‘Procedural Errors’ Exposed in NEC’s Rejection of Karnwea

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Rejected LP vice standard bearer Karnwea and former LP chairman Israel Akinsanya outside the Temple of Justice yesterday.

The chamber of the Supreme Court was yesterday a scene of disbelief and laughter when four of the five justices pointed out several procedural errors made by the National Elections Commission (NEC) when they rejected Liberty Party (LP) vice standard bearer Harrison Karnwea on the authority of Code of Conduct (CoC).

“The procedure for only the chairman to sign the rejection letter does not establish that the other commissioners ascribed to that decision,” Chief Justice Francis Korkpor emphasized. “Where is the documentary evidence that the six other commissioners agreed with the chairman’s action?” Justice Korkpor asked the NEC legal team.

Immediately after recognizing NEC’s procedural errors, a member of the legal team, Cllr. Frank Musah Dean, was heard pleading, “We are going to make the necessary correction after this hearing.”

NEC’s lead lawyer Cllr. Frank Musah Dean

“What NEC has been doing is that the decision of the Board of Commissioners does not necessarily have to be signed by the other six commissioners, it is only the chairman’s signature that normally appears on the majority decision,” Cllr. Dean explained. “The chairman’s signature is always the final; it has been NEC tradition.”

The justices’ discovery came about during arguments on Karnwea’s complaint against the NEC, claiming that the electoral body erroneously misconstrued 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 justices yesterday reserved opinion (ruling) on the matter, and did not say when they will deliver it, though there are about 75 days to the election.

It all started when a member of the NEC legal team, Cllr. Musah Dean, was asked whether Karnwea’s rejection met the approval of  all seven members of the Board of Commissioners, to which Dean replied in the affirmative.

Again, asked why only NEC chairman Jerome Korkoya’s signature appeared on the letter of rejection sent to Karnwea instead of the seven commissioners, Dean, in his justification, made reference to Section 2.10 of the  New Election Laws, captioned: ‘Duties of Chairman and Co-chairman,’ which provides that, “The Chairman of the Commission shall have the following special duties and functions: a) Be the official head and spokesman of the Commission; (b) Presides over all meetings and hearings of elections contests; (c) For the purpose of expediting the hearings and determination of all election offenses; and other business of the Commission shall apportion the Republic into five (5) administrative areas and assign a commissioner to an area who shall, in consultation with the Commissioner…direct and supervise all election activities in his area of assignment including the hearing and determination of election offenses arising there from which determination, having been previously approved by the Commission shall be final; (d) Controls, supervises and directs the administrative operation of the office of the Commission and in consultation with the Commissioners, takes such corrective administrative measures for the smooth and effective operation of the Commission.”

Also, section 1.3.17 of the Code of Conduct (CoC) provides that the “Ombudsman means someone or a group of persons appointed or authorized by the President of the Republic of Liberia and confirmed by the Senate to enforce, oversee, monitor and evaluate adherence to the Code of Conduct. Such individual or group of persons shall receive and investigate complaints against Public Officials, Employees of Government and National Institutions.”

Although section 2.10 makes no reference to the chairman being the only person to sign a rejection communication as in the case of Karnwea and other rejected aspirants, including Abu Kamara, who is a current assistant minister at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, Cllr. Dean argued that “the chairman’s signature is the final decision.”

Also, when Karnwea’s lawyer, Cllr. Powo Hilton, was asked whether he filed a complaint about his letter of rejection to the other Board of Commissioners, Hilton replied in the negative.

“It is clear we should have filed a complaint to the Board of Commissioners, but that did not happen, because we saw the signature of the NEC chairman on the communication, this was why we did not appeal to the Board of Commissioners,“ Hilton said. “And we decided to come to the Supreme Court to act on our behalf.”

The Election Laws requires those rejected to announce an appeal of the Elections Commission’s decision within 48 hours; thereafter, if they are not satisfied, then within 72 hours, before they can file with the Supreme Court their appropriate and necessary papers and documents to perfect the appeal.

