Sen. Sherman: “NEC Usurped Legislative Powers”

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NEC Chairman Jerome G. Korkoya

…May face contempt for failing to conduct two by-elections

Grand Cape Mount County Senator Varney Sherman has informed Senate plenary  that he has submitted a letter to that body, through Senate President pro-tempore Albert Chie, to cite the entire workforce of the National Elections Commission (NEC) to appear before it for possible contempt charges.

Sen. Sherman, who chairs the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Claims and Petitions, told plenary during its 30th day sitting yesterday that NEC must appear to show cause, if any, why they should not be held in “contempt of the Legislature for usurping Legislative powers.”

Sherman’s statement was contained in a report and delivered during an hour-long PowerPoint presentation on the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) Report on 25 proposals currently before the Legislature for action.

As chairman of the Judiciary committee, the senator is using his expertise as a lawyer to review and recommend amendments to the CRC Report through a national referendum.

The NEC was one of several areas captured in Sen. Sherman’s presentation, and it was at that juncture that he questioned the power and authority of NEC to postpone the by-elections to fill vacancies created by the election of  Senators Jewel Howard Taylor and George Weah as President and Vice President respectively.

“I believe that only the Liberian people, acting through their elected representatives(the Legislature), have that power. And so, I have submitted a letter to the Senate through its President Pro tempore to cite the entire NEC to show cause, if any, why they should not be held in contempt of the Legislature for usurping legislative powers,” Sen. Sherman noted.

How the Senate responds to that issue, Sherman added, “will show that it is possible for the Legislature to control and regulate excesses of the NEC.”

Following the arguments regarding  the next course of action after his presentation, Sherman was again granted the power to proffer a motion and he did so. “Based on the presentation, we have shown that most of the proposals the CRC made are, in their point of view, statutory enactments and not necessarily Constitutional amendments, which we have identified in our presentation.

I therefore move that those matters which should have been listed as subjects of statutory enactment, be referred to the relevant committees for consideration; and those matters that are intended for Constitutional amendments be placed on the agenda for our next debate.”

In August 2012, a CRC was established with a specific mandate to review the 1986 Constitution and recommend proposals where necessary, for possible constitutional amendments as provided for under Article 91 of the Constitution. It can be recalled that on August 13, 2015, former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf wrote the Senate, submitting the 25 proposed recommendations of the CRC. It contains certain proposals to be studied by the Legislature for possible action. Such could constitute proposals that would be submitted to registered voters for ratification through referendum.

But on August 26, 2015, Grand Bassa County Senator Jonathan Kaipay wrote a letter requesting the Senate’s action for breach of the Constitution by the Executive.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I have not heard the nec announce any new date for the by-election, so I don’t see the usurpation. What have been reported on the news is that the government did not provide the money to fund the byelection, so nec could not conduct the election on may 8th. Going forward, can the Legislature set a new date for the byelection if a state of emergency is not declared?

  2. CORRECTION: “…to fill vacancies created by the election of Senators Jewel Howard Taylor and George Weah as President and Vice President respectively” SHOULD READ “…to fill vacancies created by the election of Senators George M. Weah and Jewel Howard Taylor as President and Vice President, respectively.” Madam Taylor does not need another headache.

  3. In my layman view this situation far exceeds “contempt of the Legislature” as advanced by sen. Sherman. Contempt charges are minor and procedural way below the gravity of this matter. For the NEC to unitlaterally postpone or neglect carrying out a constitutional provision is something that undermines and threatens the stability of the country, and therefore ought to require immediate corrective measure, other than imposing “contempt charge” in thjis matter. Furthermore, the Finance/Planning/Development ministry carried out similar unilateralism also by refusing to conduct the national census as mandatyed by the constitution. What could be the motivation for all these constitutional trashing? Is the legislature seeing this as a pattern that could develop into other areas being squashed similarly with impunity? These are serious constitutional issues and should be addressed as such and not as mere “contempt” matters.

  4. I don’t get it. Why not allow the People of Bong and Montserrado Countiies to conduct their own elections; Under the supervision of The Ministry of LOCAL GOVERNMENT? Afterall, the Senators-Elect, WILL be representing Bong and Montserrado Counties. It would be a lot cheaper. The Ministry of Local Government already have the staff to conduct a local election. Liberia is broked. The Country can not afford to spend humongous MONEY on LOCAL ELECTIONS. Spend MONEY wisely. We’d be bettet-off. Thanks!

    • No Henry, the ministry of Local Gov. or Internal Affairs cannot conduct election in Liberia. It is not skilled or clothed with the authority to do so. The NEC is the entity clothed with that responsibility. The concern here is that when we allow the ministry of Finance/Development Planning or the NEC to determine unilaterally what elections can be held or not on account of money or no money, we run the risk of conferring onto them and by fiat, the option to hold any election including even presidential elections. These elections are mandated by the constitution. Meaning, before they are deferred or readjusted from the predetermined dates for whatever the mitigating reasons, that decision has to be sanctioned by the legislature which has the sole prerogative to make such adjustments based in the supportive reasons provided by the NEC and/or the MFDP. So as Cllr. Sherman indicated in his opinion piece, the NEC is already in default for not holding the 2 senatorial by-elections in Montserrado and Bong counties. These are serious constitutional violations that ought to be weighed as such by the executive branch. The fact that it was the senate through its Committee on Judiciary, headed by Varney Sherman that drew the attention of the NEC and by default the Executive to this matter, is an indication the Executive is not on top of things as far as these important responsibilities. President Weah should have written the legislature with reasons/explanations as to why it could not conduct these elections within the required time frame and therefore asking the legislature for postponement until the situation could improve. But I guess the Executive doesn’t even realize the significance or implication of reneging on these constitutional matters. That, and the fact that the president having served as a do-nothing senator in one of those vacant positions, doesn’t see the relevance of those positions. Either way, Liberia is the loser.

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