The last of the lingering issues surrounding the result of the Senatorial race in Grand Cape Mount is far from over as citizens of the county have petitioned the House of Senate to take action that will ensure the declaration of the December 8, 2020 result for the true representation of Grand Cape Mount in the upper chambers of the National Legislature.
“We, the people of Grand Cape Mount County, respectfully request action on the violation of “relevant provisions” of Chapter VIII of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia regarding the duration for processing election complaints. Our request is predicated on said violations and the fact that we are tired of being denied full representation in the House of Senate for nearly six months after the National Elections Commission (NEC), announced Mr. Simeon B. Taylor as the winner of the Special Senatorial Midterm Election in Grand Cape Mount County”, the petition said.
The citizens, in their petition addressed to the Senate pro tempore Albert T. Chie, drew their reliance on the fact that the constitution of Liberia specifically grants the Legislature the authority to “provide penalties for any violations of the relevant provisions of” Chapter VIII, which is underscored in article 84.
The Constitutional article provides thus: “The legislature shall by law provide penalties for any violations of the relevant provisions of this Chapter, and shall enact laws and regulations in furtherance thereof not later than 1986; provided that such penalties, laws, or regulations shall not be inconsistent with any provisions of this Constitution.”
Given the background of their petition, the citizens said for nearly six months now, the second senatorial seat for Grand Cape Mount County’s representation in the House of Senate has remained vacant since the National Election Commission is yet to declare the final results and has not certificated the winner of election.
They stressed that this development has adversely affected them and interrupted their full and equal representation in the Senate, as guaranteed under Chapter V, Article 45 of the Constitution of Liberia, which provides thus: “…Each county shall elect two Senators and each Senator shall have one vote in the Senate”
The citizens lamented the protracted time the case took between the time the election was conducted and results declared and the litigations at NEC and the Supreme Court which have gone up to 6 months now as against required 30 days as provided by the constitution.
Maintaining that the former Senator, Mr. Victor Watson has constituted himself as an obstacle of bringing the litigation to a closure, the citizens said during the visit of President George Manneh Weah to the county on March 27, 2020, he made a passionate appeal to Senator Watson to forgo the challenged against the results of the election, but unfortunately he ignored the president and on March 30, 2021, Sen. Watson filed a final appeal to the Supreme Court.
The petition recalled that the Supreme Court had reviewed the records of the investigation conducted by the NEC Board of Commission, reversed the decision in the matter, and remanded the case back to the NEC for new investigation into Sen. Watson’s complaints.
“The Supreme Court’s review process lasted twenty-three (23) days, which is sixteen (16) days more, contrary to the time allowed by Chapter VIII, Article 83 (C) of the Constitution, which provides thus: “…The Elections Commission shall within seven days of receipt of the notice of appeal, forward all the records in the case to the Supreme Court, which not later than seven days thereafter, shall hear and make its determination,” the Cape Mountainians said in their petition.
The further quoted that constitutional article, “If the Supreme Court nullifies or sustains the nullification of the election of any candidate, for whatever reasons, the Elections commission shall within sixty days of the decision of the Court conduct new elections to fill the vacancy. If the court sustains the election of a candidate, the Elections Commission shall act to effectuate the mandate of the Court.”
The petitioners also spoke about the irregularities and the violence that characterized the election and stressed that they were concerned that the interconnection of people and economies on both sides of the Mano River were being abused by citizens of both countries by interfering in their electoral processes.
The citizens gave for example, that during the last presidential election of the Republic of Sierra Leone, security forces arrested and detained a prominent Liberian woman in Sierra Leone for alleged involvement in Sierra Leone’s election. They also said that similarly, Idrissa Mansaray, a Sierra Leonean and CEO of Hard Work Company, based in Porkpa District, Grand Cape Mount County openly campaigned for Victor V. Watson (current Senator of Grand Cape Mount County) all across Grand Cape Mount County and in communities within Sierra Leone.
The petitioners named Zimmi Makpelle, Fairo, Gonohun, Ndombu, Gofor, Gissswolo, Gbah Makpala, Ngegbema, Mano Njeigbla, Teegbema, and Njama Tonkia, from September 10 – October 4, 2019, and during the 2020 Special Senatorial Midterm Election as communities within Sierra Leone that Mr. Idrissa Mansaray involved during his campaign for Mr. Watson.
