There is an inherent risk involved in setting dangerous precedents. This is because, much too often the decisions made or actions taken come back to haunt us long after they are made.
This is particularly true in the case of the judiciary especially the Supreme Court which has a quasi-law making function. Final decisions rendered by the Court as an outcome of a judicial hearing/process(es) are considered law.
According to legal analysts, such laws may be repealed by the passage of new legislation replacing the former. And until such is done the law remains binding.
Some lawyers have observed that in some cases it is a very shrewd way of making changes to the Constitution albeit illegally.
A case in point is that of the change from absolute to simple majority for electing public officials in the 2011 referendum.
Although the proposals advanced by the then government led by President Sirleaf were rejected as depicted by the results of the referendum, the Unity Party led by Cllr. Varney Sherman took an appeal to the Supreme Court charging that the NEC had included invalid ballots in the vote count.
The Court concurred with the representations made by the Unity Party and, by the stroke of a pen, the will of the Liberian people as reflected in the referendum results, was changed by fiat.
But the results of such a change have meant increased polarization of local communities and effectively undermined mutual trust and consensus building at the grassroot level.
Thus, we see today there are many legislators who lack legitimacy with some of them having won their seats by a narrow 8 vote margin in some cases. In essence they cannot boast to be true representatives of the people.
Another case in point is that of the Supreme Court’s arbitrary removal in 2014 of Remedial Provisions in the 1986 elections law as a consequence of its stance and ruling in the case involving Grand Cape Mount senatorial candidates Varney Sherman and Dr. Fodee Kromah.
The Remedial Provisions contained in Chapter 6 section 2(1) and (2) provided for the seating of a candidate declared victorious by the NEC and whose victory is contested or challenged by another candidate or party.
In the 2014 elections Dr. Fodee Kromah representing the CDC lost the elections to Cllr. Varney Sherman. Interestingly, then President Sirleaf, according to informed sources had thrown her weight behind Dr. Kromah rather than Varney Sherman who was running on the ticket of the Unity Party, President Sirleaf’s party.
Dr. Kromah took his case to the Supreme Court alleging fraud and prayed the Court to restrain the NEC from allowing Cllr. Varney Sherman to be seated until the Court had made a decision. Senator-elect Varney Sherman had at the time sought to contest the post of President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
But at the time of his bid, according to informed sources he had already fallen out of the good graces of President Sirleaf and it appeared that she was pulling strings to ensure that Sherman’s seating was delayed.
When the Supreme Court finally did give a ruling, it held that a declared winner, once challenged by an individual or party, will not be certificated until the Supreme Court had ruled on the matter.
And it did so after the elections for the post of Senate President Pro Tempore had been held with Armah Jallah of Gbarpolu County emerging as winner. Later, Senator Sherman was certificated but by then Armah Jallah’s ascendancy as Senate President Pro Tempore was already a fait accompli.
It is within this context that the case for the establishment of a special tribunal to handle and dispose of elections disputes in transparent and timely fashion can be explained.
Further, drawing from experience there is usually a flood of complaints following elections. These complaints invariably end up at the Supreme Court in most cases.
But given the long delays usually experienced in disposing of elections disputes by the Supreme Court, the case for the establishment of a Special Elections Dispute Tribunal, according to Center for Development and Election Management(CEDEM), is exigent.
Consonant to this, since most disputes have concerned the integrity of the Voters Registry, the Daily Observer enjoins issues with CEDEM chairman James Fromayan on the urgent need to adopt biometric requirements for the creation of a credible Voters Registry.
On a more serious note, the NEC Board of Commissioners, according to views sampled by this newspaper, is not credible and lacks public trust. According to a civil society activist, members of that body were not publicly vetted.
Had that been the case, according to the activist(name withheld) Commissioner Floyd Sayor, who was found to be involved in electoral malpractices tantamount, in his view, to criminality would not be sitting as NEC Commissioner.
Moreover, the appointment of individuals to serve on the electoral body should be done in consultation with political parties who are in effect the principal stakeholders in the electoral process.
Apparently, this was not done for unexplained reasons and there is every reason to do so now especially in view of current developments and public opinion which suggests a very poor approval rating of the NEC.
Acts of fraud and voter intimidation that characterized the elections in Gbarpolu and Nimba Counties can be squarely placed at the feet of the NEC, according to most people spoken to.
In their view, NEC has failed in its fiduciary responsibilities to the Liberian people. But most disappointing in their view is the conduct of the Supreme Court Bench whose members should be above reproach but sadly are not.
It is indeed sad times for Liberia, they say.