest Kamara, who also took the witness stand, provided same information against Snowe as provided by Kumba Karmo,” he said.
Farmah’s ruling said for Snowe, being a citizen of over 18 years of age, to have registered to vote in Bomi for the 2017 elections is not in violation of any election law. “Snowe cannot be barred from registering to vote outside of his district and at a location where he has established residency. In view of what I have narrated above, the petitioner’s petition objecting to the registration of the respondent at the Weakama Public School is hereby denied and dismissed,” he said.
In his response at the June 24 hearing, Karmo said “that as to count five of Snowe’s answer that he has not violated any provision of the Liberian Constitution and Election Laws as to registration of a sitting representative in a cross-county electoral district, is false and it is designed to mislead this body and without any basis.”
He added in his submission that contrary to this assertion, the “Distributing Regulations” of Article 3.3 of NEC relative to the 73 Fixed Electoral Threshold and the provision of section 4.2 of NEC “Distributing Regulations” prohibit and forbid cross county district registration. Hence, “count five of respondent’s answer should be set aside, overruled and dismissed.”
He said Snowe having a farm in Bomi is a non-political issue as several other Liberians such as former Chief Justice Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott and Cyril Allen have invested in farming in other parts of the country where they claimed no right to register to vote, neither attempted to contest for any public office.
In his bill of exceptions submitted to Magistrate Farmah, Rep. Karmo said the Magistrate’s ruling in the case goes against the evidence and facts. “I, the complainant in this case, except to and announce an appeal to the Magistrate’s entire ruling,” Rep. Karmo said.
He added: “Further, the complainant contends that the Magistrate failed to rule on the fundamental ‘Distributing Regulations’ 3.3 and 4.2 NEC issues of the complainant’s complaint as to the violation of the 73 Fixed Electoral Districts Threshold set for the 2017 general elections, to which the complainant takes exception and announce an appeal to the Magistrate’s ruling in this case.” He argued in his appeal that Snowe has failed to establish any legislative domicile in Sinjeh, Bomi Electoral District #1.
The case, which should have first been heard on June 17, was heard seven days later on the 24th of the same month due to Rep. Snowe’s absence, citing being invited to the hearing “on a very short notice.” Magistrate Farmah ruled on Saturday, July 1, that Karmo had no case against Snowe, who was granted all rights to move on with his political activities in Senjeh District.
“The petitioner has alleged in his complaint that the respondent, as a sitting representative of Montserrado County Electoral District #6, has come to register in Bomi County District #1 which conducts the petitioner claimed violates the Fixed 73 Threshold Act,” Magistrate Farmah noted.
Meanwhile, after the ruling Rep. Snowe and his supporters paraded the main streets of Tubmanburg and danced to traditional songs and political battle cries praising his victory.
When engaged by the Daily Observer during the parade, Snowe said the case was not about winning a contest without a mission. “I am a Liberian and I have met all the requirements set by the Constitution and the NEC regulations to register to vote in Sinjeh and if guaranteed the will of the people here, contest to represent them at the 54th National Legislature,” he said. Snowe added that he loves the people of Sinjeh, which led him to invest his earnings in the soil of the district.
“Since my involvement in the politics of this district, there have been numerous threats but I am calm always and focused on doing what is legally accepted,” he said, adding that he is happy with the ruling and thanked his defense counsel Cllr. Bennedict Sannoh and Cllr. Augustine Nwabudike for ably representing him.
“Karmo said in one of your recent editions that I am a non-issue in this district but today he has a fight to fight because I am not running after people to come to me but they themselves are coming to me expressing their desire to join hands in rebuilding the broken systems and structures in this district. This is his home but as you saw it today, he walked away from the hearing with no citizen here following him,” Snowe noted.
Speaking to locals on Snowe’s reported popularity, a petty trader in Tubmanburg, Mrs. Kumba Willie, said she will be pleased if Snowe wins the October poll because he assists them whenever they are in need. “He built this market for us and helped many women here with money to do their own business,” she said.
Ms. Gayduo B. Zayzay said Snowe has added value to the health sector of the county by bringing foreign doctors to offer services at the Liberia Government Hospital in Tubmanburg, without patients paying for the services. “He paid the WAEC fees of all the students in this district in the academic year now ending,” Ms. Zayzay said, adding that she hopes class politics does not take root in Bomi.
“We are all Liberians. Why should someone deny another person his or her constitutional right only because he or she is not a Gola or Vai by tribe? This is unacceptable and we the young people here will not sit and watch our future played with by anyone,” she said, noting further that if Rep. Karmo and other lawmakers of the county say they mean well for their people they should invest their earnings back home so the people who campaigned and voted them into office can get jobs and secure a better living for their children.
The NEC is expected to probe Karmo’s appeal before the start of campaign activities.