As part of their suggested solutions to the crisis, the citizens called on the Senate to take steps in defending the constitution, adding that the ongoing investigation at NEC into the election filed by Senator Watson is at variance with the constitution of Liberia.
They urged the Senate to take actions because that institution has the authority to recognize the election results announced by the NEC on December 13, 2020, as the direct, authentic, and will of the people of Grand Cape Mount County regarding who should represent us in the Senate.
“Equally, the time has come for this Honorable Legislature to uphold the rights of the people of Grand Cape Mount County, as underscored by Chapter I, Article 1 of the Constitution. That part of the Constitution provides, “All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require.
In order to ensure a democratic government which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the right at such a period, and in such a manner, as provided for under this Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments”, the petitioner quoted the Constitution further.
Equally, the time has come for this Honorable Legislature to uphold the rights of the people of Grand Cape Mount County, as underscored by Chapter I, Article 1 of the Constitution, provides that “All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness are so required.”
“In order to ensure a democratic government which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the right at such a period, and in such a manner, as provided for under this Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments,” they further cited the Constitution.
The petitioners furthered, “Conversely, Chapter VIII, Article 83 (C) of the Constitution is not designed to exclude any County from representation in the Senate. But for nearly six months the system has excluded the full representation of Grand Cape Mount County in the Senate and the Senator-elect from getting certificated and seated. This development has hurt the County and made us feel cut off from full representation in the senate”.
The petitioners further said that the NEC, and the Supreme Court exceeded the time required by the Constitution of Liberia to investigate and decide on Sen. Watson’s complaints, following the December 8, 2020, Special Senatorial Midterm Election and added that allowing the continuation of the new investigation in progress at the NEC after it previously made a determination in the same matter, the Supreme Court and the NEC have established a new precedent inconsistent with Chapter VIII, Article 83 (C) of the Constitution of Liberia. Honorable Senators, you must declare this action unlawful and annul it!
The citizens said given what has been generated surrounding the delays in resolving the electoral dispute, they as a people are afraid and concerned about the protection of lives and properties in Grand Cape Mount County, and urge the full implementation of the UN-backed peace building plan for Liberia labelled, “Sustaining Peace and Securing Development: Liberia Peace Building Plan”.
“The plan is a product of an intensive consultative process led by UNMIL, in close coordination with the Government of Liberia and international partners, as well as Liberian political parties and civil society organizations. And you, the Honorable Legislature, must ensure national ownership and commitment of the stakeholders to follow through and achieve the single objective of peace and continued stability in all communities in Liberia”, the statement said.
The petition also urge the Senate to reactivate, engage with donor partners (UN, EU, and World Bank), and take actionable steps to implement paragraph 13 of the United Nations Security Council resolution 2333 (2016) of December 23, 2016, in which the Council’s request to the UN Secretary-General led to the development of the Country’s peace plan: “Sustaining Peace and Securing Development: Liberia Peace Building Plan,” a well-developed peacebuilding plan aligned with the peacebuilding priorities of Liberia. They said it is time we make practical this plan to prevent a relapse to a state of anarchy in Liberia, in particular, the rural communities.
The petition further said that the Senate should consider a law that will prevent and outlaw cross border voting along the Liberian border with countries in the Mano River Union, stressing that the current state of election in Grand Cape Mount County requires serious attention and the provision of anti-crossing border voting laws. The statement warns that citizens in the sisterly Republic of Sierra Leone will ultimately influence the outcome of elections in the county and determine who gets a seat at the Legislature and possibly the Presidency.
Adding more to their petition, the citizens said the Senate should also consider a law that will prevent the potential of an incomplete Senate or House of Representatives from transacting the business of the Government if the reasons for an incomplete Chamber is a result of an election results protest or election complaint hearing following a regular legislative election. In other words, the certification and seating of a declared winner is not an immunity from election protest or the application of article 83 (C) of the Constitution.
“Honorable Members of the 54th Legislature, you must not allow this mistake to continue; don’t allow this to happen for the second time in Grand Cape County. Uncaring delays by public officials to investigate election complaints in a timely manner and to certificate the winner cannot become the new normal business for the conduct of elections in Liberia.
Therefore, we crave the intervention of this Honorable Body to take appropriate actions and ensure that Cape Mount does not feel neglected, that Liberia remains indivisible under a constitutional democracy, governed by the rule of law and not of men”, the petition concluded.