Counselor Gould’s Pleading to the Supreme Court: Threat, or Caution?

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Counselor Theophilus Gould, representing the National Elections Commission (NEC) in the case of whether or not to proceed with the planned December 16 Senatorial elections, made what could well be considered a rather strange remark to the Court on Monday.   

He told the Court that should it accept the petitioners’ request to halt the planned December 16 elections, “all of you would lose your respective jobs, because there would be a change of government.”

Counselor Gould, who is also president of the Liberia Bar Association, warned that the petitioners’ real intent had

little to do with the Ebola epidemic, but more to do with what he called their real intention of establishing an interim government.  For if come January there are no newly elected Senators to replace the outgoing ones, a constitutional crisis could erupt that could lead to the fall of the government, necessitating an “interim government.”

But the petitioners’ lawyer, Cllr. Laveli Supuwood, vigorously rejected that argument.  They were not interested in an interim government; but in preventing the violation of the Constitution by NEC and the Legislature.

Cllr. Supuwood based his argument on Articles 86 (a,b) and Article 88 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, which deal primarily with Emergency Powers. 

NEC and the Legislature, however, in setting the election date to December 16, 2014, said they took into consideration the failure to hold the elections which, in keeping with the Constitution, were scheduled for October 14, 2014.  NEC and the Legislature feared that a further delay in holding these elections would, come January 2015, leave the Senate chamber half empty—or half full—depending on whether one sees this from the eyes of a pessimist or optimist.  In any case, that could veritably lead to a constitutional crisis, for the Senate chamber has never been halved during normal democratic times.

The Supreme Court Justices will have to decide which is the lesser of two evils—hold the elections now, given the considerable decline in the Ebola epidemic, or wait until a later date and drag the country into an even deeper constitutional quagmire (swamp, predicament).  

Most political parties, including the two leading ones, the ruling Unity Party and the opposition Congress for Democratic Change, have agreed to proceed with the December 16 Senatorial elections.

There are, however, two sticky situations, which have nothing to do with the matter before the Supreme Court but are nonetheless at the very center of political discussion at this time.  The first is President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s announcement of Executive Order #65 banning public gatherings of any kind for the next 42 days.  This means that should this Executive Order be executed, it would abrogate campaign rallies or political gatherings.  The second situation is the senatorial campaign for Montserrado County of the President’s son, Robert Sirleaf.

There are many who suspect a link between this Executive Order and the President’s son in the senatorial race.  And that is why some are calling it “sinister,” while others contend that it violates the constitutional guarantee of freedom of assembly.

Ostensibly, Executive Order #65 is intended to prevent what happened last Friday—the CDC mass demonstration, which many felt renewed the threat of Ebola viral transmission. 

There were two portions of the Executive Order that raised RED FLAGS!  First, it is to last for 42 days, well past the date when the election results would be announced. 

The second is that the enforcement of the Executive Order is restricted to “the streets of Monrovia.”  Why Monrovia only, people are asking?  Is there a fear of public reaction when the Montserrado result is announced?  What would that result be and why the fear? 

People who were around for the 1985 presidential and legislative elections recall what Head of State Samuel Doe did on the day the results were announced: he ordered everyone to stay home and the streets of Monrovia were barricaded with soldiers and armored vehicles.  Of course, the purpose of that massive show of force was obvious:  Doe and Elections Commissioner Emmet Harmon blatantly (barefacedly) rigged the elections and they wanted no trouble afterwards.

President Sirleaf herself can fully understand public suspicion surrounding her Executive Order, for she was present to remember that it was Jackson F., not Samuel K.  Doe, who REALLY WON that election!

The Liberian people eagerly await the Supreme Court’s verdict which will come probably before the weekend.   

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