Bility Takes Full Control Of LP -NEC Reaffirms Legitimacy of 2021 Constitution

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The leadership seesaw taking place within the opposition Liberty Party (LP), which has witnessed claims and counterparts from two virulent factions, is seemingly stabilizing and finding an anchor hold. The internal fight has so far produced two chairpersons—Chairman Hassan Musa Bility who was elected at the January 2021 Special Convention of the party, and Chairman Senator Steve Zargo whose term never ended but gave way to Bility in January last year but was reinstated when the Political Leader dissolved the Convention-born leadership. It can be recalled that the chief umpire of political disputes in the country, the National Elections commission (NEC), through its Co-Chairperson Teplah Reeves, at the onset of the LP crisis, upheld the Bility leadership to the annoyance of the LP Political Leader and other bigwigs of the party who contended that Commissioner Reeves was in error. But it seems Madam Reeves was not wrong, at least in the wisdom of the entire bench of the NEC which has responded in a communication that the LP Constitution which gave birth to the Bility leadership remains valid and authentic until amended; meaning that the embattled Bility has triumphed over the odds and in full legal charge. The Analyst reports.

Political pundits are now taking a new dimensional look at the lingering political crisis rocking Charles Walker Brumskine’s Liberty Party following what seems as a consensus amongst commissioners of the National Elections Commission (NEC) to back the chairmanship of embattled Hassan Musa Bility.

Days ago, the Political Leader of the Liberty Party, Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, nullified the outcome of the Special Convention held last year, including purging from office the officials who were elected at the Convention.

The ousted LP officials protested with the NEC which, through the Co-Chairperson, Commission Teplah Reeves, adjudged that the Bility leadership was the recognized leadership of the party.

The Reeves action did not go down well with the LP Political leader who has been struggling to overturn the action and get the Bility leadership out of charge.

While some might be thinking that Reeves acted unilaterally and illegally, the rest of Commissioners at the NEC are saying something else: the LP constitution which elected Bility and others and was submitted to the NEC remains valid.

In a January 10, 2022 letter addressed to Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, Political Leader of Liberty Party, five commissioners of the NEC, backed the Reeves decision.

The Commissioners include Boakat A. Dukuly, Ernestine Morgan-A War, Floyd Oxley Sayor, Barsee Leo Kpangbai, and Joséphine Koè-Gaye.

They wrote: “We present compliments on behalf of the National Elections Commission (NEC), and write in response to your December 20, 2021 letter to the Commission, in which you expressed concern about the Commission’s December 13, 2021 letter to you, sent under the signature of Cllr. P. Teplah Reeves, Co-Chair of the National Elections Commission.

The NEC commissioners recalled that in response to Commissioner Reeves’ December 13, 2021, Senator Karnga cited a violation of “due process and the established rules and procedures of the National Elections Commission to hear and determine complaints/objections”.

She also argued the letter which Commissioner Reeves wrote in response to her should not have been signed by the Co-Chair alone and therefore requested the entire bench of the NEC to recall/revoke the referenced December 13, 2021 letter.

But in response, the NEC reminded the LP Political Leader it was to amicably resolve the matter that the Commission invited her and Hon. Musa H. Bility (as a party of interest), to a meeting on January 7, 2022, with this Board of Commissioners.

The 5-commissioner communication to Senator Lawrence stated further: “Based on objections from your lawyers, the meeting was not held and we promised to reply your December 20, 2021 letter in writing. Having considered the matter, we would like to inform you as follow:1) As to your due process concern, the question for us is whether or not your November 15, 2021 letter to the Commission was a complaint or an appeal for a hearing. We do not view your November 15, 2021 letter as a complaint or an objection; therefore, no hearing was required.

“2) At the time the December 13, 2021 letter was sent to you, Chairperson Browne Lansanah had traveled out of the country and Co-Chair Reeves was acting in her stead. A review of the matter shows that Cllr. Reeves, acting in her administrative function, listed in the referenced December 13, 2021 letter, the complaints and other documentations the Commission had received from you and Hon. Bility, respectively; the outcome of the conference held between you and Hon, Bility by the NEC Political Affairs section; and the Political Affairs’ August 23, 2021 communication to you as to how the Liberty Party’s 2021 notarized constitution, emanating from the Party’s January 22-24, 2021 Special Convention held in Gbarnga, Bong County, can be withdrawn in keeping with due process or via amendment by the Party.”

