The Supreme Court today is expected to give an opportunity to both the National Elections Commission (NEC) and Mr. Harrison Karnwea to argue as to whether or not he (Karnwea) will contest as vice standard bearer of the opposition Liberty Party (LP) in the the October Presidential and Legislative elections.
Karnwea was recently barred by the National Elections Commission, on the authority of the Code of Conduct.
The court’s decision comes two days after reserving ruling into the rejection of a representative aspirant of District#15 in Montserrado County, Abu Kamara, who is currently holding the position of assistant minister at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications.
In Karnwea’s compliant, he argued that the NEC erroneously (construed) Section 5.2 of the Code of Conduct (CoC), and subsequently prevented him from running for the position of vice president of the Republic of Liberia, an elected public office.
“The erroneous decision of the NEC is evident by the fact that Karnwea did not desire and could not have desired, two years ago, to be the running mate to Cllr. Charles W. Brumskine, the presidential candidate of the opposition Liberty Party (LP), and therefore could not have resigned,” Karnwea said in his complaint.
“The case of Karnwea serving as the running mate to Brumskine is without the intent and spirit of the code. No one desires to be the running mate of another; it is the standard bearer that selects his or her running mate,” he said.
“Karnwea could have desired to be the running mate of Cllr. Brumskine, even before Brumskine announced his candidacy and for which reason, we ask this court to overturn the determination of the NEC,” Karnwea argued.
In his lawsuit, Karnwea said, on July 6, of this year, he submitted his document to the NEC to have him registered as the vice presidential candidate of the LP for the October 10, presidential and legislative elections.
Among the forms Karnwea submitted was an “Aspirant Questionnaire” regarding established domicile and compliance with the CoC for public officials.
The questionnaire requested Karnwea to state whether he had resigned from any public position within the last three years.
According to Karnwea, his response was that he had resigned from the position of the managing director of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), since March 2017.
“On July 7, I received a call from the NEC informing me that the electoral body had written a letter to me, which I was instructed to take delivery of,” Karnwea’s lawsuit indicated. “In fact it was a “Notice of Rejection of Nomination,” that my candidacy had been barred from contesting by the CoC for public officials.”
The NEC, however, argued that Karnwea’s intent and desire to engage in political activities was long before his resignation from the FDA, where he served as the managing director.
“Karnwea’s resignation from the ruling Unity Party and his joining the LP, all is an egregious violation of the CoC,” the NEC contended. “The fact that his political leader and standard bearer, who was and remains aware of his (Karnwea) egregious violation and (ineligibility) to contest would choose him to be his running mate suggests a disregard for the rule of law.”
The NEC claimed that Karnwea engaged in political activities while serving as managing director of the FDA.
“The inference is that Karnwea used government facilities, equipment and or resources in support of partisan or political activities, prior to his resignation publicly from the UP and joining the LP,” the NEC contended. “This has given Karnwea obvious undue advantage over other candidates, which he intends to employ for a personal electoral lead. He should not be rewarded for his egregious violation of the CoC by allowing him to contest.”
The NEC also alleged that on February 14, 2017, while serving as managing director of FDA, at an elaborate press conference, Karnwea announced his resignation from the ruling UP and joined the LP.
“At the press conference, Karnwea is reported to have said that the LP represents the best option of Part V, Section 5.1 of the CoC. This constituted Karnwea’s first open violation of the code,” NEC claimed.
That section provides that all officials appointed by the President of the Republic of Liberia shall not (a) engage in political activities, canvass or contest for electoral office, (b) use government facilities, equipment or resources in support of partisan or political activities, (c) serve as a campaign team of any political party, or the campaign of any independent candidate.”
On March 17, the standard bearer of the LP named Karnwea as his running mate making him an aspirant for the position of the Vice President of Republic of Liberia, on the ticket of the LP.
On June 6, Karnwea submitted his questionnaire to the nomination committee of the NEC for screening and processing. In answer to the question as to when he resigned from the government, he wrote March 9.
On July 7, Karnwea was rejected and the next day, July 10, filed his Bill of Exception before the Supreme Court.
These are some of the legal issues the Supreme Court will be hearing today and subsequently make a decision.