-- Says Sen. Sherman, as local, international NGOs meet with Senate joint committee Friday
The head of the Senate joint committee on Judiciary and Autonomous Agencies, Senator H. Varney Sherman, has described as "very fruitful" deliberations held yesterday with executives of both opposition and ruling parties, at the Capitol Building.
The meeting is the second in three days, after the Committee's open hearing Monday with officials of the National Elections Commission, and the Minister of Finance and Development Planning.
Like the Monday interaction, yesterday's meeting was centered on the accepted date for the holding of both the Special Senatorial Elections and national referendum, scheduled for October 13, 2020, a date that is glaringly becoming impossible.
Both the National Elections Commission and the Ministry of Finance have asserted that, operationally and financially, the elections are possible this year, with a suggested date of December 8-15, 2020.
Among political party heads present at yesterday's hearing in the Senate Annex Chambers, included Messrs Horatio Gould, Cole Bangalu, Theodore Momoh, and Mulbah Morlu and others.
Before Senator Sherman's call for a brief closed door discussion with the party heads and NEC Acting Chair, opposition parties had argued that the elections date should remain within the time frame as Constitutionally guaranteed.
The parties argued that NEC'S call for the elections to be postponed to December, due to current Coronavirus pandemic was immaterial, on the basis that there was no medical guarantee that there will not be a surge in the outbreak in December.
The chairman of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, Mulbah Morlu, assured that his party supports the Constitutional date for the holding of the elections, but intimated that if it becomes impossible for NEC to meet up with that timetable, the party will accept any date that will ensure that the elections are held in 2020.
Another aspect of the deliberation centered on the opposition's stiff contention that the Supreme Court's mandate to clean the voters roll is yet to be adhered to by NEC, and other issues surrounding the Voters Roll Update.
The discussion was getting heated between the opposition parties and NEC over a reasonable date for the elections, despite several logical interventions by Senator Sherman and members of his committee. It was at this juncture of finding a common ground that Senator Sherman ordered a five-minute break for consultations.
"Distinguished representatives of political parties, the joint committee of the Senate wishes to express its appreciation once again, for the response to our citation and the very fruitful deliberations that we have had today," Senator Sherman told the gathering after the closed door discussion.
He then informed the hearing that the Senate Committee will on Friday resume another session of the hearing; "and this time we will be inviting a few local NGOs and international NGOs who are involved with our electoral process, so we can hear them too. We will do our best to prepare a report to be submitted to the Senate plenary when it meets next Wednesday."
Senator Sherman assured the parties' executives that their views expressed would be taken into consideration. "I want to thank you extremely for your cooperation; we hope that we will continue to cooperate every step of the way until we have successful elections. And again, whatever we decide, we are committed to a process that will be ended and that whomever that is elected, will be seated on January 11, 2021 in keeping with the Constitution and the Senate Rules."
Meanwhile, the Senate failed to convene regular session on Wednesday, May 27; no reason was divulged to the media.