Activities marking the second tri-annual congress of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) were interrupted on Saturday, November 9th, after the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice, issued a writ of injunction on the union’s leadership.
The Buchanan congress was held under the theme, “Standing for Press Freedom and Professional Journalism.”
An injunction is a writ granted by a court of equity whereby one is required to do or refrain from doing a specified act.
As in the case of the PUL elections, slated for Saturday in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, the court acted upon the receipt of the judge’s orders whereby two members of the Union, who had been disqualified by the PUL elections committee, requested the Civil Law Court to put off the elections until the matter had been properly looked into by the Court.
Messrs W. Omecee Johnson, vice presidential candidate and J. Cholo Brooks, presidential candidate of the PUL, petitioned the court for a declarative judgment against the president of the PUL, Peter Quaqua, Prof. James Wolo, chairman, PUL 2013 Elections Commission, and the Commission’s members, Misses Elsie A. Zokar, secretary, and Wede Williams, Sam O. Dean and Mr. Lewis T. Togbah, Sr.
The PUL stated that Messrs Johnson and Brooks had been disqualified based on Article 4, Section 1 of the PUL constitution, which says full membership of the PUL shall be granted to Liberian Journalists who hold degree (s) in Journalism or Mass Communications from a recognized institution of higher learning and have practiced journalism for two years.
Under this constitutional clause, PUL Elections officials argued that Mr. Brooks had submitted questionable academic credentials, while Mr. Johnson had reportedly not practiced as a journalist with any media house in the country.
The two disqualified candidates, however, petitioned the court that Section 43.2 of the Civil Procedure Law captioned “Construction of Writings and Statutes” provides that, “Any person interested under a deed, will, contract, or other writings constituting a contract, or whose rights, status, or other legal relations are affected by a statute…..may have determined, any question of construction or validity arising under the instrument, statute or other relation thereafter, etc.”
Also, the petitioners, as members of the PUL, said they are in good-standing as evidenced by their preliminary qualification by the Union’s Elections Commission to contest for the positions of vice president and president.
The two men further argued that the PUL—under the leadership of the chairman and members of PUL’s Elections Committee—without any cause, disqualified petitioners and denied the exercise of their rights to contest, purporting to rely on the PUL Revised Constitution and By-Laws, adopted October 10, 2009. In so doing, the Union, through its officers, sought to disenfranchise them of their rights to contest the above-mentioned positions.
The case is yet to be assigned for hearing, but Mr. Quaqua has announced that he would consult the PUL legal team on the way forward.
“We will ensure that the case is legally fought, as we are not deterred by any threats or intimidation from any quarter whatsoever.”
The drama erupted at around 10 a.m. when the proceedings at the Buchanan Fair Grounds were disrupted following the emergence of the bailiff from the court, who entered the meeting hall unannounced to serve the writ.
Before, the bailiff or the court sheriff could enter the main hall; Mr. Quaqua had announced the cancellation of all other proceedings, urging the delegates assembled to go ahead with the elections of officers for the next three years.
The appearance of the bailiff was welcomed with mixed reactions from members and officials of the Union; some had opted for a debate before the conduct of the elections, while others agreed with Mr. Quaqua’s suggestion to speed up the elections before the writ could be served.
However, the writ was served on the respondents and a return made to the Court.