Liberia: With Six Days to Elections, Will Supreme Court Act on 10-Year Clause Petition Brought Before It?



Written by FPA Staff WriterSource: Front Page Africa

The Supreme Court of Liberia has abruptly postponed handing down its decision on the prohibition petition filed by the Movement for Progressive Change and two concerned Liberians. Former Press Union of Liberia, PUL President, Abraham Massaley and Sayku Kromah are two Liberians, who petitioned the Supreme Court.

Justices of the Johnnie Lewis Bench are now expected to hand down their opinion at 10 O’clock Wednesday morning. Handing down the opinion was previously scheduled for 2pm Tuesday afternoon, but it was postponed to 3:30 P.M. almost at the time it was re-scheduled for Wednesday.

Lawyers, journalists, and interested parties had gone to the chambers of the Supreme Court to hear the opinion when the announcement was made by the Deputy Marshall General of the court. Cllr. Varney Sherman, one of the lawyers of the Unity Party and Chairman of the UP, was one of those who entered the chambers of the High Court before being told of the postponement.

When it was about 3:20 P.M., another announcement was made that the ruling will be made Wednesday morning at 10am to the disappointment of many who were gathering for the high court’s opinion, which many thought would have been delivered ever since.

No reason, none what-so-ever, was given for the abrupt postponement of the petition filed by the MPC and two concerned Liberians. This delay may again raise the anxieties of many people who were desperately waiting to hear what the result will be.

As the ruling is being delayed and the anxiety of interested parties is rising to its highest degree, another petition has been filed before the full bench of the Supreme Court.

The Victory For Change Party of Cllr. Marcus Jones filed the petition against all of its political contenders, two vice presidential candidates, and the National Elections Commission, NEC, for violating the Constitution of Liberia. The petitioner said what the political parties, their nominees, and the NEC did was treasonable and that they should be dealt with in keeping with law for their actions.

“That both first respondent and co-respondent political parties and their respective co-respondent candidates are in violation of Article 76, Sub-section 5 last line of the 1986 Constitution and as such are subject to prosecution for treason for abrogating or attempting to abrogate, subverting, or attempting or conspiring to subvert the constitution by use of force, or show of force, or by any other means which attempts to undermine this constitution, as in the instant case as all the respondents have done,” read the petition.

Cllr. Jones and his VCP want the Supreme Court to hold the parties named in its petition to be held in contempt for failing to respect the constitution by nominating people who are not qualified constitutionally for participation in Tuesday’s presidential election. The party also called for a mandate from the court to undo NEC’s action.

According to the 24-count Petition, Cllr. Jones wants the Supreme Court to declare the NEC’s action of qualifying and certificating the parties named in the document as unconstitutional. Cllr. Jones’ petition is the first filed against all the other parties qualified and certificated to partake in the pending presidential polls.
Though the Supreme Court has not granted an alternative writ since the legal document was filed, some legal observers think the petition could spell danger for the pending presidential election.

They want the Supreme Court to handle the petition urgently and carefully so as not to delay and derail the elections process. On the 14th day of September, the MPC filed similar petition to prohibit the participation of the standard bearers of six political parties in the election and the action of the National Elections Commission.

The petition called for the nullification of the qualification and certification of six of the political parties the National Elections Commission, NEC cleared to contest the October 11, 2011 presidential election.

In the 17-count petition filed on the 14th day of September, five days after the candidates were qualified and certificated, the petitioners claimed UP’s Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, LP’s Cllr. Charles W. Brumskine, NUDP’s Prince Johnson, CDC’s Cllr.Winston Tubman, LTP’s Rev. Kennedy Sandy and NDC’s Dew Mason and others found in their situation have not resided in Liberia ten years prior to the pending elections as required by the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.

With the length of time it is taking the five justices to hand down the court’s decision on the MPC petition, it not clear whether the Lewis Bench will ever have the time to handle the latest petition before the full bench filed by the Victory for Change Party.

If all of the issues raised in the latest petition against the political opponents of the Victory for Change Party of Cllr. Jones, who is now commonly known as “2011 all the way,” are legally similar to the ones raised by the MPC then the Supreme Court may consider it mute.

That means it will not be dealt with again by the court after the ruling on Wednesday. But if the issues are not the same then the court will be legal obligated to deal with the strange matters. And in that case, the justices will have to act with some reasonable speed to save the presidential election which the international community has spent some much money on from delay.

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