When Is The Law Not The Law?

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Justice Minister Musah Dean, responding to comments and concerns by Senators about his Ministry’s letter, addressed to the National Elections Commission (NEC), instructing that electoral body to not certificate Brownie J. Samukai as winner of the Lofa County senatorial elections, has claimed ignorance, feigned or real, about the letter to NEC under the signature of Solicitor-General Serenius Cephus.

During his appearance before the Senate recently, the Justice Minister denied prior knowledge of the letter written by the Solicitor-General but was quick to add that “Section 2.3 of the New Elections Law… empowers the Minister of Justice to inform the Commission (NEC) of the names of all persons judicially prosecuted and sentenced for disenfranchisement.”

 “I was out of the vicinity of the city”, the Justice Minister claimed in an apparent attempt to worm his way out of another shitshow characteristic of the style of administration of justice under his watch. But, according to leading lawyers (names withheld), the Justice Minister was being pretentious hiding under an umbrella of plausible deniability. Does absence from the city mean being cut off from communications?

This is because, well prior to the Senate’s action, a loser of the elections filed a complaint before the electoral body alleging fraud. The matter was heard by the NEC Complaints Board and disposed of accordingly. The complaint was dismissed but the matter was taken on appeal to the Supreme Court.

But the Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the NEC hearings officer, calling for the certification of Brownie Samukai as winner of the Lofa County senatorial electlon.

Prior to this, legal action had been taken by one of the contestants to bar Samukai from participating in the elections charging that he was a convict.

But the NEC Board of Commissioners, upholding the decision of its Hearings Officers, affirmed that Brownie Samukai was not guilty of any wrong doing relative to his declared intent to participate in the December senatorial election.

Not being satisfied with the ruling by the NEC Board of Commissioners, the complainants took the matter to the Supreme Court, hoping to overturn the decision by the NEC Board of Commissioners.

But the Supreme Court ruled in Samukai’s favor, granting him the right to participate in the elections. Samukai did go on to win the election but, within a twinkling of an eye, he found himself slapped with renewed charges.

To many Liberians, especially supporters of Samukai, these charges amounted to nothing more than a witch-hunt. The Supreme Court, while ordering Samukai to restitute over a million dollars within a period of six months or go to jail, did not however proscribe him from participating in the elections, let alone annulling his victory.

And now comes Justice Minister Dean claiming that he was out of the city and was not aware of the letter from the Solicitor-General.

Well, granted he was not aware, which is not the issue, the fact that he stopped short of disagreeing with the Solicitor-General speaks volumes.

He skirted around the issue in a rather shrewd attempt to cast aspersion on the Supreme Court’s decision concurring with the NEC hearing officers’ decision affirming Samukai’s victory.

The current imbroglio, informed sources have told this newspaper, has seen the NEC Board of Commissioners torn apart on this matter. According to sources, NEC Commisioners, Teplah Reeves, Floyd Sayor, Ernestine Awar and Barsee Kpangbai support the Solicitor-General and are in favor of rescinding NEC’s own decision affirming Samukai’s victory.

The point here is, both Commissioners Teplah Reeves and Ernestine Awar are lawyers or profess to be lawyers. How dare they kowtow to Justice Ministry diktat in view of their previous decision, Supreme Court’s decision and the independence of their own institution?

More besides, Commissioner Floyd Sayor is a known fraudster, having before been found guilty of electoral fraud by the very NEC on whose Board he now sits as a Commissioner of such a critical national integrity institution.

It is indeed a dirty and lasting shame on those members of the Senate who, being fully aware of Commissioner Sayor’s criminal behavior at NEC, went on to confirm him for the post.

According to NEC insider sources, there are attempts to manipulate vote count results especially in cases where  CDC candidates appear to be on the losing end.

Such is the case of Gbarpolu County, in which the generally perceived and acclaimed winner, Madam Botoe Kanneh has still not been certificated. Also, Wellington Geevon Smith of River Cess County is another, whose certification has been delayed by apparently spurious charges.

That vested interests could be at play in the River Cess situation, can be clearly seen, according to political observers, in the offer from Natioal Port Authority (NPA) Managing Director Bill Twehway to have NPA underwrite, on NEC’S behalf, the cost of a vote recount in River Cess County.

And with such a shady character like Floyd Sayor overseeing the NEC Data Center, there is every reason to be suspicious, especially in view of his current stance in the case of Brownie Samukai.

In all this, the critical essence of credible and transparent elections to maintaining national peace and stability cannot be overemphasized.

In view of this, Justice Ministry officials, especially Justice Minister Musah Dean, ought to know that the NEC is an independent and autonomous agency far removed from the ambit of his control.

Further, Justice Minister Dean ought to know that it is against the law to order anyone, let alone the Chairman/Chairperson of NEC, to obey or carryout unlawful orders or to commit a crime.

Correspondingly, it is against the law for any official or functionary to obey unlawful orders or commit a crime on anyone’s instructions. The Justice Ministry is clearly in breach of the law by ordering the NEC Board of Commissioners to obey its instructions to de-certificate Brownie Samukai.  So we ask Justice Minister Dean, when is the law not the law?

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