As Snowe, Pennue take Senate Seats
The Supreme Court of Liberia through Associate Justice, Cllr Cyanneh Yuoh, has ordered the Senate to halt the decision of sending the Chairman of the National Elections Commission and her Commissioners to the Central Prison on contemp charges.
In the opening statement calling for halt to Senate’s planned action, Associate Justice Yuoh cited the Senate to a conference, “with her Honor on Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at the hour of 11:am in connection with the above caption case; meanwhile, you are hereby ordered to stay all further proceedings and all action in the matter, to include the incarceration of the petitioners pending the outcome of the conference,” the Supreme Court’s communication said.
“In the ten-count petition to the Supreme Court, NEC stated that it is the board of commissioners of the National Elections Commission, created by the Constitution of Liberia, with the mandate to supervise and be responsible for all matters relating to elections throughout the Republic of Liberia (Article 89b).
“Pursuant to its mandate, the National Elections Commission organized, supervised and conducted the Midterm Senatorial Elections in all 15 counties of Liberia on December 8, 2020 for the purpose of electing 15 Senators, one Senator per county; thereafter, the results were counted and tallied, and the winners were declared.”
The petitioners further acknowledged the letter addressed to its Chairman, Cllr Davidetta Brown-Lansanah,,dated February 21, 2021cited, that the NEC board of commissioners to appear before the Liberian Senate to show cause why they (NEC) should not be held in contempt for failure to comply with its duties as found in Article 83( c) of the Liberian Constitution to investigate and decide complaints filed against elecrion results.
In obedience to the citation above, the entire board of commissioners appeared before the Liberian Senate on February 18, 2021 at the hour of1 2:00 noon, and after some discussions, the Senators present discharged the board of commissioners of NEC and instructed them to return to the Capitol Building to face the Senate again on Tuesday, February 23, 2021, at the hour of 11:00 am, and should be prepared to go to jail for contempt of the Senate; because of the NEC’s failure to decide on election challenges within 30 days allowed by the Constitution.
However, what appeared to have infuriated the lawmakers even more, was the fifth count of NECs petition, which claimed that: “Pursuance to that instructions from the Senators, the Commissioners of NEC again obeyed and returned to the Liberian Senate, and through their threat, the Senators sitting in plenary issued the commitment and ordered the Sergeant-at-arms to escort the Commissioners to the Monrovia Central Prison, where the Commissioners are presently incarcerated and languishing in humiliation and public ridicule.”
The Secretary of the Senate reading the concluding count of the electoral body’s petition to the apparent bewilderment of the Senators said, “The petitioners, NEC, says and contends that the Liberian Senate (Respondent) herein lacks the legal standing, and legal capacity to enforce provision of the Liberian Constitution, which is an Executive position; to put it another way, the petitioners say the Senate is not the proper forum to decide matters of Constitutional violations; petitioners say this is purely a judicial function, and under the Constitution of Liberia in Article 3, the separation of power is guaranteed in which it is forbidden for one branch of the government of Liberia to usurp, interfere with, and undertake the functions, deeds, rights and responsibility of another branch of government.”
Besides the Senate violating the doctrine of separation of powers, the NEC contends that the Senate also seeks to sit as the complainant as well as the judge and jury, thereby depriving and denying petitioner NEC its right to due process of law before an impartial tribunal.
The NEC petition further contends that the Senate is assuming jurisdiction not ascribing to it by law,, and is also proceeding by wrong rules and therefore, should be prevented from metting out unjust, unfair treatment to the petitioner, and wondered what the Senate stands to gain by sending the Commissioners to jail.
“For all of the above reasons, petitioner NEC prays your honor to intervene in this matter and restore and maintain the rule of law in Liberia by issuing the alternative writ of prohibition to restrain, prohibit and prevent the Respondent, the Liberian Senate from violating the Constitution of Liberia, and for having illegally sent the NEC board of commissioners to prison by misuse of power and abuse of power.”
“Wherefore, and view of the foregoing,” the petition notes, “The petitioner, NEC, most respectfully prays your honor to issue the alternative writ of prohibition, and order the immediate release fromvdetention of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission; and after a hearing, issue a preemptive writ of prohibition against the Respondent, the Liberian Senate, for exceeding its jurisdiction and assuming jurisdiction not ascribed to it by law, and thereby prevent, prohibit and restrain the Respondent, from further imprisoning the board of commissioners.”
Immediately following the reading of the NEC petition, the Senate, through Senator Varney Sherman, called for a halt to further discuss the matter in open plenary, and his move for an executive session was granted. Meanwhile,in a related development, the embattled and recently Supreme Court cleared Senators, Zoe Emmanuel Pennue of Grand Gedeh, and Edwin Melvin Snowe of Bomi, were inducted into office yesterday, increasing the number of Senators cleared and seated to seven.