Senate Debates Bill Seeking Clarification on “Powers and Authority” of NEC

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Sen. Sherman at Tuesday's hearing

The Liberian Senate is expected to debate a bill submitted by Grand Cape Mount County Senator Henry Varney Gboto-Nambi Sherman, seeking clarification on the powers and authority of the National Elections Commission with respect to the qualification of political parties and organizations and independent candidates for the ensuing election(s). Senator Sherman, who chairs the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims & Petitions, recently submitted the bill. Last week, the Senate constituted itself into a committee to debate the strongly-worded bill; but, after almost two hours of deliberation, it gave the bill a cautious welcome and voted to send it back to committee’s room for adjustments and a final report to ready it for final debate.

According to Senator Sherman, the bill which also seeks clarification on the determination of election results and election disputes, has become necessary because of decisions of the Supreme Court growing out of contestation of election results by candidates in the 2014 Senatorial mid-term elections. “In those (2014 Senatorial election disputes) decisions the Supreme Court ruled, among other things, that it, not the NEC, is the determiner of election results and that an appeal to the Supreme Court from the decision of the National Election Commission on election results serve as a stay on the decision of the NEC.”

During Thursday’s debate, Senator Sherman made an emotional reflection on the December 2014 Special Senatorial Election, in which decisions to allow four Senators, declared winners by NEC, to take their seats, was delayed due to complaints to the Supreme Court by the defeated candidates.

“Obviously, there is no need for the interpretation that it is the National Elections Commission, not the Supreme Court, which has the power and authority to determine election results,” Senator Sherman noted, and further argued that “by the Supreme Court’s ruling that an appeal to it from a decision of NEC on election results stay that decision, counties were denied their rights under the Constitution to representation at the Liberian Senate over a long period of time.” Sherman named himself and Senators Jim Tornolah of Margibi, Gbleh-Bo Brown of Maryland, and Conmany Wesseh of River Gee counties as casualties of that delay. Referencing the Constitution, Senator Sherman quoted Article 83(c) which provides that returns (results) of an election shall be declared by the National Elections Commission; and that Section 4.14 of the 2004 amendment to the Elections Law provides that NEC shall collect all the tabulated results of the elections and announce the returns not later than fifteen (15) days after the elections.

Senators (in their numbers) who welcomed the bill suggested that the time stipulated for the Supreme Court to render judgment is not sufficient; while some even suggested that the two months (November and December) after the October polls and before the January inauguration be allotted for the Supreme Court’s investigation of election complaints. One of the sticky contentions raised by some Senators, however, is what happens (with respect to financial compensation) if the candidate declared by NEC as the winner in an election takes the seat, but is later found guilty by the Supreme Court. The argument then ensued that to avoid such entanglement, the NEC should remain the only authority to declare the legitimate winner in an election it conducts. Certainly, Cllr Sherman asserted, “The ruling of the Supreme Court that an appeal to it from challenges to election results serves as a stay to the implementation of the decision of the National Elections Commission, constitutes a violation of the constitutional rights of counties’ representation in the Legislature, or to whatever other office of the Liberian government for which an election was held.”

To preserve this constitutional right, Senator Sherman’s draft law provides that “an appeal to the Supreme Court would not serve as a stay of the decision of the NEC on disputes over election results or any other election dispute. This draft law also shortens the time for election disputes to be disposed of by the National Election Commission and the Supreme Court so as to ensure that a successful candidate at an election is timely inducted into office,” he said, calling for “the expeditious enactment of this draft into law so as to govern the ensuing October 2017 elections.”

10 COMMENTS

  1. This law is really legitimate and necessary, especially considering the unfortunate reality of having a Supreme Court’s Bench with people like Philip Banks, Kabineh Janeh, and Jamesetta Howard Wolokolie, who cannot be trusted nor respected any longer as a result of their total lack of integrity, for which they are facing impeachment, conviction, and imprisonment.

  2. An inscription on the Archives Building in Washington, DC reads: “What is past is prologue”. Study the past”. And with a bill seeking clarification on “powers and authority of NEC”, Senator Sherman doesn’t want what he experienced by the judicial overreach of Justice Philip Banks to be repeated in a defining elections which collectively Liberians wish to be peaceful.

    The last improbable spectacle of a Supreme Court justice taking on NEC simply for delaying purposes was disquieting and could be dangerous in these elections. Needless to say, that and other instances of partiality brought disrepute to the court to the extent that many members of the public felt the legislature was justified in threatening to impeach some justices. And which, truth be told, is a new low.

    Supreme Court justices get lifetime tenure (job security) specifically guaranteeing their independence, and protecting them from undue pressure by the executive and legislative branches. So when justices are so enthralled to our imperial presidency that they subject themselves to the whims and caprices of vindictiveness, vendettas, and vainness, people wonder what to expect were disputed presidential elections’ result cases before that court.

    Frankly, this Senate debate demands more attention than presidential debates where organizers had their fifteen minutes of fame in which to ask candidates their opinions on a slew of issues for which they had ready answers, rhetoric, but no written verifiable platforms.

    The stability of Liberia, under the current uncertain political climate, rests in the unambiguous authority and sterling integrity of NEC, if you ask me.

