The Supreme Court of Liberia has finally given its verdict on whether or not the nation should hold the special senatorial election. The Court agreed, in a vote of three to two, that the elections should proceed.
The petitioners, who asked the Court to postpone the special elections, argued that holding this election could lead to further Ebola viral transmission and threaten the people’s lives. But in its ruling last Friday, the Court said the Ebola issue is a political one, to be decided by the first two branches of government—the Legislative and Executive.
The High Court has said exactly what the Daily Observer argued in its Editorial last Monday, December 8: “We pray that the court will find a way to mitigate (ease) the tension, by first realizing that the elections have been approved by the two other branches of government [Legislative and Executive]; and by suggesting ways in which the threat of viral transmission can be minimized.”
In its ruling, the Supreme Court reminded the petitioners that the Liberian Constitution allows for the “separation of powers” between the three branches of government,” with each having its separate and distinct functions. It is purely judicial matters that have been reserved for the Judiciary, and these are matters upon which the two other branches dare not encroach. By the same token, matters political are the exclusive preserve of the Legislative and Executive branches of government.
Chief Justice Korkpor and his colleagues on the bench agreed that Ebola and all the constraints and restraints that go with it are purely political, and belong to the two political branches of the Liberian government—not the Judiciary.
We think it is commendable that the eminent citizens and their fellow petitioners had the courage and commitment to the safety of their fellow Liberians to try the strength of their conviction at the highest judicial level, the full bench of the Supreme Court. This was perfectly within their constitutional rights to do.
Now that the High Court has ruled that the elections may go ahead, the ball is back in the court of the Legislature and the Executive, and most particularly its electoral arm, the National Elections Commission (NEC).
It is the nation’s good fortune that the President has requested, and the Legislature has consented, that they remain in session for at least another week to handle matters relating to oil blocks which have been recently negotiated. Once the Legislators return to the Capitol today (Monday), the President, through her emissaries, NEC Chair Jerome Korkoyah included, should approach the Legislature and together come up with and agree on some guidelines on how the risk of viral transmission can be MINIMIZED as Liberians participate in the electoral process.
We believe that massive campaigns are definitely out of the question. NEC should in no uncertain terms tell the political parties and senatorial candidates that massive street demonstrations, parades and rallies and threaten the health of the nation. Two primary considerations must be stressed here: first, Ebola is real, it kills and is very easy to spread, especially through close personal contact.
Second, the international community has so far spent billions of dollars helping us to contain and eradicate the virus from our shores. This massive effort and expenditure of human and financial resources to fight the deadly Ebola virus must not be jeopardized for any non-life threatening reason, politics included.
As we proceed with these elections on December 20, it is imperative that we help ourselves by doing everything possible to restrain the virus, especially preventing bodily contact which is highly unavoidable during mass rallies such as we witnessed recently.
The Legislature and Executive can and must show the way forward.