A request to drop two senatorial nominees of the ruling Unity Party (UP) from contesting the pending special elections has been denied by the National Elections Commission (NEC).
Sinoe County District#3 Representative, who is an executive of the UP, Matthew G. Zarzar, claimed that the two UP senatorial candidates, Milton Teahjay and Willington G. Smith, whose names have appeared on the NEC’s preliminary listing, were in violation of section 5.2 of the Legislative Code of Conduct of 2014.
Teahjay is the Superintendent of Sinoe County and Willington G. Smith is also the Superintended of Rivercess County.
Rep. Zarzar claimed that the two UP senatorial aspirants had not resigned their appointed positions as provided by the Code of Conduct.
The section requires appointed official desiring to canvass or contest for elected public office to resign said post, at least two years before the date of such elections.
However, in NEC’s ruling, delivered by its Chief Dispute Hearing Officer, Muana S. Ville, the elections body declared the “Rep. Matthew Zarzar’s complaint against Milton Teahjay and Willington Smith is hereby dismissed.”
Delving into the merits of the entire case, Ville narrated that on August 18, 2014, the lawmaker reminded the Commission that its qualification of two UP’s nominees to contest the special senatorial elections was in violation of Section 5.2 of the Legislative Code of Conduct.
The NEC Dispute Officer quoted the UP executive as saying that he named Milton Teahjay and Willington G. Smith as those in violation of the code.
He continued, “Based on the lawmaker’s request, we conducted an investigation and determination.”
“Citations were issued and served for the parties to appear for hearing of the matter on August 28, at the hour of 11: AM,” adding “Rep. Zarzar made no representation when the case was called for hearing.”
His absence, the Dispute Hearing Officer said in the ruling, prompted the UP’s legal counsel, Atty. Miller Catakaw, to file a motion for dismissal, claiming “the lawmaker has abandoned the case and his absence is an attempt to delay the proceeding.”
Atty. Catakaw, who is the deputy secretary general of the UP and lawyer for both Teahjay and Smith, won the acceptance of NEC’s Hearing Officer to the attorney’s argument for dismissal.
Immediately following the ruling at NEC’s office, Atty. Miller Catakaw, in an interview with journalists, disclosed that the “cardinal obligation of a UP partisan is to support the party candidates through campaigning and to provide other support within his or her capacity at any elections.”
Atty. Catakaw claimed that the lawmaker’s compliant was in total violation of Article VII, Section 1(e) of the UP’s constitution.
“What the lawmaker needs to understand is that if anybody wishes to challenge our party’s candidates, it should not have been Rep. Zarzar, who is an executive of the UP.”
The attorney added, “Zarzar’s action is seen or perceived as challenging the signature of the UP’s National Executive Chairman, who signed the nomination papers for these partisans of our political party.”
According to him, Rep. Zarzar’s complaint that the UP nominees should have resigned their positions in order to be candidates for the Liberian Senate was belated. “What he doesn’t recognize is that this law took effect on June 20, 2014, the date, on which it was published.”
“This law not intended to affect the 2014 senatorial elections, which is pending. This is because it requires that government officials, such as Superintended should resign their appointment at least two (2) years before the elections they wish contest in,” he clarified.
“This means that these candidates were to resign in 2012, the minimum time required by this law.”
Also, Atty. Catakaw said, the law could not and was intended to operate retroactively to the Liberian Constitution.
“The constitution forbids ex-facto laws and his complaint against our candidates, Teahjay and Smith should comply with a statute, which is not applicable to the 2014 senatorial election and is therefore untenable,” he further clarified.