28 November 2017

Liberia: Supreme Court Hears LP, UP Appeals Friday

Photo: Liberian Observer
Temple of Justice, home of the Supreme Court of Liberia.

The canceled November 7 runoff election could soon get a new date next month if the Supreme Court starts hearing Liberty Party (LP) and Unity Party's (UP) appeals on Friday, December 1, 2017 against the National Elections Commission's ruling of Friday, November 24.

The NEC Board of Commissioners (BOC) last week upheld the Commission's chief hearing officer's ruling against the two political parties in the ongoing alleged irregularities and fraud case.

Cllr. Muana Sando Ville, chief elections disputes hearing officer, on Thursday, November 23 dismissed LP and UP's case against the Commission on grounds that the two political parties failed to provide sufficient evidence to warrant the cancellation of the October 10 election results.

It may be recalled that the LP - on October 23, filed a complaint at the elections central hearing office calling on the Commission to drop all preparations leading to the proposed November 7 runoff expected to have taken place between the Unity Party (UP) and the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and to investigate allegations of massive fraud and gross irregularities.

The Commission, however, went on with preparations for the runoff election while investigating LP's case as well as other cases emanating from the October 10 polls. This annoyed LP; and it, therefore, sought redress by seeking the intervention of the Supreme Court which placed a permanent stay order on the expected runoff.

LP, having returned to the NEC, received UP as an intervening party in the case, thereby leading investigations to cover nearly a month at the level of the hearing office and subsequently to the NEC Board.

After the NEC Board handed down it's ruling on grounds that both the complainant and co-complainant did not prove the allegations of fraud and that the irregularities did not in any way amount to fraud, the two political parties vehemently took exception and appealed to the Supreme Court. The parties argued that they could not get justice from the NEC because the Commission is the accused and at the same time the investigator/judge.

The Supreme Court meanwhile has up to December 8 to complete its task of looking into the appeals and give the final ruling. The two options on the table are either that the runoff be held in case the court nullifies the two parties' complaints or a rerun of the October 10 polls is held on the basis that the NEC was guilty of committing fraud that may warrant a rerun.

In a related development, both Muslim and Baha'i communities have admonished the aggrieved parties as well as the accused to consider the general interest of the country to maintain unity and peace.

Speaking to the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview yesterday, the chairman of the National Muslim Council of Liberia (NMC), Sheikh Imam Omaru Kamara, said Liberia is more than any one individual and as such individuals advocating for justice on behalf of their political institutions should be fair in putting forth their arguments rather than introducing issues alien to the truth.

"We are pleased that this time around there is no one in the forest or the streets destroying lives and properties on the basis that they have been cheated in an election. We thank the Almighty Allah that the judicial system of our country is now respected," Kamara said.

He noted that the Muslim community in collaboration with other religious groups in the country has been working with political parties to ensure that the country's democracy is protected from degradation and destruction. "The Inter-Religious Council to which we are a part has been having peace conferences and other events with political parties and they have been very cooperative and we expect them to remain peaceful," he said, adding that the Ganta Declaration and the Farmington Declaration were not only intended to ensure that sides in the ongoing political activities remain peaceful, but also respect the rule of law.

For his part, the secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahai's of Liberia, Eddie Wright, said inasmuch as that Bahai's do not take a side in any political activity, they believe in the maintenance of law and order. "As a people, we live by the teachings of God brought to us through His divine Manifestations and those teachings have civilization as their foundation," Wright said.

He thanked Liberians for demonstrating democratic maturity by turning out to vote on October 10 and called on all to pray for peace and God's direction as the legal system takes care of the ongoing electoral cases.

"Liberians have demonstrated tolerance in these difficult political times and we are certain that such resolve will continue among us all as a people as we strive for divine support in dealing with our problem," Wright said.

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