After several legal battles at the various levels of the National Elections Commission’s Magistrate and elections dispute hearing offices, the Board of Commissioners (BOC) of the NEC yesterday declared Rep. Edwin Melvin Snowe the winner in the election cases filed against him by Sen. Sando Dazoe Johnson and Rep. Samuel Gayah Karmo.
The ruling of the BOC came after Rep. Snowe’s counsel appealed to it upon receiving an unfavorable ruling from the NEC’s chief hearing officer, Cllr. Muna S. Ville, on July 31. The counsel, headed by Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, appealed that Cllr. Ville’s ruling was unconstitutional and alien to any elections law. Rep. Karmo, who also filed a complaint to Mr. Washington V. Farmah, the election magistrate in Bomi, lost the hearing and took an appeal to the NEC Board of Commissioners, but said he was sad to note that he, like Johnson, regrets the BOC decision yesterday, August 10. Rep. Snowe is the current lawmaker for Montserrado County Electoral District #6 and is receiving all benefits in its name at the House of Representatives, but has selected to seek election for the same post in the 54th National Legislature for Senjeh, Bomi Electoral District #1.
Reading the ruling in the Snowe-Karmo case, Cllr. Sarah Toe said Rep. Karmo has failed to cite any clear law except Sections 3.3 and 4.2 of the NEC threshold regulations which does not constitute any ground to deny the respondent the right to contest the ensuing elections. “The complainant argued that cross county voter registration, and specifically in this case involving a sitting legislator (Rep. Snowe) is a violation of the aforesaid threshold regulations. He also argued that Article 48 of the 1986 Constitution clearly speaks of the tenure of an elected representative, which is six years now, and and the opportunity granted any incumbent legislator to seek re-election should he or she desire in the same district he or she represents,” Cllr. Toe said. She noted that Snowe argued that he is entitled to the access and functionality of Article 13 of the 1986 Constitution and therefore needs no undue restriction from anyone or an institution as long as he has not violated any law that warrants him being barred from enjoying such right. Article 13 states that “All citizens have freedom of movement to any part of the country in as much as they are not prevented from doing so by order of the same 1986 Constitution.”
Cllr. Toe said the question of domicile for a Liberian citizen to become eligible to register to vote is irrelevant and cannot be accepted by the BOC. She said “Having reviewed the bill of exceptions, evidences and documentaries submitted by Karmo, the Commission sees no ground to disallow Snowe from participating in the electoral affairs of Senjeh, Bomi Electoral District #1. Giving the ruling in the Snowe-Johnson domicile case, Commissioner Davidetta Lansana said the NEC’s chief hearing officer, Cllr. Ville’s ruling of July 31 cannot be accepted by the BOC because it was based on a non realistically comparative case. “The NEC’s refusal to allow Cyril Allen to contest in 2006 the representative election of Margibi district #1 was on grounds that he did not establish anything in line with the NEC’s domicile and tax payment regulations. His case and the NPP-NEC case were all different in comparison to the cases against Snowe now,” Comm. Lansana noted. “The argument that the domicile of an elected representative remains fixed until the expiry of his or her term of office is beyond jurisdiction of this Commission as we cannot point to any law both in our elections laws and the 1986 Constitution which states that an elected representative cannot change his or her domicile unless the tenure serving is expired,” she added. Lansana also said that Sen. Johnson’s filing of a complaint on July 19 was done prematurely as the NEC provides that any complaint in elections matter must be filed three days after observation of said allegation in violation of any of the elections laws.
Dwelling on the domicile of Snowe in Senjeh District, she pointed out that “Having listened to the four witnesses, including Senjeh District Commissioner Mr. James Tarpeh and former Senator Lahai Lasana…and reading all documentary evidences such as tax payment receipts and records of payments to contractors to build a radio station, houses, among others, it is established to the knowledge of this Commission that Snowe has a domiciliary status in Senjeh as of 2014.”
The two counsels, Cllr. Matthias Omejia of Sen. Johnson and Karmo, who represented himself, took appeals to the Supreme Court in order to seek the wisdom of that final arbiter of justice in the country.
Reacting to the rulings Sen. Johnson said the BOC has no integrity and fear that there could be chaos in the ensuing elections if care is not taken. “I am not surprised of their ruling because few days ago Snowe went on his own radio in Bomi and told his supporters that today’s rulings were going to be in his favor. He asked them to troop in to the grounds of this Commission to cheer him as usual because he already knew that this Commission would sell its value as cheap as any local commodity,” Johnson said. He noted that the Supreme Court will be the final place to determine whether this country is a country of laws.
Snowe, however, refuted Johnson’s claims of any foul play and him being negligent to the respect of the rule of law. “They have no laws to cite, so what is their grounds then? We have to be serious and I can assure you that we will not give up. We will continue with the struggle even at the Supreme Court,” he said.
Both parties, meanwhile, agreed to obey the final ruling from the Supreme Court.