That process was also abandoned by Karnwea, and his lawyers subsequently ran to the Supreme Court without announcing an appeal of Korkoya’s rejection letter.

Before the procedural errors contention, Cllr. Dean defended the NEC’s rejection of Karnwea, claiming that Karnwea had the intent and desire to engage in political activities long before his resignation from the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), where he served as 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’s) 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 Unity Party (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.”

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.

In counter argument, Cllr. Hilton said Karnwea did not harbor any political intention when he resigned his post as FDA managing director.

“Karnwea’s communication for resignation to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf informed her that after he had served for over four years, he was resigning from her government to go back to his farm to live his private life,” Hilton told the justices.

“There was no political intention or desire as NEC had claimed. It was after his resignation that Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine, standard bearer of the LP, asked him to serve as his running mate, which he immediately accepted.

“Karnwea did not harbor any future political ambition before resigning from the UP and his post at FDA.”

Immediately after the hearing, when Karnwea spoke with judicial reporters, he asked all partisans of the LP to remain kind, because he has confidence in the justice system.

“I trust the justice system and we should respect and see the outcome of their decision,” Karnwea pleaded.

32 COMMENTS

  1. I never DESIRED to have sex, but that tight, see-through dress that’s hugging that 25 year-old’s body peaked my interest. DESIRE always exists – examine Karnwea’s actions prior to his selection – what causes one to exercise that desire is the question. In this case, an opportunity to get rich overnight.

  2. If there are even “errors” on the part of NEC, such “errors” are irrelevant viz judgement. Not even this weak and very flimsy contention about the word desire or intention, for it is obvious that anyone participating in politics has the natural intention or desire to be elevated to power.

    Thus, what is relevant here viz judgement is THE DEGREE OF PROOF that Karnwea has not met up with the requirements of the NEC.

    And even a layman or a two year old can see the existence of the logic al and convincing connection between the facts, the direct, and circumstantial evidences against Karnwea that he has not met the requirements of the NEC!

    That is, from his violations of the COC LAW (viz his political activities and illegal usage of govt proprrties while the boss of FDA) to his resignation from Unity Party and his very hasty joining of the Liberty Party, and his anxiously happy acceptance of the political pisition of running mate and vice standard bearer of the Liberty Party.

    All those contentions about “errors, intention, desires, going to live on farm” are mere red herrings which would have no bearings on the ruling or judgement! For inter alia, in the courtroom, no man benefits from his own wrong!

    • Zoedjallah,

      You are so right,. This is my first time hearing members of the supreme Court asking 7 commissioner to signed a documents when the head of the commission is the person who sent out communication on behalf of all the commissioners. So are they saying that when ever the commissioners discuses an issue, they all should signed for it to be okay, than why do they have a head. If a letter is going to the Supreme Court or to the president of Liberia, it has to be sign by all the commissioners.

  3. The code of conduct (CoC) was cleverly crafted to make Unity Party the only party with the best brains. In other words, the CoC was designed to shield the ruling party from losing its’ brilliant members. I have a strong conviction that this government intended to create one party system in disguise. This law is not good for our democracy. We are playing with fire because of pervasive greed. Imagine telling your daughter to still with her abusive husband if she wants to make ends meet. Just my opinion

    • If Unity had the so intends to marginalized the oppositions as you claimed, why did one of the finest political young man in person of Ngufuan resign as foreign minister? Ngufuan foresaw this coming and as a good citizen, Ngufuan didn’t want to be in violation. Karnwea on the other hand, like Ambassador Slunteh they played game firstly with themselves, the Unity party, their counties, and the political parties of which the went to as running mates. Like ZoeJallah said, Karnwea had the intention but since Boakai told him Karnwea that he wasn’t the perfect match, that’s why he hastily resigned from the Unity Party and FDA to join LP. It’s all about greed for power that we are here today. Let Karnwea go on his farm if he got one and wait for next elections.

