The governing Unity Party (UP), Co-complainant in the electoral dispute case before the National Elections Commission claims it is being pressurized to present evidence at the ongoing hearing before the NEC while its request for crucial documents had not been decided,
“I am saying Your Honor, we are pressurized to go and present evidence,” UP lawyer Cllr. Benedict Sannoh argues when the ruling party, NEC and the opposition Liberty Party (LP) appeared before the Supreme Court of Liberia Thursday, 16 November to argue a bill of information filed by the UP.
Following arguments on Thursday by all sides on the bill of information, the Supreme Court reserves ruling for today, Friday, 17 November at 2pm.
During the hearing, NEC lawyer Cllr. Frank Musa Dean informs the Supreme Court that ruling on UP’s appeal to the Board of General Appeal was made on Thursday morning, 16 November, adding that Cllr. Sannoh did not know because he did not go to the hearing.
Section 1.5 of UP’s brief as cited by Chief Justice, His Honour Francis S. Korkpor, Sr. at the hearing indicates that the Chief Hearing Officer at NEC denied all but two of the seven applications.
The two requests granted include subpoena duces tecum for the final registration roll for the 10 October elections and the request for the records of the investigation of the NEC presiding officer who was arrested in Nimba County District #3 during the October 10th polls.
The ruling party says the voter roll has been given, but the record from Nimba District #3 is yet to be presented, maintaining that it cannot proceed at this time because it has witnesses, who need those documents to use.
According to the UP, the NEC has made emphasis that the Supreme Court said the case should be held expeditiously, and has thus called upon the ruling party to put witnesses on the stand while ruling into its appeal to the NEC’s Board of General Appeal had been reserved.
The UP lawyer Cllr. Sannoh contends that delays or inactions may be deliberate because the very electoral commission that complaint has been filed against is the one that has been called to investigate.
But NEC lawyer Cllr. Dean disagrees with the purpose of the bill of information on grounds that there is not a mandate of the Supreme Court that is at stake, arguing that the NEC has not proceeded improperly.
Cllr. Dean says UP’s appeal was taken to the Board a week ago, but blames the party for not being cooperative, adding that the UP has put 11 witnesses on the stand, including demonstration [of evidence] and had witnesses even from the NEC to testify with six more witnesses expected to appear today, Friday, 17 November.
When the NEC made assignment, Cllr. Dean says the UP indicated that it wouldn’t accept the assignment because it had gone to the Supreme Court on a bill of information, though there was no stay order in the bill of information.
But Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor Sr., says that doesn’t [deny] the fact that the NEC took one week in order to make the ruling.
Cllr. Dean says what the UP wanted at some point was the voter roll on a pen drive to know whether it would inform the Commission further as to the evidence in their case.
But in response to UP’s concern that records from Nimba District #3 have not be provided, Cllr. Dean says the Hearing Officer ruled that the matter is of criminal offense of which the Hearing Officer had no jurisdiction to preside, thus denying such request.
By Winston W. Parley-Editing by Jonathan Browne