    • Sylvester, candidate opinions. The justices demonstrated incompetence and I like the answer given by Urey listening to replayed of the debate. There need to be separation of duties and the due process of law follow to the letter for everyone in Liberia. Banks should be retired and Frankly, I’m not sure how Jamesetta Howard and Kabineh Janeh ended up on the court with no prosecutorial and judgeship experience. The court is to interpret the laws of Liberia, but when judges rendered a decision with a bias opinion classifying different punishments for violation of the same law, it questioned the credibility of the court with their impartial duty to the state. Varney Sherman cannot be more smarter than this to introduce such a legislation.

      On the debate, I thought the moderators did a poor job on follow-up questions, not allowing candidates to engage in rebuttals, etc. What a waste of time. However, what strike me most is Brumskine’s arrogance behavior. This guy says he’s a learned lawyer and to indicate that he left government with no tainted record is as comical and disingenuous than anything I have seen or heard. Urey was candidate with expressing his views and not sticking to a practiced rhyming done by Cummings. Growing the budget and his big pie where everyone can reach to have a piece. The issues with Liberia is infrastructure because the country is closed and Liberia is Monrovia only. Open of the country through road network and loosen the entrepreneurship of Liberians. Farmers will harvest their crops, they’ll take them to markets where they’ll get a better price; consumers will have choice and will be able to bargain. However, I think this is a good beginning for our democracy and hopeful the format for the next debate can be better organization and perhaps microphones can be provided at each candidate’s table. The moving to the lantern was disturbing and frankly showed the unpreparedness of the organizers for such an important forum. If there were logistics prepared for this events, then something went wrong again.

  3. Liberian lawmakers yet again spending taxpayers money unwisely on issues that is less interested to the average citizen in Liberia. Instead of passing a job bill, healthcare bill, education bill and much more they’re here wasting precious time on power struggle.

  4. Anthony, “passing a job bill, healthcare bill, education bill and much more” are all good and great, BUT WHEN JUSTICES WHO ARE TO ADJUDICATE EXPECTED ELECTION RESULTS DO NOT GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THEIR OWN REPUTATION OR THAT OF THE INSTITUTION OF THE SUPREME COURT, IF THAT WHAT IT TAKES TO PLEASE AN OUTGOING PRESIDENT WHO APPOINTED THEM ON THE SUPREME COURT BENCH, AND WHO IS BENT ON HER SUCCESSOR BEING HER CHOICE, IMPEACHMENT OF SUCH JUSTICES MUST TAKE URGENT PRIORITY FOR THE SAFETY AND HAPPINESS OF THE PEOPLE…ARTICLE 1, CHAPTER 1 OF THE LIBERIAN CONSTITUTION!

  5. Mr. Dortu-Siboe Doe, I couldn’t agree with you more! You see, our people should
    be able to see the danger ahead before it traps them. The Justice Philip Banks’s
    decision on that Supreme Court Bench always favor President Ellen Johnson-
    Sirleaf have shown that the President is controlling the Judiciary; forgetting to
    know that whatever decisions or rulings they are giving now, they will be held
    responsible before the ALMIGHTY GOD whom they should or must fear the most.
    When the time comes for them to face the Ancient of Day, Ellen will not be there.

  6. Mr. P.Allison Tarlue Sr., it surprises me that the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC), the National Traditional Council of Liberia (NTCL) and some Civil Society Organizations SEEM NOT TO “see the danger ahead” as you rightly state. But this is what happens when interlocutors, or interveners, wanting to utilize the doctrine of “good offices” mediation have disregarded the MOTIVE AND INTENT OF THE CULPRITS —THESE THREE SO CALLED JUSTICES OF THE SUPREME COURT.

  7. BULL SH8T VARNEY SHERMAN! PERMITTING ELECTED LEGISLATORS TO ASSUME OFFICES BEFORE HEARING OF ELECTION COMPLAINTS BY THE SUPREME COURT IS HIGHLY NECESSARY FOR CORRUPT LEADERS AS YOUSELF, ORLORS, AND THE ENTIRE LIBERIAN POLITICAL ARENA! PAYING LEGISLATORS IS OF NO SIGNIFICANCE WHEN COMPARED TO THE LEGITIMACY OF THEIR POSITIONS IN A CORRUPT, HIGHLY ILLITERATE, CHAOTIC LIB AND LEGISLATURE. THEY CAN ALWAYS GET BACK PAYS. HOWEVER, TO PREVENT ANY DELAYS IN CANDIDATES ASSUMING THEIR OFFICIES, REGARDLESS OF COMPLANTS BEFORE NEC OR SUPREME COURT. NOVEMBER, DECEMBER ARE SUFFICENT ENOUGH TIME FOR A DILIGENT, WELL ORGANIZED NEC AND SUPREME COURT TO FINALIZE SPEEDY HEARINGS ON ALL COMPLAINTS. HAVING THE NEC AS SOLE ARBITOR OF ELECTION RESULTS IS A “RECIPE FOR CHAOS, EXPANDING CORRUPTION, AND DEATH!!

  8. Legal shenanigans by a candidate who didn’t garner a fifth of the electorate is frivolous and undermines the integrity of the electoral process. Senator Sherman was the victim of Justice Banks’ pro Ellen kowtowing, hence to vilify him is mind-boggling. Perhaps, we should understand the issues on a case by case basis before passing judgment. The prejudice of yesteryears shouldn’t slow down the hoped for solidarity of today and tomorrow.

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