Liberians yesterday awoke to news that the offices of the National Elections Commission (NEC) had been petrol-bombed the previous night by unknown persons for reasons yet to be established.
Supporters of this government speaking on a local talk show have accused supporters of Lofa County Senator-elect, Brownie Samukai, of being behind the incident. Prior to this incident, the home of Supreme Court Associate Justice Joseph Nagbe was also reportedly petrol-bombed by unknown individuals.
And to the best of publicly available information, the Police is still investigating the matter and, as of yet, no suspects have been apprehended.
In the wake of these troubling developments, questions are being asked about the role of the Supreme Court and NEC in all of this. As it appears, the Supreme Court under the leadership of Chief Justice Francis Korkpor may have politicized the issue by its vacillation and apparent subservience to executive diktat.
Equally so is the NEC, by its shifting stance on matters which it had earlier decided. And it concerned allegations of fraud allegedly perpetrated by the winner of the election, Brownie Samukai.
The NEC hearing officers, having probed the matter, arrived at the conclusion that no fraud was committed and that Brownie Samukai was cleared for certification as winner of the Lofa County elections.
The losing party, not being satisfied with the NEC ruling, appealed to the Supreme Court but the Court upheld the decision of the NEC Hearing officers.
Then suddenly, out of the blue, local politician and businessman Simeon Freeman who had no fish to fry in the matter, meaning that he lacked standing in law to bring a case against Samukai when he had never ever been a party to any of the proceedings.
A lawyer, speaking to the Daily Observer on the matter, said aside from Simeon Freeman’s lack of standing on the matter, he also has credibility issues. The lawyer (name withheld) alleged that during President Sirleaf’s first term of office, Simeon Freeman was paid about half a million (US$500,000) for an asphalt machine to facilitate the pavement of the Jallah Town Road.
According to him the asphalt machine never worked from the day it was brought to the compound of the Public Works Ministry up until President Sirleaf left office. For political reasons, according to the lawyer, President Sirleaf never prosecuted him because he was being used as a hired-hand, a political hitman of some sorts against her perceived enemies. And according to the lawyer, the money was never paid back.
Whatever the case, the petrol bomb attack on the NEC offices as well as that on the home of Associate Justice Nagbe are dangerous developments which must be brought into check immediately.
By their conduct, the NEC and the Supreme Court have portrayed themselves to the public as being unworthy of the trust of the Liberian people. And these are the two most important and crucial bodies whose conduct of affairs are failing to meet the mark of transparency by all accounts.
The Supreme Court of Liberia, under the leadership of Chief Justice Korkpor, is by all indications, according to some lawyers, failing to account to the Liberian people for its stewardship of the country’s judiciary but is instead kowtowing to executive diktat. Rather than inspiring confidence and trust, the actions of the Supreme Court, especially in this Brownie Samukai case, is perceived as actually undermining public trust and confidence in the Judiciary.
And lest it be forgotten, both institutions have to be careful and circumspect in their actions, lest they run the risk of driving people into acts of desperation such as that experienced with the petrol-bombing of the NEC offices.
On several occasions before and in several editorials, the Daily Observer has repeatedly cautioned and warned NEC Chairperson Davidetta Brown Lansanah and her colleagues against playing with fire.
Apparently, they need to be reminded of the true role of that electoral body as an independent and credible national integrity institution that should not be taken lightly or for granted.
Additionally, they need to be reminded that fraudulent and stolen election results were major contributory factors that led the country to civil war in 1990. Moreover, they need to be aware of the dangers of courting or ingratiating themselves into the good graces of the executive.
This is because they will invariably get caught in contradictory situations attempting on one hand to please the Chief and on the other attempting to assuage public concerns about their displayed lack of transparency and accountability.
And, in the final analysis, the people turn their wrath against the government. This was clearly evident during the 1979 “Rice Riots” crisis.
In this regard, Justice Minister Musah Dean’s instructions to the NEC to place a halt to the certification of Brownie Samukai and to which the NEC has complied, is completely outside the ambit of the law and outside his scope of authority.
Equally detestable is the compliance of NEC with Justice Minister Musah Dean’s order to halt the certification of Brownie Samukai as Senator-elect of Lofa County.
Accordingly to informed sources, Commissioners Boakai ‘Dukuly and Josephine Kou Gaye have refused to play along with this dangerous misadventure to have Samukai decertificated.
The rest have failed in their duties and responsibilities and should be impeached or removed from office for their failure to discharge their responsibilities in keeping with law. The situation does underscore the need for an independent complaint body to handle elections disputes. Dissatisfied parties will then have the recourse to appeal to the Supreme Court for final redress.
But the question here is, in view of ongoing developments, can the NEC and Supreme Court as currently composed be trusted to act transparently, honestly, and fairly? In view of recent developments, the leaderships of both the NEC and the Honorable Supreme Court are reminded that the peace, security and stability of this country lies in their hands.
Accordingly, they are urged to immediately stop making mischief and fomenting trouble for this war-weary nation and its peoples. After all, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!