While every occasion that calls for gathering of people has been suspended due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Legislature, especially the Senate, remains in session, conducting confirmation hearings for presidential appointees at the National Elections Commission (NEC).
This conduct of the Senate is not pleasing to the Civil Society Organizations and Human Rights Advocacy Platform; something that led the rights group to seek a writ of prohibition from the Supreme Court to halt the Senate’s activity, but yielded no fruit as Justice in Chamber, Jamesetta Howard Wolokollie, on Monday March 30, 2020, could accept to issue the writ of prohibition.
The CSO Platform contends that the first branch of government that has the authority to enact laws for the effective operation including the heath law is not abiding by the health protocols instituted by health authorities in the wake of the outbreak of the Coronavirus, but continuing with public hearings in breach of the protocols.
“Others including churches and marketers have suspended every livelihood activity in line with the health protocols, but the Senate still continues to carry activities that promote large gathering and this is unfair to those observing the protocols. But unfortunately for us at the Supreme Court, the Justice in Chamber refused to yield to our request to issue a writ of prohibition to stop the Senate,” said Adama Dempster, Secretary of the CSO Platform.
“The senate is responsible to make laws and and should be the one to begin obeying the laws it makes; notwithstanding, it has failed to enforce the emergency health measures and protocol,” the group said.
They said the Senate action to continue the hearing have direct and indirect consequences on its members’ lives and the citizens at large.
“In keeping with Article 33, chapter 14 of the Liberian Code of Law revised, the public health law, which placed major restrictions on a large gathering of infected areas (Montserrado and Margibi Counties), prohibits the ongoing public hearing on the National Election Commission nominees and Liberia Anti-corruption Commission,” the CSOs group said.
They argued that in the wake of all these stringent health measures being put in place by the government, the Senate is proceeding with confirmation hearings of presidential nominees of autonomous agencies with an invite to the public to witness the process.
The advocacy group indicated that the action on the part of the Senate is a clear violation of the Ministry of Health national emergency health response in an effort to keep citizens and residents safe.
The COSs platform wonders why there will be health emergency, which has restricted the basic constitutional rights such as freedom to worship, movement, association and speech when the public is being requested to participate in the vetting of NEC nominated commissioners and others for different positions in government.
The group said the action of the senate to conduct public hearing undermines the proclamation made by the Executive towards the fight of the global pandemic that has infected over 700,000 people with nearly 33,000 deaths.
“We, therefore, call on the Senate to put an immediate halt to the confirmation of the nominees,” the group said.
Like the CSO Platform, Ex-Liberian envoy to the United Nations, Lewis Brown has added that the nomination and confirmation of Commissioners at the NEC divert attention from the main issue at hand. In his statement last weekend, Brown said health emergency like this needs the attention of all, but it is being thrown aside and priority given to presidential nominees.