Liberia’s Supreme Court has ruled that the National Elections Commission was without authority or wronged to certificate winning senatorial candidates, while protests by complainants were undecided.
But since prohibition could not “undo what has been done,” the Supreme Court has ordered that the certificates remain undisturbed while the NEC proceeds with its investigation as ordered to ensure due process.
In a majority opinion handed down Tuesday evening February 17, 2015, three of the five justices of the Supreme Court Bench, including Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor, Sr. held that issuance of certificates under such circumstance was null and void, ordering all respondents and the NEC to act in accordance.
The court ordered that the electoral case from Maryland County be reheard at NEC; while the high court also consolidated the cases from River Gee and Margibi Counties in which it mandated the NEC to proceed with investigation but with order that the winners’ certificates remain “undisturbed”, pending the outcome of the investigation.
In accordance with the principle of the due process of law, the high court said, the NEC could not have certificated winning candidates where investigation had not been concluded.
The court has therefore granted prohibition as prayed for by defeated senatorial candidates, who saw that the NEC was about to certificate winners while their complaints were not decided yet.
The court had earlier found that two protesting candidates from Grand Cape Mount and Bomi Counties had abandoned their cases against Senator Varney Sherman and Senator Morris Saytumah, thus clearing them in similar case ahead of yesterday’s sitting.
But in a descending opinion jointly handed by the two female justices on the Bench, Madam Justices Jamesetta Wolokollie and Sie-A-Nyene G. Youh, they contended that there can be no chaos in unseating from office “a law abiding citizen”, who had earlier been declared winner if investigation finally shows they were not the actual winner, including a presidential candidate.
Having cited a scenario from Nigeria where they said, a governor from a ruling party was taken from office three years of his election, the two justices wondered how their majority colleagues here would promote a perception that a seated official [would challenge law enforcement] if they were not the duly elected candidate.
The descending justices do not want the elected office remain vacant, especially where one candidate has been declared winner by the NEC, with argument that conclusion of investigation into protest would determine if the seated person would continue to occupy the office or be asked to leave if they were not duly elected.
As it stands, River Gee’s defeated candidate Jonathan Sogbie, is challenging Senator Commany B. Wesseh; while Margibi County’s defeated senatorial candidate Professor Ansu Sonii, is challenging Mr. Jim Tonolah.
By Winston W. Parley