  4. Jess, relax. Yes, courts, especially THE SUPREME COURT is either faced with A HARD CASE OR AN EASY CASE. This Karnwea fiasco IS AN EASY CASE, just as is the Abu Kamara’s case.

  5. Wait a minute. Is the court serious about requiring all seven commissioners to sign a document? If the court wants to reverse itself, for whatsoever reason, it should just go ahead and do that instead of coming up with these lousy explanations.

    • Perhaps , if the rejected letter or notification was well written in a way for a yes vote or a no vote as to represent the signatures of all commissioners , there will be no need for all commissioners to sign . That the yes votes represents the majority of votes , and the no votes the rejection . In other words, a common yes represents all commissioners and a common no the same . But just the same this is an administrative error of over sight . And nothing to do with the violations of the Code which trumps the administrative error . If such error will allow the rejected candidates to participate in the UP coming elections , than it is the beginning of a flood gate for all candidates with similar or less errors . The Court should be very careful not to be responsible for any elections security mess as a result of their ruling . This is what some political parties and their leaders are counting on

    • These justices do not even know the law and cannot legally offer prudent opinions on anything. They are useless. The signature has no bearing on this case. Karnwea and the Liberty Party ( Brumskine is a lawyer) should have asked the NEC about possible recourse after they were rejected. Period. Karnwea did not resign and run to his farm. Instead, he joined the LP- demonstrating intent and desire. After, Brumskine selected him to be VP, knowing that he had violated the CoC. Case closed.

  6. The procedural issues are just technicalities injected merely to degrade the credibility of the Commission’s decision. The main issue has to do with DESIRE or intent. The mistake some of you are making is mixing your philosophical views or logic from the letter of the Law.

    Law deals with evidence. It offers the presumption of innocence until guilt is established. Logical assumption is insufficient to convict a person without evidence. The only evidence so far comes in support of Karnwea’s claim where it is documented that Mr. Karnwea informed the president (in writing) that he resigned to go on his farm. We all can assume or deduce here and there, but we have to admit that we cannot say 100% that we know for sure what was in the man’s heart. Therefore I can see by all indications from a legal standpoint that Karnwea will win the case.

    • Sound saying my dear bro, who has the power to reads another man’s minds? Running mate selection are done on a trust basis, however no one will chose his or herself to be a running mate to anyone. My little understanding!!

    • Not so fast . Do you know why some legal cases are moved to different venue ? Because people are informed about the crime and a different location where people are less informed is much better . The debate of the so-called ” desire ” was carried out on radio, in the press and in the public square concerning Dr. Jones , Mr . Cummings and perhaps others with the same desire . Mr. Karnwea heard and knew about this debate . Not only did he know about that , but he also knew that the political leader of LP was in search of a running mate from Nimba as to counter act the influence of Senator Prince Johnson . Resigning his position fit that calculated narrative saying he was resigning to work on his farm . Unless the Justices of the Supreme Court are dumb , Mr. Karnwea case is a lost one . His move was a calculated attempt to hide his desire and to fool the general public, once his name surfaced as the running mate to LP political leader . But too late for him , cause has passed the deadline . Here worked right in Monrovia and not some remote area of that country where the debate was not a thing of interest to anyone .

    • Karnwea did not resign and go to his farm as he had stated. Instead, he joined the Liberty Party, thereby demonstrating intent and desire. After he joined the LP, he was then asked to be VP by Charles Brumskine who knew that Karnwea had violated the CoC, but selected him anyway. The signature on the form by the NEC chairman is has no bearing in this case. LP could have engaged the NEC about legal recourse and Brumskine is a lawyer who know that.

  7. LIke in the Army, assignment is greater than rank; but rank PREVAILS! So is it with law that though the letter of the law is substantive, THE SPIRIT OF THE LAW PREVAILS!!

    To believe that “the main issue in this case has to do with desire and intent”, and that “Karnwea will win” is to believe that judges and courts are like traffic lights.

