According to the newspaper (NewDawnLiberia, October 19, 2020), the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) represented by their Chairman, the Honorable Alexander Cummings who is, also, Political Leader of the ANC Political Party, applied to the Supreme Court for a Writ of Mandamus against the National Elections Commission (NEC) to halt the election process until the final voters’ registration Roll (FRR of 2017) is fully cleaned up for a truly democratic free, fair and transparent elections. For, Liberia’s “Partners-in-Progress” and the world are watching.
The voter-roll clean-up was mandated by the Liberian Senate, the House of Representatives, recommended by the ECOWAS and ruling by the Supreme Court of Liberia. But the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in Chambers denied issuance of the Writ; therefore, the CPP appealed to the full Bench for the Writ; thus, the showdown and the Election Blues.
Mandamus is motivated by Article 37, the requirement of the Liberian Constitution which provides that, “In the event of a vacancy in the Legislature caused by death, resignation and expulsion or otherwise, the presiding officer shall, within 30 days, notify the NEC thereof. The NEC shall, not later than 90 days thereafter, cause by-election to be held provided that where such vacancy occurs within 90 days prior to the holding of general elections, the filing of the vacancy shall await the holding of such general elections”. Meanwhile the NEC, with reported, apparent, support by the Executive and Legislative Branches of government, disregarded and refused to comply with the Supreme Court Ruling.
Now the sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court wonders about the application of Mandamus, in this case and at this time presents a “tricky situation” – opens a can of worms and expands the office of mandamus because of the unprecedented nature of the issues. Indeed, we agree; but analogously, almost all medications of modern Medical Practice/profession come with less negative “Side effects” which the patient must take with the much more positive.
This “tricky situation” is pregnant with several tricky self-interested illegal and immoral alliances involving some government line executives, some members of the Legislature, some legal professionals (judges, prosecutor-defense lawyers) and some prominent officials who have been and are the crucial supporters of illegally-appointed NEC chairpersons for obvious reasons, in violation of law.
Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, Counsel for the CPP, also, agreed with the “tricky situations” argument. But he argued that the “Supreme Court must make a determination, even if the Mandamus is denied; that the decision of the Court should and must address the violations” in the light of the violation’s ripple effect, “in order to avoid re-occurrence”; thatthe Legislature is not a sacred cow and “must understand that Article 37 is mandatory and legal obligation that the Legislature must uphold; that the Legislature is not different from the Executive because they are all creatures of the Constitution; and that Mandamus had been issued against the Executive before and can lie; therefore, Mandamus can, also, lie against the Legislature”.
Cllr. Michael Wright, Counsel for the NEC said “for the NEC to act to trigger the 90 days, it must be notified by the Legislature . . . the NEC is not required, in other words, to go round looking for work to do. No, no. Its work is defined by law. The legal duty imposed upon NEC does not commence until the Legislature has don its work, first”. That is to say, in his words, that the Legislature did not inform the NEC about vacancies in the Legislature.
Counsel for the Legislature and Executive, Solicitor General Cllr. SeymahCephas argued that “there is no compelling evidence that the Legislature has not performed as required” – has notified the NEC of vacancies in the Legislature – contrary to the admission by Counsel for NEC, Cllr. Wright.
This, in fact, is continuous tactics designed to delay and deny justice.