By Stephen G. Fellajuah
MONROVIA – The Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) has strongly expressed dissatisfaction with the delay by the Supreme Court of Liberia to hear its petition filed with the apex court on March 17, 2023 against the National Elections Commission (NEC). The CPP recounted that it filed with the high the petition against 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.
Speaking at a media briefing yesterday, Thursday, 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”.
Commenting on the allegation that some politicians are trucking people from one place to another for undue advantage, Amb. Brown said the Election Law provides that people should be registered in a place where they reside, alleging that there are people being trucked from all over including foreigners infiltrating the country to get registered.
“How can all of us be quiet? Why shouldn’t the court call the parties to formally adjourn the matters? We are not saying we are right, but we have an opinion that needs to be addressed,” the former Liberian Representative to the UN said.
Mr. Brown alarmed that currently, the lawmakers are passing a law that they should take their seat when there is an election dispute while the case is being heard. “As we speak this law is before the president for enactment. But, I ask him not to sign it because it’s undemocratic” Amb. Brown further stressed.
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.”
CPP also contended that, despite various public objections over the unconstitutional delays to conduct the census, and concerns around the integrity of the results, the Liberian Government insists that the Census demanded by the Constitution has been conducted.
The party maintained that although final results have not been announced, preliminary results released show significant changes in the growth and movements of the population and necessitates constitutional actions to ensure adequate and proper representation of the Liberian people in their government.
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