The Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission (NEC) has announced the reinstatement of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and three other individuals to the former ruling Unity Party.
The party executive committee on January 13, 2018, announced its expulsion of Madam Sirleaf, Patrick T. Worzie, then UP deputy secretary-general; River Gee County Senator Conmany B. Wesseh, a stalwart of the party and his wife, Medina Wesseh, the party’s former executive committee member.
A year ago, the party expelled the individuals over issues of meddling in the 2017 presidential elections, which eventually resulted to the party’s defeat at the poll.
At the end of her tenure, former President Sirleaf, a Nobel peace laureate, experienced fallout with her party’s leadership after 12 “peaceful” years in power. Unity Party in a statement in January 2018 said: “The behavior of the expelled persons … constitutes sabotage and undermined the existence of the party.”
However, NEC Board of Commissioners ruling on Friday, May 31, 2019, which reversed its chief dispute hearing officer, Cllr. Muana Ville’s ruling that rejected a petition seeking the reinstatement of the expelled officials, said that the appellants were not accorded due process.
Commissioner Boakai Dukuly, who read the NEC Board position statement on Friday, said apart from the expelled partisans being denied due process, UP executive committee did not have the quorum required by the party’s constitution, which requires two–thirds vote of the executive committee membership before a member can be expelled.
According to Commissioner Dukuly: “The UP’s constitution mandates that an expulsion decision of the national executive committee must be voted on and approved by at least two-thirds of the entire membership of the national executive committee; and that the 31 members that convened and the 16 that took the expulsion decision did not meet the required two-thirds.
“Because the UP executive committee members (Appellees) acted without the jurisdictional two-thirds vote, the January 13, 2018 expulsion decision, being ultra vires, is hereby declared nullity, as if it was never taken. As to whether Appellants were accorded due process of law, we answer in the negative. In view of the foregoing, the chief dispute hearing officer’s ruling in this matter is hereby reversed and declared null and void as having no legal effect upon the expelled partisans (Appellants).”
Meanwhile, Commissioner Dukuly has expressed concern over the prolong period the case remained on the desk of the hearing officer.
“While the request for continuance is a part of the investigative process, the board hereby reminds all NEC hearing officers that the responsibility to control their respective dockets lies with them. And, absent extraordinary circumstances, all cases should be concluded within a reasonable time,” Commissioner Dukuly added.
The NEC ruling was signed by six of the seven commissioners.
In a related development, Attorney Miller Katakaw, who represented UP during the case, has taken exception to the ruling, announcing an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Unity Party leadership during the 2017 campaign, alleged that Madam Sirleaf was reportedly not in support of the presidential bid of her principal deputy, Joseph Boakai, after repeatedly failing to appear at his campaign events, rather to surface at the campaign rallies of then opposition headed by George Weah, now President of Liberia.