The Liberian Senate’s Committee on Autonomous Agencies and Ministries chaired by Bong County Senator Henrique Togba has confirmed National Election Commission (NEC) chair – designate Mrs. Davidetta Brown – Lansannah, ignoring a petition filed before the Supreme Court of Liberia by former special prosecutor Cllr. Arthur T. Johnson to declare the appointment and confirmation hearing unconstitutional.
The committee’s report to plenary on 15 July says Mrs. Brown – Lasannah is best suited for the job and therefore she should be confirmed. The Senate unanimously agreed that the decision of confirmation be taken in executive session.
The Senate committee’s decision came Wednesday following Cllr. Johnson’s petition to the Supreme Court in which he notes that Mrs. Brown – Lasannah and Mrs. Tarplah Reeves were serving tenure positions at the NEC that had not expired when they got re-appointed recently by President George Manneh Weah.
In the petition before the Supreme Court, Cllr. Johnson wants the high court to determine the constitutionality of the appointments and confirmation hearings of Mrs. Reeves and Mrs. Browne-Lansannah, saying if it fails to determine the constitutionality of these appointments and their confirmation hearings, the actions of the Executive Branch and the Liberian Senate will undermine the independence of the NEC.
Cllr. Johnson notes that the National Elections Law of Liberia gives the president the power to nominate and, with the consent of the Senate, appoint and commission the Chairman, Co-Chairman and other members of the Elections Commission who shall hold their office during good behavior for a period of seven years, effective as of the date of their commissioning.
The law says these officials may however be removed upon proof of misconduct.
While the two females Mrs. Tarplah Reeves , Commissioner, and Mrs. Davidetta Browne – Lansannah, Co-chairperson were serving their seven year tenures respectively at NEC following their previous appointment by President George Manneh Weah and confirmation by the Senate, Cllr. Johnson laments that the president again re-appointed the two officials in July 2020. Cllr. Johnson believes that the action of the Liberian Senate to conduct confirmation hearings for the two presidential appointees is unconstitutional and undermines the Act establishing the NEC.
According to him, no appointment/removal can be made while the effective seven-year term of the commissioner (s) without the end of the seven-year term and/or proved misconduct.
“Therefore, the fact that Mrs. Browne-Lassannah and Mrs. Reeves were recently commissioned, they cannot be removed or there can be no interference with the seven years tenures of the two NEC officials, by re-appointment to another position Co-Chairperson or Chairperson or removal without proved misconduct,” Cllr. Johnson says.
He adds that this will also render the sacred Senate confirmation proceedings defined by the Constitution of Liberia as symbolic and cosmetic with no actual and functional effect as was determined by the framers of the Constitution of Liberia.
He asks the court to declare the appointment of the two officials and the Senate confirmation hearings being conducted as unconstitutional and prohibit, refrain and restrain such acts of the respondents.
Filing the petition, Cllr. Johnson says as Liberian citizen, he is affected by every decision growing out of the appointment (s) of the commissioners to head the NEC and under the public interest doctrine, he has the legal right and capacity to petition the Supreme Court about the determination of the constitutionality of appointment of the Commissioners of NEC.
By Ethel A Tweh–Edited by Winston W. Parley