21 February 2018

Liberia: Sirleaf, Boakai Case Postponed

Photo: Joseph Boakai
Madam Sirleaf and other party executives have been expelled by the former ruling Unity Party.

An argument that was intended to establish whether or not the expulsion of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf from the Unity Party (UP) violated her rights, along with other expelled executives, could not take place yesterday as scheduled due to a request from the party's legal team questioning the legality of the National Elections Commission (NEC) to handle the matter.

The case was postponed after UP's lawyer, Cllr. Albert Sims, filed a motion requesting the court to dismiss the complaint without hearing its merits and demerits, an action that was resisted by Sirleaf's lead lawyer, Cllr. Jonathan Massaquoi, thereby compelling the NEC's dispute hearing officer, Cllr. Muana S. Ville, to refrain from hearing the complaint pending the determination of the motion.

Ville yesterday scheduled his ruling into the motion for Friday, February 23, at 3 p.m.

Madam Sirleaf and other party executives were expelled on January 18 for allegedly violating the party's constitution when she visibly campaigned for George Weah, then a presidential candidate on the ticket of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), during the 2017 presidential elections.

"The behavior of the expelled persons... constitutes sabotage and undermined the existence of the party," said the statement announcing the decision, which was taken by the party's executive committee.

That statement, Sirleaf's lawyer Massaquoi rejected, arguing that the meeting which led to the expulsion of the former President and other executive members of the party was secretly held at Boakai's residence with 31 executive members in attendance, but only 17 voted to effect what he called a "prejudicial and illegal action."

Cllr. Massaquoi argued that the expulsion violated the party's constitution that states that the National Executive Committee shall require at least 42 votes in favor to acquire the two-thirds majority of the 65 members at the time of a decision, adding that unfortunately, only a majority of 32 were at the Boakai residence that took the action to expel the members.

In the party's request for dismissal, Cllr. Sims argued that Patrick Worzie, one of the expelled executives, was the only person whose name appeared on the suit filed to the NEC.

According to Cllr. Sims, the available legal option was for the expelled executives to have sought reconsideration or review of their expulsion through a quorum of UP Executive Committee members.

"To refuse or neglect to do so and to take this alleged grievance to the NEC is to invite the NEC to interfere in the internal affairs of the party, and no such power is vested in the electoral body, which qualifies the complaint about the dismissal," Sims further argued.

It may be recalled that on Thursday, January 14, a group of individuals described as 'thugs' converged on the UP Congo Town headquarters and staged a protest against the expulsion of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and other party members. The protesters read a statement debunking the expulsions.

Madam Sirleaf and other party executives, including Senator Conmany Wesseh and his wife Medina Wesseh, as well as Patrick Worzie, were expelled on January 18 of this year for allegedly violating the party's constitution as the former president was seen campaigning for opposition party members.

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