  8. Mr. Harrison Karnwea didn’t resign in keeping with the CoC, like Minister Nganfuan did, and was nominated as Brumskine’s running mate. Reportedly, the same reason for which the current Minister of Internal Affairs was not chosen as the VP Bockai’s running mate; Karnwea and LP violated the law, fact.

    Thus the brazen comment that the latest Supreme Court doublespeak which predictably and certainly was given in favor of the Karnwea – Brumskine LP ticket would benefit the ruling UP is the latest cockamamie invention. Fat chance with such disinformation, but nobody is biting or buying, if you ask me. And, amazingly, spectators received the doublespeak with “disbelief and laughter”; and, perceptively, this is the depth the nation’s highest court has descended to: a laughingstock.

    A comic attitude, anyway, toward a Supreme Court that will be required to render rulings on disputed elections’ results isn’t funny by any stretch. Instead of giggling we should be troubled, outraged, and horrified, and take to the radio stations. Many forget that in the sub – region politics is the surest and swiftest route of seeking personal wealth, including distributing it to few, so the 2017 race has become a do or die battle for some politicians and the vast majority marginalized. That such a scenario demands a Supreme Court of fairness, integrity, and justice is no joking matter.

    Most significantly, the political situation gets more complicated because understandably EJS would need an accommodating successor to spare her the indignities of financial scrutiny she had put Interim President Bryant through. Hence, anybody who thinks that Africa’s current best known political celebrity is going to let herself be dragged into court should see a psychiatrist.

    Folks, this is the time for quiet negotiation and resolution of a peaceful exit for our Iron Lady. Call it expediency, but in the not – Utopian world of reality they hail it as pragmatism. Mind you, folks, self – preservation is the first law in nature. And as long as her post – presidency freedom and peace of mind are at stake, she will continue to bend a willing Supreme Court to her will, and our peril: who wouldn’t in her situation? That’s the question!

  9. Are all the commissioners required to sign a document before they become legitimate or legal? The Supreme Court is dead wrong on this and what a laughing stock the justices will be considered.

  10. The Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia has its functional right of interpretation of the law. If 2.10 did not say that all members of the Board should affix their signatures, neither did they say that only one has to either. The Supreme decision could be abysmal to explain to the Liberian people (especially with 85% illiterate) or majority commissioners might haven themselves to be present in meetings (by proxy) during the election decisions. Thus the Supreme needs its assurance on burden of proof, just like any other Liberian who needs justice. and may or may not request these inscriptions to avoid the ab addendum point in its chambers as was in past 1900 Liberian jurisprudence. Past crisis and health holes have impeded prosperity in Liberian. There in enough time to select and replace runners and mates until October 10, 2017. This is no time to destroy human lives again. Voters need actual figures and are waiting.
    Tell the ballot box. Not me.

  11. Neither does section 2.10 prohibit the NEC Chairman from being the only one to sign the rejection letter.

    So, with the very section 2.10 requiring, mandating, and authorizing, the Chairman to supervise, direct, and control, IT IS IMPLIED that the NEC Chairman is required and authorized to be THE ONLY SIGNATURE FOR REJECTION LETTERS.

  12. It is already applied, needless to mention that the NEC “Administration” can sign. Talk to the voters. No special interest.
    Ask 57%, 34%. or ask 9%.
    Gone to son in silence.

  13. I am worried about happenings at the Supreme court over the Karnwie’s rejection saga. Are the Justices looking at the internal administrative bureaucracy of the NEC or where else are they searching to come up with this “procedural errors”? I can clearly see the missteps of the Karnwie legal team. I would have thought that the Supreme court would have return the case to NEC, after finding out that there were no hearing and no request of protest from the team to NEC commissioners. I don’t know how things are done when cases to the Supreme court that have not been heard either from lower courts or, in this instant, the NEC commissioners.

