The Elders Council and the Chairman of Slipway/Crown Hill communities have expressed concern how a document from Magistrate L. Ben Barco of the Monrovia City Court at the Temple of Justice to Judge J. Kennedy Peabody of the Civil Law Court ‘A’ Six Judicial Circuit landed in the hands of the dismissed Chairman of the Slipway/Crown Hill community Elections Commission Augustine Zolduah, which was used to conduct a ‘fake’ election recently in the community that declared Isaac K. Krah as community chairman without knowledge of the Elders Council.
Elders Council Chairman Daniel Davies said the document referred to as ‘Court Report’ from Associate Magistrate Barco cannot be used to conduct elections in the community because said case is still pending before the Civil Law Court.
The community election which was scheduled to have taken place on 1st December 2019 was reportedly halted following confusion amongst some of the candidates vying for the chairmanship, which eventually led to the death of one person.
According to the Elders Council, the ‘Court Report’ from Associate Magistrate Barco is posing chaotic and life-threatening situation in the community.
The Council calls on the Judicial inquiry commission at the Temple of Justice and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia to intervene in the matter.
Quoting Article 14, Section 1 of the constitution of the Slipway/Crown Hill Community, the Elders Council notes that the Chairman of the Elders Council of the community shall install into office newly elected officers after certification of the election results, which was never done. It terms the alleged action of Associate Magistrate Barco as dangerous to the democratic process and peaceful wellbeing of residents of the community.
However, the ‘Report’ from Magistrate L. Ben Barco, Associate Magistrate of the Monrovia City Magisterial Court, Temple of Justice, on the complaint of Augustine Zolduah, Chairman, Ad Hoc election commission of Slipway/Crown Hill Development Association to Judge J. Kennedy Peabody, Resident Circuit Judge, Civil Law Court “A” Six Judicial Circuit dated 25 March 2020, said that Chairman Augustine Zolduah filed a complaint before Judge Kennedy Peabody to the effect that sometime in December 2019 the Association mandated him to conduct an election for new corps of officers to steer the affairs of the community.
The ‘Court Report’ also quotes Mr. Zolduah as further alleging that on election day, December 1, 2019, he visited the Zone Two Police Depot to request for police protection as was previously arranged, but that he was informed that the County Attorney of Montserrado County, Cllr. Edwin Martin had ordered the police to halt the election on grounds that he (Cllr. Martin) had received a complaint from one of the contestants, who was accompanied by some members of the Elders Council to the offices of the County Attorney.
It says there and then, the police ordered the discontinuation of the election, and that as a result of the police stance, the election did not go ahead, for which community inhabitants went amok which contributed to substantial violence that led to the arrest of several inhabitants.
The Court Report maintains that following the complaint, Judge J. Kennedy Peabody assigned the matter to Associate Magistrate L. Ben Barco of the Monrovia City Magisterial Court with a mandate to call for a conference of the parties to appreciate the matter. It specifically states that qualified candidates and representatives from the offices of Montserrado County District#8 Representative Acarous Moses Gray, the ad hoc election commission represented by Atty. Bestman D. Juah, Sr., and the Elders Council represented by Cllr. Eugene Massaquoi be in attendance.
The complainant explained that Chairman Daniel Davies had requested him to drop names of some of the candidates who were qualified by the Commission, but Davies considered those persons as uncooperative and did not want them to participate in the election but he refused to drop the names because there was no cause for doing so, the Chairman got infuriated and threatened to use his influence with the County Attorney to stall the electoral process.
The Court report also disclosed that the Elders Council, through Chairman Davies accused the Chairman of the ad hoc election commission of bias, stating that the Commission wanted to rig the election in favor of one of the candidates as well as accused the commission of qualifying a candidate who does not live in any of the communities involved.
The Court Report notes that from an appreciation of the circumstances and available facts, coupled with discussions held with other stakeholders in the communities an ad hoc election commission for a community election, like in the instant case, has no right to exclude a qualified candidate from a scheduled community election.
Throughout the conference, the document states that, neither the Elders Council nor any group was able to point at any violation of the By-laws and Constitution, or electoral guidelines upon which the Elders Council could hinge to qualify a candidate, noting it is the overwhelming consideration of the population, save the Elders Council, to proceed with election and get the communities development priority ongoing.
Therefore, the court recommends that composition of the ad hoc election commission be expanded to five, including one person from the Elders Council and another person from the Religious Council; that observers from the offices of Rep. Acarous Moses Gray, the National Elections Commission of Liberia and local organizations with interest in elections matters be invited to monitor the election with the sole purpose of ensuring credibility, through free and fair election.
It also recommends that since the Elders Council is the custodian of funds collected from toilet and sport facilities that are managed by the interim leadership, part of said funds be used to conduct the elections to have leadership for the communities.
By Emmanuel Mondaye–Editing by Jonathan Browne