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Supreme Court reverses NEC’s decision

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Liberia’s Supreme Court has reversed a decision reached by the National Elections Commission (NEC) which summarily denied independent Margibi County senatorial aspirant Mulbah Jackollie a due process, ordering the electoral house to hear Mr. Jackollie’s complaint before making a determination.

Associate Justice Sie – A- Nyene G. Yuoh, presiding in chambers, ruled Thursday, 22 October after hearing Mr. Jackollie’s petition that the NEC without hearing his complaint had declined to allow his lawyer and staffers to proceed with submission of his requirements to put him on the provisional list of senatorial candidates.

In a ruling at the Temple of Justice, Associate Justice Yuoh orders a writ of mandamus issued against the NEC while also instructing the commission to hear Jackollie’s complaint, and to accord him a due process of law before making a determination.

Subsequently NEC’s legal counsel Cllr. Michael Wilkins Wright says the NEC accepts the court’s ruling and does not appeal before the full bench of the Supreme Court, adding that the commission will proceed to implement the orders of the court to accord the petitioner a due process.

On 5 October, Jackollie filed the petition for a writ of mandamus against the NEC, alleging that prior to the September 21, 2020 deadline to submit his requirement to the commission, he fell ill and the doctor recommended that he take a bed rest.

He laments that his lawyer and staff then proceed to the NEC office to submit his documents before the day of the deadline.

However, Jackollie indicates that the NEC prevented the process, demanding that he must be present to have his photo taken or his name will not be submitted.

Jackollie informs that court that on 23 September, he filed a complaint before the NEC chairperson Madam Davidetta Brown Lassanah, asking that the decision be reversed.

But he notes that his complaint was not heard, thus prompting him to ask the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to compel the NEC to include his name on the roll.

The Associate Justice presiding cited the parties and then ordered an alternative writ of mandamus, ordering the NEC to file its returns.

According to Justice Yuoh, the NEC in filling its returns argued that Mr. Jackollie failed to meet the requirement and deadline.

The NEC also disputed Jackollie’s claim that he was sick, and decided that having failed to comply with his guideline to complete the process, the commission could not be compelled to place his name on the provisional listing.

Further, NEC contended that there was no legal duty imposed upon it to accord the respondent due process because he had failed to meet the requirement and deadline.

However, Associate Justice Yuoh disagrees with the NEC’s argument that there was no legal duty imposed upon it to accord the petitioner due process, noting that the Supreme Court has mandated that the NEC must ensure that a hearing is accorded in line with due process of law to set the basis of the determination to be made.

She wonders how the commission reached the conclusion without first inviting Mr. Jackollie, saying to summarily reject his complaint is not only wrong, but also against the Supreme Court’s mandate.

She notes that had the NEC complied with the aged old principles of law, it would have been well situated to determine whether Jackollie’s application was fake, whether he was not ill and would have allowed him to exhaust the appeal process to the fullest.

She reminds the NEC that it has the duty to protect all the contestants, ruling that mandamus will lie, completing the commission to conduct a hearing into the case.

Following the ruling, Mr. Jackollie told journalists that he is not surprised by the outcome of the case from the Supreme Court because his lawyer presented his case very well, urging the court to continue in this manner it dealt with the case.

He says he did not intend to stall the election process, but all he had asked for is due diligence, describing the NEC’s decision as unfair. Jackollie says he has his medical report to show that he is now strong.

By Winston W. Parley

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