“Serious Constitutional Issues in 2017, If…”

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The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions has alerted the Minister of Justice-designate that certain laws of the country need to be reviewed otherwise he foresees serious constitutional problems in 2017 October.

“You will be involved in trying to resolve them,” Sen. Sherman warned former Senator Frederick Cherue of River Gee, adding that there were many instances in the country’s jurisprudence that need to be reviewed, “but to the best of my knowledge as a lawyer of this country for 36 years, those reviews don’t take place.”

Giving what he described as a typical example of the serious issues that the country is likely to face in the immediate future, Sherman quoted the provision of the law which stipulates that the National Elections Commission (NEC) shall be the judge of election returns.

“Very recently, the Supreme Court has taken over that power,” Sherman noted. “Assuming that there is contestation (dispute) in the 2017 elections and the losing candidate takes an appeal to the Supreme Court, NEC is advised not to do anything until the Supreme Court decides. I am not too sure whether many people have paid attention to that,” Sherman remarked.

He predicted a chaotic situation in 2017 if each of the so far 23 registered political parties put up a presidential candidate, and a Legislative candidate for each of the 73 electoral districts.

He wondered if each of the contestants challenge the results, “what time the Supreme Court will have, based on its history of deciding cases, to decide all of the cases and even determine the first two highest when there is a run-off election before inauguration?”

“As we go closer to elections, there are laws which need to be reviewed, and while people are thinking about security,

Cllr. Sherman concluded, “I thought to make that comment just to alert you that your job is not just to advise, advise, unless otherwise substantive advise. From the Ministry of Justice, we at the Legislature can possibly be informed about what needs to be amended, what laws need to be addressed so that we can carry this country forward. I entertain the belief that if we don’t address this particular law, we have a serious constitutional issue in 2017 October and you will be involved in trying to resolve that issue,” he admonished.

Cllr. Cherue agreed that even before his nomination, he harbored the belief that if nothing was done about what Senator Sherman narrated, 2017 would be chaotic.

The former Chairman of the Judiciary committee and a one time president of the Liberian National Bar Association reminded the lawmakers that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice is the Dean of the Supreme Court Bar. “With good lawyers in this country like you and in consultation with you and other lawyers, we can convince the system (Supreme Court) to do the proper thing, because as you rightly said, we are looking for peace and stability, but it will not come when we have bad laws which will create more instability. Therefore, it is the task of all of us to work not only on the election laws which are key, but other laws, and I promise you with God being my helper, we will work with both the Court and the Legislature to have these just laws so that we will not have the chaos that can result from what is happening now. “

The confirmation hearing was attended by high ranking former and current members of the Senate, among them former Pro Tempores Cletus Wortorson, and Gbehzohngar Findley.

Also witnessing the occasion were Chairperson of the Constitution Review Committee and former Chief Justice Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott; former Senators Abel Massaley, Lahai Gbagba Lansanah, Clarice A. Jah, John Ballout and Mobutu Vlah Nyenpan. Others were Jonathan Barnney, Joyce Musu Freeman, a once vocal lawmaker who ably represented the Senate at the Pan African Parliament, and whose seat is now taken by the Congress for Democratic Change political leader George Manneh Weah.

Meanwhile, Sinoe County ranking Senator Joseph N. Nagbe, who has been absent from the Capitol for months due to illness, made a surprise appearance in the Chambers of the Senate at the confirmation hearing of his legal colleague.

There have been persistent rumors that Senator Nagbe, a diabetic, had undergone surgery and lost both of his legs; but except for a slight limping in his movement, the former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and defeated candidate in the last Pro Tempore election, appeared in good form as compared to his recent public appearances.

When confirmed as expected before the end of the week, the former (retired) River Gee Senator will replace Cllr Benedict Sannoh who resigned the post recently.

It is worth noting that both Senators Wortorson and Cherue honorably resigned and did not take part in the 2014 Special Senatorial Elections which returned only two senators, Prince Johnson of Nimba and Jewel Howard Taylor both of whom will be the longest serving Senators (18 years).

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