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Supreme Court Bench2…Over Senatorial Election; As Supreme Court Reserves Ruling

There seems to be doubts over the holding of the December 16, 2014 special senatorial election as the Supreme Court of Liberia reserves ruling into argument of the petition for a writ of Prohibition.

 

At the Chambers of the Supreme Court Monday, seven lawyers representing both the petitioners and respondents argued for more than nine hours before the full bench of High Court with each lawyer awarded two hours to convince the court whether or not to deny or grant the petitions.

The election is under siege as the nation awaits a ruling from the country's constitutional court. However, no date has been set when the court would return a ruling that borders on constitutional matters.

Following the arguments, the full bench of the Supreme Court adjoined the case and left the hall.  

On November 21, 2014, the Justice Public Interest Consortium Africa (JUPICA) represented by its Managing-Director, Atty. Edwin K. Martin filed a petition for a Writ of Prohibition with the  Justice-in-Chambers, Philip A. Z. Banks, III., to prohibit the Chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the Government  of Liberia from holding the senatorial election.

The JUPICA's prohibition was followed by series petitions filed by leaders of political parties, concerned group of eminent citizens, represented by Blamo Nelson, J. Emmanuel Bowier, J. Nathaniel Barnes and John Ballout, expressing similar views to postpone the election due to the outbreak of the Ebola virus in the country.

Presenting the opening argument Monday, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus, representing the leaders of political parties and eminent citizens, prayed the High Court to grant their petitions for legal and factual reasons.

Cllr. Cephus argued that the respondents, Government of Liberia and National Elections Commission (NEC), violated Article (1) of the 1986 constitution which gives the power to the people when elections should be held.

One of counsels for the petitioners contended that the holding of an election should not be determined by the House of Representatives as in the instant case.

However, Cllr. Theophilus C. Gould, who represented the NEC, prayed the court to deny the petitions on grounds that petitioners are all former officials of government advocating for the establishment of an Interim government.

Cllr. Gould contends that if the petitions are granted, Justices of the Supreme Court would lose their seats, because the petitioners strength is to usher in an Interim Government since the present 15 senators' tenure would expire by next January.

Cllr. Gould contended further that NEC has put all election mechanisms into place by ensuring that voters wash their hands, temperature recorded as well as ensuring that voters stand three feet apart from one another during the election.

Counsel for NEC informed the court that 13 of the existing political parties in the country have disassociated themselves from the petitions.

“These petitions are intended to create greater confusion. There is more danger for not having election than holding election,” Cllr. Gould said.

Gould, also a former Solicitor-General in the erstwhile National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), averred that if the petitions are granted, petitioners would say George Weah and Robert Sirleaf are foreigners without giving any legal reason.

However, the Government of Liberia, represented by Acting Justice Minister, Cllr. Benedict Sannor, prayed the court to dismiss the petitions on grounds that the petitions filed are not for the Ebola virus, but intended for an Interim leadership to be headed by a few group of people.

Cllr. Sannor told the court that the petitioners did not challenge the state of Emergency declared by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, but only challenged NEC and the lawmakers for setting December 16, 2014 as election day.