Differing opinions coupled with bitter feelings on both sides supporting the incumbent or the new political giant have taken center stage in Bomi politics as Edwin Melvin Snowe, sitting Representative of Montserrado Electoral District #6, seeks to unseat incumbent Representative in Senjeh District Samuel Gayah Karmo in the October 10 elections.
The Daily Observer in a mini opinion poll conducted before the start of NEC’s Bomi Magistrate’s hearing on Saturday into the complaint filed by Rep. Karmo, discovered that residents in the contested district of Senjeh and the county in general, are torn in loyalty between Snowe and Karmo.
A petty trader, Madam Deddeh Massaquoi, said she is not happy with Snowe’s decision to become the district’s next Representative, even if Rep. Karmo has not done well or is not contesting the October elections.
“I am not moved by whatever Snowe is doing here now. I feel that he cannot be trusted with the affairs of our district because I believe he has done nothing good for the district he is now leaving,” Madam Massaquoi noted.
Massaquoi said that it is obvious for politicians to be extremely generous when seeking elections to public offices but very rarely do most of them to live up to the expectations of those who put them into power through votes cast.
She argued that Rep. Karmo is an accomplished lawyer and as such he knows what the work of a legislator is. “What is killing us in this country is that we set before us high expectations, even if they are not the right ones. And if we don’t see our thoughts translated into actions by people we think should, we become disappointed and stand up with emotions to look for alternatives, which in most cases have also failed us,” Massaquoi pointed out.
Disagreeing with Madam Massaquoi, a motorcyclist who said he is benefiting from the presence of Snowe since his arrival in the District argued that there is no need to encourage class politics in Liberia, most especially after experiencing the devastating civil unrests in the country for nearly fifteen years.
Mr. Jerry Cooper said since the arrival of Rep. Snowe, the lives of many young people, including many others from outside Senjeh have changed for the better.
“Representation is about making ways for the unemployed to have jobs, among many other things through which they can improve their own lives,” he said, noting that Snowe is hiring Bomi citizens on a daily basis to work on his farm so they may get money to pay for their basic human needs. He said Rep. Karmo has not done well to be re-elected for another legislative term.
Many other persons interviewed cautioned that they foresee a great division among themselves in the county if care is not taken.
Rep. Snowe’s presence in Bomi Electoral District #1 has officially been challenged by the incumbent, Rep. Karmo at the Elections Magistrate’s office.
Rep. Snowe is the current sitting legislator for Montserrado Electoral District #6 at the Lower House of Parliament but at his own discretion as a Liberian citizen, he is guaranteed the right of free movement, liberty to do many things, not in contravention of the laws of the land and he has hung his political nest in Senjeh after receiving a number of petitions by electorates in the district for the October polls.
Rep. Karmo, in his argument before the Elections Magistrate said Article 48 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia and the Threshold Law clearly denies Snowe’s right to run in Bomi while still in office as a lawmaker for a district not in the same county.
Article 48 of the 1986 Revised Constitution of Liberia says “The House of Representatives shall be composed of members elected for a term of six years by the registered voters in each of the legislative constituencies of the counties, but a member of the House of Representatives elected in a by-election to fill a vacancy created by death, resignation or otherwise, shall be elected to serve only the remainder of the unexpired term of the office. Members of the House of Representatives shall be eligible for re-election.”
It is against this law that Rep. Karmo says there is no vacancy in Montserrado electoral district #6 by any means and Snowe is still receiving all the benefits in the name of that district.
“Mr. Magistrate, the Threshold Law to which he (Snowe) and I participated in crafting and endorsing, allows for only 73 legally constituted electoral districts. Not 74 as he may presume because Bomi County has only three electoral districts as provided for by law,” he said, appealing that Snowe stays in his area (Mont. District #6).
“Snowe is still eligible to run for the same post in his district if only he thinks he is so good. He should not have registered at Weakama Public School in Senjeh because the Bomi citizens gave him land to do his farming,” Rep. Karmo noted.
He argued that he is not afraid of any competition should Snowe or anyone else enter the political race with him but what he is protecting is the collective identity of the people of Bomi and the future of generations to come.
Taking the witness stand, the defense counsel of Rep. Snowe headed by former Justice Minister Benedict Sannoh argued that Karmo lacks the understanding of the laws he cited in order to disallow Rep. Snowe his constitutional right to reside anywhere in the country as a peaceful citizen and do his normal activities which also include the political right to register to vote and contest for a public office if he wishes.
Cllr. Sannoh said it is in the jurisdiction of the NEC as provided for by law to declare Snowe incompetent or unqualified to participate in any national elections.
“The Threshold he is talking about does not refer to registration to vote but the redistricting of the country on the basis of population growth and other important demographic reasons,” he said.
He added that “Taking a cue from the complainant’s witness, he noted that Snowe has violated no law.”
After all the arguments which began as early as 11:09 a.m., but lasted until 9:45 p.m., the Elections Magistrate for Bomi, Mr. Washington V. Famah, who was assisted by a local court magistrate only identified as a friend of the Magistrate, held the ruling pending conclusion of consultations on issues raised by both the complainant and the defense counsel.
“Having heard all your concerns and arguments in line with the issues under discussion, I hereby adjourn the ruling in this matter until further consultations with my head office,”
Mr. Famah said.
He assured both parties and the public that the ruling from the NEC angle will come before the 28th of this month.