The Analyst (Monrovia)

14 August 2014

Liberia: Senators Ponder - Consultation or Supreme Court For Election Reschedule

Politics, law and danger to life have combined to present themselves to the conscience of Liberia’s contemporary leaders. The outbreak of Ebola, the virus with East African origin, has turned the country into a big graveyard not in any Hollywood scene but in a live and practical way. Some may be shaking themselves off from what they think is a dream; but it is a reality struck on the membrane of the country. But before Ebola there was politics as well as the interests and intrigue that come with it. So, even though the state of the nation is a far cry from normalcy, and it is widely accepted to present a “clear and present danger” for which lawmakers concurred with President Sirleaf in her declaration of state emergency, politics and law are still having some bearing on the national conscience and the leaders of today are embroiled in a heated debate. The Analyst reports.

The postponement of the ensuing legislative elections from October to December of this year by the National Elections Commission without legislative mandate has generated mixed feelings amongst senators when a letter by President Sirleaf informing the senate of the change in election was put on the floor for discussion.
The decision by NEC to postpone the election was communicated to the Senate by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for legislative approbation and this was introduced on plenary floor on Tuesday, August 12. Arriving at a conclusion on Tuesday was been heavily characterized by nosy bickering leading to a dichotomous opinion between to arguments toward resolution.

Two schools of thought emerged, one calling for Supreme Court intervention and the other seeking consultation amongst the branches of government.
Some senators, who pundits say formed their arguments from a desire to prolonging their stay in power, expressed support and no objection to the postponement decision while others objected strongly and want the NEC tested by a Supreme Court review.

Ebola outbreak triggered the declaration of a state of emergency by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and recently the National Election Commission announced recommending the postponement of the ensuing senatorial elections in consideration of unfolding unsteady developments in the country.

Under the State of Emergency, public gatherings are prohibited to avert congestion which could cause the spread of Ebola by body contacts, and the postponement is apparently from the consideration that electioneering is crowd polling and could contribute to the spread of the deadly disease, according to analysts.

At the tension-packed Senate plenary presided over by Senate Pro Tempore Gbehzohngar Findley, senators who are provisionally listed for participation in the special senatorial elections spoke strongly embracing the postponement decision while others, with diverse opinions in the debate, saw the option of going to supreme court as being the best.
Grand Cape Mount County Senator Able Massally informed his colleagues that there have been more debates in many quarters by some individuals questioning the legitimacy of the 15 senators that should be seeking re-elections in the country.

Massalley is one of the 15 senators whose tenure would elapse by October in keeping with mandate of the Constitution and should be contesting for another term of office.
The longtime-serving Grand Cape Mount County senator said he came across a group discussing legitimacy of the current senators seeking re-elections in the wake of postponement of the pending legislative election by the National Elections Commission.

The Grand Cape Mount County Senator note that he has informed the group, which he said was discussing at a community teashop to take their enquiries to the Supreme Court of Liberia for a constitutional opinion on the decision of NEC.

According to the Senator, the holding of elections in Liberia is timed constitutionally, and therefore it was important for individuals or groups questioning the legitimacy of the 15 senators standing for re-elections to take advantage of the Supreme Court for redress as provided for by the very Constitution.
He also stressed that the government is under obligation to address any situation that poses threats to the nation and its people as in the case of the Ebola situation for which the election is being postponed.

The postponement decision by NEC, a legislative staff who remarked from balcony of the Senate Chamber said, could be an opportunity for the extension Senator Massalley and his likes’ senatorial mandate which is expected to end this October if the election was to be held on schedule.
Another Senator who is facing a tough challenge in his home country, Sinoe County Sen. Mabutu Vlah Nyepan noted that there was a need for serious consultation among the three branches of government.

The Sinoe County Senator indicated that the consultation is intended to arrive at a decision that would be acceptable for the postponement of the election based on constitutional reliance.

According to Senator Nyenpan, the possibility of holding series of consultations among the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature would explore and acceptably legitimized decision for the change in schedule of the senatorial elections.

Another possible outgoing senator Isaac W. Nyenabo of Grand Gedeh County pointed out that he sharedthe intervention of those calling for consultation amongst the three branches of government.

Nyenabo who is not seeking reelection said, “We should not play down the need for holding consultations as it was important to legitimize the decision of the NEC to have the election postponed to another schedule.”

Amidst tense debate along the two key points of seeking Supreme Court intervention or holding consultation amongst the branches of argument, River-Gee Senator Matthew Jaye made a motion that the matter be sent to committee for a unified senate position, and the motion was carried.

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