The National Elections Commission or NEC is expected to appear before Justice-In-Chamber Phillip A.Z. Banks, III today to give the meaning of “returns” on the basis of the court’s instruction at the end of Monday’s hearing.
NEC and three winning senatorial candidates from Grand Cape Mount, Bomi and Margibi Counties are responding to concerns at the Supreme Court as to whether or not the certification of the winners could go ahead while protests against their victory over rival candidates had not conclusively been dealt with.
On Monday, January 5, 2015, former Chief Justice Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott, representing candidates of ruling Unity Party, argued that the “returns,” which, according to her are the certificates given to the winning candidates by the NEC, “shall” be declared by the Commission not later than 15 days after polling.
She argued that the final declaration of the returns was the certification of the candidates, and what the media reported prior to the certification was simply an update for the public to believe in the process.
Justice Banks’ instruction for the NEC to appear today to explain “returns” came after he earlier asked the commission’s counsels supporting the certification if there was anything at the NEC that equated declaration of “returns” to that of the certification of the candidates.
Presiding Chambers Justice Banks said the Supreme Court was purposely looking into whether or not the National Elections Commission could certificate the three candidates while a matter contesting the results were still pending, but not looking into irregularities.
Another counsel making similar argument was River Gee County’s outgoing Senator Frederick D. Cherue, who earlier told Justice Banks that the certification of candidates by NEC was the confirmation of the results already announced.
Cllr. Cherue, therefore, contended that prohibition could not lie (to sustain) in the case in point because, according to him, the “National Elections Commission had proceeded in no wrong way,” and did not byepass any rules for which it should be prohibited.
He said the announcement on radio was not official, rather, noting that the certification of candidates was the final declaration of the winners.
Citing Article 83 (c), the pro-certificate lawyers contended that returns of the elections shall be declared by the NEC not later than 15 days after voting, following which dissatisfied parties could file complaints with the NEC within seven days.
The commission is required to probe into the complaints within 30 days of the receipt of the complaint; and where necessary, affected parities may appeal to the Supreme Court following the NEC’s decision.
Meanwhile, the NEC’s lawyers and counsels representing Grand Cape Mount County’s winning candidate Cllr. Varney Sherman, Bomi’s Morris Saytumah and Margibi’s James Tononlah are contending that the petitioners against their clients did not exhaust the available remedy before taking matters to the Supreme Court.
The lawyers of NEC and winning candidates indicated a provision in the election laws of Liberia, calling for the decertification of candidates earlier certificated, where investigations show that they did not win or if there was fraud in the elections.
The Counsels for the three defeated candidates, including Bomi’s Laha Lasana, Margibi’s Ansu Sonnie and Grand Cape Mount Couny’s Dr. Fody Kromah, had petitioned the Supreme Court for an injuction against the certification of senators-elect Cllr. Sherman, Mr. Tononlah and Mr. Saytumah.
They are protesting against results declaring the three candidates winners over them.
By Winston W. Parley