The NEC letter further asserts: “Honorable Senator, for the benefit of this response, we herein quote the second paragraph of the August 23, 2021 communication the Political Affairs Section sent you: “In keeping with the practice and procedure here at the NEC, when a party, especially through its Chairperson and/or Secretary General submits a notarized document such as constitution to the Commission, the general presumption is that said document is proper and remains as such until successfully challenged in keeping with due process or amended by the Party.”

The NEC noted that no objection was registered with the Commission concerning the said August 23, 2021 communication, and that the Commission’s December 13, 2021 letter did not touch on whatever matter of the LP that may be pending before the NEC Political Affairs section.

“The letter also did not say that the LP’s notarized 2021 constitution cannot be challenged or amended; rather the letter repeated the information provided in our August 23, 2021 communication to you concerning how said constitution may be successfully challenged or amended by the LP,” said the NEC in the communication to Madam Lawrence.

The Commission there for opined the opinion that the Co-Chair acted within her authority to inform the LP about its 2021 notarized constitution that was filed with the Commission on February 26, 2021, and to restate the information in the NEC’s August 23, 2021 communication to her concerning how same may be challenged or amended.

Technically, according to the pundits, the NEC communication put Musa Bility in the driver’s seat as Chairman of the Liberty Party.

It is not clear what the Youngblee Karngar Lawrence would do following the NEC decision, though some pundits are not ruling out appeal to the Supreme Court.  

It can be recalled that the NEC on December 13, 2021 clarified that it recognizes the 2021 constitution of the Liberty Party which was adopted at the Special National Convention of the party held in Gbarnga, Bong County at which time an election was held that produced Mr. Musa Hassan Bility and other members of the National Executive Committee of the party.

The implication of the decision was that the party’s executive committee and its constitution that were nullified by the Political Leader of the Party, Senator Nyonblee Karngar Lawrence were restored until proven to be wrongly or illegally put in place as was stated by Senator Lawrence for which she took the decision.

The decision of the National Elections Commission (NEC) was contained in a response signed by Cllr. P Teplah Reeves to Senator Lawrence who had written the electoral body to withdraw the notarized copy of the constitution of the party from the custody of NEC which was submitted through Mr. Bility and the Secretary General, Martin Kollah on February 26, 2021 to replace the 2015 constitution of the party.

“The Commission notes that since the above referenced statement to the LP, the commission has not received any final, non- appealable decision regarding the validity of the LP’s 2021 constitution; neither has the commission been served with an amendment done by the party. Hence, the commission herein informs you that the Liberty Party’s notarized constitution, remains proper with the commission until successfully challenged or amended as stated in our 23rd August, 2021 communication to you”, NEC letter to Senator Karnga-Lawrence said.

Given background of the claims and counter claims from both Senator Lawrence and Chairman Bility, the communication stated that “several months after the submission of the notarized copy to NEC, Senator Lawrence wrote a letter to NEC dated August 4, 2021 requesting the withdrawal of the document  and 5 days later on the 9th of August, 2021, Chairman Bility sent a letter responding to the claims and the two claims were referred to the Political Affairs section of NEC and both Senator Lawrence and Bility were invited to a conference on August 6, 2021”.

The electoral body said at the time that after the conference, specifically on 20th August, 2021, the commission received another communication from Senator Lawrence again seeking to withdraw the LP’s 2021 constitution. NEC said in a response dated 23rd August 2021, the commission through its political affairs section stated, among other things, that “in keeping with the practice and procedures, here at the NEC, when a party especially through its Chairperson and or Secretary General submits a notarized document such as the constitution to the commission, the general presumption is that the said document is proper and remains as such until successfully challenged in keeping with due process or amended by the party”.

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