— For Violating Article 83(c) of the Constitution
The Liberian Senate, with a unanimous vote and one abstention, last evening, sentenced the Chairman and Commissioners of the National Elections Commission on contempt charges, and are to be sent to the Monrovia Central Prison on Tuesday. The sentence of the Chairperson of NEC, Madam Davidetta Brown-Lansanah and her Commissioners, followed a communication by Senator Dillon to Senate plenary that the NEC is gravely violating Article 83(c), which gives the timeframe within which electoral complaints and inquiries can be adjudicated by the Commission. During the hearing, Chairperson Lansanah, among other queries, attributed the Commission’s delay and violation of the Constitution, to the inadequacy of lawyers to hear complaints and disclosed that, at present, NEC is still investigating post-election matters, five cases remaining to be disposed of.
She disclosed that the Commission is yet to receive the full amount agreed by the government for allocation, in the amount of over US$4 million. Asked by presiding officer and Montserrado County Senator Saah H. Joseph whether the government’s commitment to fund the Commission was fulfilled, Chairperson Lansanah said the commitment was provided in parts, but that US$4 million was remaining; clarifying that the Commission does not receive direct funding from donors, but that same is done through the Ministry of Finance.
On the issue relating to Chairman Lansanah’s statement that one of NEC polling officers admitted changing results in River Cess County, the NEC boss explained that one of her presiding officers said he was under duress and therefore rendered valid votes invalid; “And the fact that he was contracted as temporary staff for the Elections Commission, it was a serious situation for him to have made that pronouncement; and the fact that we have to protect the integrity of the transparency of the process, that is the reason why we odered the immediate recount of seven of the 111 polling centers. And after that recount, we ruled that recount of the remaining polls be done, because of the results coming out of recount of seven which gave additional 80 votes to the complaint.”
Admitting that her Commission recruited the polling officer in question, Senator Joseph enquired about the action taken against that officer.
“Mr. Senator, the polling officer made a public pronouncement that he was under duress and for which he rendered valid votes invalid; up to date, we are still looking for him.”
Following several more questions, Senator J Milton Teahjay proffered a motion that those representing the board of commissioners of the National Elections Commission be kept under oath and discharged to report to Senate plenary on Tuesday, with a realistic schedule within which the board will dispose of the cases pending before it, not for two weeks as requested by chairman Lansanah.
Modifying his motion, Senator Teahjay proffered a more stringent motion, which states: “I move if I can get a second, that having listened to the commissioners of the National Elections Commission, regarding the non-compliance of the Commission on disposing of cases within the Constitutional timeframe set in our Constitution; and noting their admission that indeed they have not concluded those cases within the timeframe, I move if I can get a second that these Commissioners be kept under oath, discharged today with the caveat that they will report Tuesday to this body, with the realistic plan of action that will indicate the timeframe within which they will dispose of all pending cases.”
However, Senator Daniel Naatehn proffered an amendment to that motion, reminding his colleagues that the reason why they were still in the Senate Chambers beyond 6:00 pm was because of a contempt charge written to the Commission. He asked Senator Teahjay to add to his motion, that all cases that have been heard by the Commission in violation of the Constitution, “as admitted, be stopped and that all cases before them be disposed of,” but it was rejected.
Then came River Gee County Senator, Jonathan Boye Charles Sogbie, who wanted his amendment to enable him vote, said: “In clear breach of the rules governing this gathering, I would like the movent to add that the Commissioners be held in contempt, remanded to the Central Prison, but let this action be taken on Tuesday, based on the time that we have right now.”
His motion was supported by Bong County Senator Prince Moye, and Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon and, as expected, accept by his CPP compatriot Teahjay. In his concluding statement to the hearing, presiding officer Senator Saah H Joseph emphasized that the “Commissioners are held in contempt and made to appear on Tuesday to exercise the responsibility of plenary; Commissioners, we want you to come on Tuesday, to proceed to the Monrovia Central Prison, and it is hereby so ordered.”