Chief Justice Francis Korkpor yesterday warned authorities of the National Elections Commission (NEC) not to disqualify any candidate that desires to contest the October 10 presidential and legislative elections because only the Supreme Court has the sole legal authority to do so.
Earlier, Kamara’s lead lawyer, Cllr. Arthur Johnson, argued that his client was never given any due process of law before his rejection, which contradicted the Constitution of Liberia.
Chief Justice Korkpor’s warning came after the NEC admitted that it did not accord Mr. Abu Kamara, a sitting assistant minister of Post & Telecommunications, due process as an aspirant for Montserrado County District #15 Representative seat. The NEC rejected Mr. Kamara because he is a presidential appointee that did not resign his post two years before the elections, according to the Code of Conduct.
Justice Korkpor told NEC authorities that they “cannot disqualify a candidate only based on the application form that he or she has filled in to be qualified for participation in the election process.”
“A form is not an individual that you rely on to disqualify anyone, because you should have first invited the candidate for investigation before rejecting their nomination, which you have failed to do with the case of Kamara,” Justice Korkpor pointed out, adding, “tell the NEC to stop their rejection formalities unless you heard our ruling into this matter.”
The Supreme Court did not give a specific date when it will deliver its ruling in Kamara’s case.
The Supreme Court on March 3, in its opinion (ruling), confirmed the constitutionality of the Code of Conduct (CoC), with three justices in favor and two against. The NEC’s admission came during an argument on whether its rejection of Kamara was in compliance with the CoC. In his argument, Cllr. Musa Dean admitted that Kamara was not accorded due process when the decision to disqualify him was approved by NEC’s Board of Commissioners.
“When the nomination committee noticed that Kamara placed on his form that he was serving as assistant minister for administration at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, the committee immediately disqualified him and submitted the document to the Board of Commissioners, which immediately confirmed the action,” Cllr. Dean said.
“Kamara filed his nomination form on June 19 and he was rejected on July 1. Besides, he had 48 hours to appeal the decision, and he failed to take advantage of that,” Cllr. Dean said in his argument.
“Immediately after the 48 hours; that was, on July 3, the commissioners confirmed the decision without hearing from Kamara,” Dean clarified. The NEC said Kamara was in total violation of the CoC, because he did not resign his position as assistant minister, before applying as an aspirant for the forthcoming presidential and legislative elections. “He admitted on his nomination form that he has not resigned his position and that alone makes the NEC reject his nomination for violation of the CoC,” the NEC lawyer argued.
“Kamara is still in violation of the CoC because he currently serves as an assistant minister at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications and has refused to resign that position,” Cllr. Dean added.
Kamara’s lawyer had argued that the NEC, without any legal basis and support consistent with due process, denied and rejected his application on grounds that he is prohibited from contesting for public office as outlined in the controversial Code of Conduct (CoC).
Kamara said although he did not resign his post two years prior to the upcoming elections, “it does not warrant disqualification to contest as a candidate in Section 15.1 of the CoC.”
Cllr. Arthur Johnson said his client had already prepared his letter of resignation, but at that time President Sirleaf was not in the country to approve it, before pleading by saying “we beg this court to allow him to resign and be made to participate in the forthcoming presidential and legislative elections.”
Cllr. Johnson said though Kamara was still occupying his position at the ministry, he could not wait for the return of President Sirleaf to approve his resignation, on grounds that he was going to miss the nomination deadline.
“This is how he managed to apply and indicated on the NEC’s application form that he is an assistant minister at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications. He never wanted to lie under oath, so he was fair enough to admit that he is serving as a presidential appointee,” Kamara’s lawyer argued.