MONROVIA – The Supreme Court of Liberia will today, Tuesday, April 4, 2023 hear the petition filed by the Collaborating Political Parties(CPP) against the National Elections Commission (NEC) on the “unconstitutionality of the conduct of voters registration in the absence of threshold demarcation of electoral districts as required by Article 80 of the Constitution to reflect changes in the country’s population, adding that such delay shows no respect to the organic laws even in some cases when there are efforts to respect the rule of law”
Today’s hearing is coming after almost 3 weeks after CPP filed the case on March 17, 2023 with the apex court after the party raised some legal issues surrounding the reliance of NEC to carry out the ongoing Biometric Voters Registration (BVR) without taking into account the need to first create additional electoral districts which are to be added to the present 73 electoral districts spread across the 15 political subdivision in the country.
CPP had maintained that one of the cardinal reasons of conducting the 2022 National Population and Housing Census was for the outcome to be used in determining new demarcation of electoral districts in compliance with the constitution and anything short of it amounts to breach of the organic law of the country.
However, as concerning as the issues was then, the Supreme Court did not give immediate attention to the case which prompted the CPP to hold a major press conference to vent its anger and called on the Court to take immediate action to hear the case so as to avert any crisis that may arise from its silence since it was an election related matter.
Speaking at a media briefing on March 23, 2023 at the National Headquarters of the Liberty Party, Mr. Lewis G. Brown, a leader of Team Cummings, said after a week of the filing of the CPP petition, the court has delayed acknowledgement or service of the petition on the NEC or assignment for hearing.
He said that the CPP is concerned about the silence of the Supreme Court, stating that the collaborating Political Parties filed the petition for hearing so as to draw the attention of the citizens and International Community to the lawlessness in the country.
“We are asking the court to act now and save the country from this embarrassment. The court is inviting chaos. A political Collaboration with authority to do so, filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Liberia drawing attention to what they believe as unconstitutional behavior of the National Election Commission, the body with the authority to superintend and conduct credible and transparent elections is proceeding wrongly.
“The petition was filed on Friday, and today is Thursday, one week later street jurors are discussing the petition the Supreme Court is yet to hear or serve on the relevant parties so that it’s heard and issues adjourned,” Amb. Brown noted.
The former Minister of Information said the court must act independently and with courage to timely and expeditiously address conflict-prone elections related matters brought before it, in order to safeguard the country’s peace and protect its democracy.
He said that lawlessness and chaos will only multiply in the country when those with authority to act decide to not act even when they are required to do so by law and the Constitution. He adding, “When people are supposed to act fearlessly, fairly, independently, and they fail to do so, they themselves are setting the basis for confusion and chaos in the country”
According to Ambassador Brown, when the Supreme Court of Liberia hears and adjourns their petition ahead of the election, it will demonstrate independent, fair and transparent judiciary “where when people feel hurt they can go to seek redress”.
He explained that currently, at most voters’ registration centers across the country, there is too much confusion, chaos and violence; “therefore, the high court can’t be silent at this moment and pretend as if there is no issue before it”.
“If we begin to assume now that the court will suppress justice by not hearing a matter peacefully brought before it, will they hear appeal when the time comes to consider the outcome of the election. What options do you want people to have when we come to you peacefully demanding the Constitutionality of an issues” Mr. Brown wondered. He added “if the court can’t listen to the petition filed now what confidence we will have that they will listen and hear matters of fraud and cheating during the election”.
Brown reminded Liberians that they have the responsibility to protect the country’s democracy because the way the court is proceeding at this early stage is putting the country’s democracy under immense threat.
Amb. Brown averred that cheating doesn’t necessarily start at the end of the election but the processes leading to election and so if the process starts with a problem, the election will end in problem.
“Election is a trigger for conflict. The best way now to do this is to honor the Constitution. We are appealing to the Supreme Court in this public manner to act and hear this petition because it’s inviting chaos and conflict. If they cannot hear now, will they hear when there is fraud and cheating in the election results,” he wondered, noting that the CPP doesn’t want the process stopped, but wants to listen and hear. “Let the law apply to all. My People this thing we are playing with is fire and it can burn”, he asserted
The tough talking politician said, like the NEC, no agency of government has any color of rights to ignore any aspect of the country’s constitution, noting that to do so is a recipe for danger and disaster. He therefore warned that elections are problematic and must be held in strict accordance with the Constitution, to safeguard the country’s democracy and avert society degenerating into full blown conflict.
“The way the NEC is proceeding with the conduct of the October 10 General and Presidential elections, is not only wrong and dangerous, but it puts the country’s rule of law under threat and its democracy at risk,” Mr. Brown cautioned.
Ambassador Brown told the Justices of the Supreme Court to timely and expeditiously address and dispose of elections related violations of the law, in their infant stages, and not wait until they degenerate into conflict before taking actions.
“With one law compromised, all other laws will be compromised. Correct the problem when it is still small. Anything outside the constitution, spells danger, and all of us will pay the price,” Mr. Brown said. He pleaded with Liberians, irrespective of political affiliations, to speak out against critical national issues that have the potential to plunge the nation into chaos, noting that the price will be too heavy, when law and order breaks down”, he said.
Article 80 (c) of the Constitution states that “every Liberian citizen shall have the right to be registered in a constituency, and to vote in public elections only in the constituency where registered…”, while (d) of the same Article, says a constituency “shall have an approximately equal population of 20,000, or such number of citizens as the Legislature shall prescribe in keeping with population growth and movements as revealed by a national census; provided that the total number of electoral constituencies in the Republic shall not exceed one hundred.”
According to (e), “immediately following a national census and before the next elections, the Elections Commission shall reapportion the constituencies in accordance with the new population figures so that every constituency shall have as close to the same population as possible; provided, however, that a constituency must be solely within a county.”