Rep. Chambers, NEC Blunder over Handling of Election Complaints

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Drama unfolded yesterday in the courtroom of the Supreme Court, when a lawyer representing Rep. Bhofal  Chambers denied that his client’s complaint filed against Maryland County senator-elect, Gbleh-bo Brown  was never heard by the National Elections Commission (NEC).

Although documents before the Full Bench of the Supreme Court showed that NEC conducted an investigation and subsequently ruled in the matter and denied Chambers’ allegation on December 27, his lawyer Cllr.  Famere Stubblefield insisted that his client did not appear at any NEC investigation regarding his allegation.

Cllr. Stubblefield also challenged the NEC to produce any documentary evidences to show that his client was ever invited for any hearing.

The NEC lawyer Cllr. Joseph Blidi admitted the claim, explaining that Rep Chambers attended the hearing only based on a telephone conversation he held with the Chairman of the NEC.

Rep. Chambers who represents Maryland County Pleebo-Sodoken District in the House of Representatives on the ticket of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), protested against the conduct of last December' Special Senatorial Election. He is claiming a recount of the results of the 143 polling stations in the county because of irregularities, which NEC argued it did.

It all started when Cllr. Famere Stubblefield was asked after he appeared before the High Court yesterday whether his client was ever invited by the NEC for an investigation about his complaint.  Cllr. Stubblefield in his reply said, “It is true that Dr. Chambers appeared before the NEC’s investigation in Maryland County, but he left later because the other party was not there.”

The move by the high court's full bench to hear the complaints is based on the decision reached by Chamber-Justice Philip Banks, that the writs of prohibition filed by the contending parties was purely constitutional and could not be decided by a single Justice.

He also quoted Dr. Chambers as saying, “I can’t answer to anything in the absence of the other party.”

Interestingly, when Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor openly read the NEC’s ruling he quoted part of it as saying “two of Dr. Chambers’ witnesses took the stand and they testified before the NEC’s magistrate in Maryland County.”

He further quoted the NEC ruling, saying, “Dr. Chambers himself was present at the hearing and he made some clarification. He even asked the magistrate to allow some of the election observers to testify.”

When Cllr. Stubblefield was asked by Chief Justice Korkpor to authenticate the statement, he replied “It is false and misleading. Rep. Chambers did not appear for a hearing. That document was manufactured by the NEC.”

“Let them show me any notice or document that they invited our client. The only thing Rep. Chambers received was a telephone communication between him and the NEC Chairman asking him to go back to Maryland County for the hearing,” Cllr. Stubblefield argued.

When the NEC lawyer was also asked whether they even issued a notice inviting Rep. Chambers to any investigation, Cllr. Blidi responded, “No, we did not send any notice to him.  What we did was that the Chairman only telephoned him about the hearing and he attended it.

“We did not manufacture any statement from Rep. Chambers. It is the testimony of him and his witnesses,” Cllr. Blidi insisted.

Ruling in the matter is reserved.

Out of the 15 senators declared winners by the National Elections Commission (NEC) after the December 20 polls, three are yet to  be seated due to the complaints filed against them by their opponents. The three senators affected by the court's order due to protests from contending candidates are Senators-elect Varney Sherman, of Grand Cape Mount, Morris Saytumah of Bomi and Jim Tornolah of Margibi.

Three other Senators-elect protested against candidates that were certificated by the NEC. These candidates are: Gbleh-bo Brown of Maryland County, Alfred Chea of Grand Kru County and Conmany Wesseh of River Gee County. The protesting candidates claim in their various writs of prohibition that they are protesting the results of the election that saw victory for their opponents due to fraud.

They claim that the decision by the NEC to go ahead to certificate winners of the election in the face of protests filed against some of the winners was illegal and called on the high court to order the NEC to revoke the certificates, until an investigation into the matter is completed. In her apparent reaction, a lawyer for the NEC told the court that the commission was in no error to certificate winners in the December senatorial election because the commission was acting legally.

NEC lawyers have argued that the protesting candidates are in error by going to the Supreme Court because it is only the NEC that is clothed with the authority to investigate election matters.

Lawyers for the NEC say certification of winners of the election does not mean that any of the declared winners cannot be removed from his/her seat when their investigations prove that there was fraud in the process. Friday, heard by the high court, according to observers would determine whether the senators-elect in question some of whom have already taken their seats would be removed.

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