  14. Folks let read between the lines carefully, going back to David article, I think the Chief Justice made a valid argument in paragraph 2, and in recognition of the procedures errors, Cllr Dean , made a self evident statement in support of Justice Korpkor argument in paragraph 3. The issue here is about the Rule of Law and transparency within NEC. Therefore, every vote on issues by each member within NEC should be sign and documented. That is all the chief justice is asking for. We are a nation of law. Period!

  15. Mr. Swaray,

    True, a lack or fumble with procedural excellence in the whether quasi judicial matters or judicial matters is tantamount to a denial of justice.

    A But when a Supreme Court which is both a trial court and an appelliate court seems to be attempting a delay tactics in a case which should be thrown out the window in the first place, the Court of Public Opinion shall not hesitate to hand down its verdict against the Supreme Court. If a pet knows when it is been stumble or kicked, the Bench should know that the Liberian people are highly intelligent to identify a BAD FAITH FUSS!

  16. Thank you Mr.Zoedjallah for your comment. However, I do think the major problem here is that Section 2.10 of the electoral laws and section 1.3.17 of the Code of Conduct (CoC), are conterintuative . The Electoral laws gave a sweeping power to the chairman’s of the commission whereas CoC gave more power to the entire members of the commission as a whole. If the chairman power overlapped the group , then there is a flaw in the electoral process.

  17. Mr. Swaray,

    That section 1.3.17 of the COC HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with this matter. I do not know what was wrong with that reporter and his editor!

    For Part V of the COC provides that ALL issues apertaining to election matters shall be adjudicated by the NEC; and any remedy sought shall be referred to the Supreme Court. That is one good thing about the COC!

    That is that useless Office of Ombudsman has no jurisdiction or even any link to the NEC or issues related to election matters.

    As I mentioned earlier, this Karnwea’s “waste of time” should have been thrown out the back window of the Supreme Court, if the Francis Korkpor Bench meant well.

    But because they want to please Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that they tried their best to help her Brumskine, they must tint or tarnish the reputation of our Supreme Court by giving admissibility to such foolish case as Karnwea’s who is been used as a scape goat. As for Musa Dean I know just why he chose to make the response he made. And I think that was smart on his part; if he was acting in good faith. Again, Karnrwea is doomed to loose! The NEC IS BOUND TO WIN!

  18. It is very unfortunate that our who be leader are making such an argument about abiding with the rule of law. It was clear and undisputed that Hon. Karnwea had an intent to enter into politics and did also practice and played a very active role in UP political activities before resigning his post at FDA. It is a shame for well learned people to make such a very low arguments on intent, when the facts on his intention was clear. We await the SC final ruling.

  19. This inter alia goes to show how lawless, dull, and smellingly dishonest, Sulonteh, Brumskine, Karnwea, and the rest are!

    It is very shameful that these guys who want to be leaders would conduct themselves in such bastardly manners!

    And also very disappointing is the disgrace on the part of people calling themselves party leaders, managing directors, governors, and ambassadors, but are ignorant of the fact that what matters IS:

    NOT WHAT THEY CANDIDATES BELIEVE THE WORD “DESIRE” MEANS BUT RATHER ABSOLUTELY WHAT THE HISTORICAL LEGISLATOR’S ACTUAL INTENTION IS OR WAS VIZ THE MEANING AND INTERPRETATION OF THE WORD “DESIRE” IS VIZ THE LAW, THE LAW READONABLE AND ULTIMATE PURPOSE, AND RATIONALITY IN GENERAL VIZ THE PROVISION OR STIPULATION AND NOT WHAT CANDIDATES MAY PRETEND OR NOT PRETEND HE OR SHE THINKS THE INTERPRETATION OF A GIVEN WORD IS!

  20. Let anaylze this issue objectively.This case is very easy. If Cllr Dean truly believe that other members of the commission affirmed to the rejection of Karnwea , then let he goes back and get their signatures. And secondly, if he truly believe again that Karnwea was engaged in campaign activities while serving at the FDA then, let he produces a cogent evident to validate his arguments. For example, video of fundraising activities or campaign financing etc.

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