The Liberian Senate and the Ministry of Justice are in a brawl here over the certification of Lofa County Senator-elect, J. Brownie Samukai after the Supreme Court of Liberia gave approval Wednesday, 24 February, upholding ruling by the National Elections Commission declaring the former minister of defense winner of the Lofa County senatorial seat from the December 8, 2020 special senatorial election.
Three defeated candidates James K. Marley, Hamet Kromah and Gayflor Tarnue had petitioned the High Court to halt Samukai’s election, on allegation of fraud and irregularities.
However, immediately after the High Court’s opinion, Liberia’ Solicitor-General, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus reportedly wrote the NEC not certificate Samukai, who was convicted along with other ex-officials for misapplying soldiers’ benefit funds. Samukai and his accomplices have been mandated by the court to refund US$1.4 Million within a year thru six months’ installments.
In his communication to the electoral house, Solicitor-General Cllr. Cephus argue the Senator-elect should not be certificated until he repays the money, an action that prompted the Liberian Senate to invite both the Solicitor-General and the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean to rescind the decision.
But Montserrado County Disrtrict#8 Representative Acarous Gray from the governing Coalition for Democratic Change argues that both Senate presiding officer, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor and the entire plenary of the Liberian Senate are dead wrong in asking the Attorney General and the Solicitor General to withdraw the communication sent to NEC.
Speaking at a news conference in Monrovia, Gray said the Senate’s decision is in total breach of the Constitution, arguing that the Justice Minister does not work nor take instruction from the Liberian Legislature; instead, the President of Liberia.
Thursday, February 25, members of the senate summoned Minister Dean to explain if he were in the know of the communication sent to the National Elections Commission, requesting it not to certificate Senator-elect Samukai, because he was adjudged guilty by the court.
Both Minister Dean and Solicitor General Cephus argued before plenary that they acted legally on grounds that the new revise Election Law gives the Justice Minister the full authorities to detail about persons with criminal records. But senators countered that it is not in the purview of the Justice Ministry to ask the NEC not to certificate a winning candidate declared by the Commission.
Rep. Gray said it is disgusting, shameful and embarrassing for senators to defend Samuaki who has been convicted, noting that Witness Dean and Solicitor General Cephus were not given due process; instead, Vice President Jewel Taylor, who presides over the senate, abruptly called for a motion, seeking punishment for the two officials.
Speaking in Plenary during the debate, River Gee County Senator Conmany Wesseh said most of the violence experiences over the years in the country is due to electoral results. He emphasized Liberians are not prepared to return to the dark days.
However, speaking to the media following the outcome of the senate hearing, requesting him to rescind his communication, Minister Dean said he had not done any wrong and the decision of the Solicitor General is line with laws of the land, meaning that the decision of the senate will not honored by him and his ministry.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor -Editing by Jonathan Browne