A day following the certification of 12 senators instead of 15 who won the just ended midterm senatorial election by the National Elections Commission (NEC), the speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex Tyler has criticized the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court of Liberia for its stay orders on three winners including Cllr. Varney Sherman of Unity Party who won in Grand Cape Mount County, Morris Saytumah who also won in Bomi County and Jim Tornonlah of Margibi County..
Speaking to reporters in Monrovia, Speaker Tyler in a rather serious look said, “If the supreme court, which is supposed to be the final arbiter of justice can become the one to start investigating first, then we will go nowhere, I don’t think it is good for our democracy and I think it is a wrong precedent, I think, and I want to reemphasize that I think the precedent is wrong, it is a very bad precedent for our emerging democracy and it is important that we allow people to exhaust the laid down processes.”
The Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), the political party of one of the complainants, Dr. Fodee Kromah from Grand Cape has declared that it is not aware of any complaint by its candidate to the Supreme Court.
“Dr. Kromah should be aware that he is a party candidate, even though he is a Liberian and has his right, but any complaint to the court should be to the knowledge of the political party he represented during the election, but in his case, we are not aware as a party of any complaint by our contestant”, CDC Secretary general and Acting Chairman Nathaniel McGill told reporters in Monrovia.
The outcry against the action of the Supreme Court continues and it caught the heart of the head of the first branch of government, House of Representatives Speaker J. Alex Tyler when he declared that the court is proceeding wrongly.
The Supreme Court Stay order was not known to many Liberians ahead of Saturday’s certification as they gathered to witness the certification of 15 newly elected senators before NEC Chairman Jerome G. Korkoyah disclosed that only 12 of the 15 were qualified to receive certificates due to the high Court mandate. Speaker Tyler did not hide his disagreement when he expressed disappointment over the decision of the court, cautioning the court to focus on legal and constitutional issues and leave the political issues with politicians.
“Recent developments from our sister branch needs to be discussed if Democracy must grow, we do understand that the court is part of the democracy that we all have been yearning for but it is equally important to say here that political questions must be left to the politicians while constitutional and legal questions be left with the court” said Speaker Tyler.
In an interview with reporters shortly after the official certification program, Speaker Tyler further elaborated his stance against the Supreme Court decision, expressing that the court is setting the wrong precedent. The Speaker argued that as per the law, electoral issues should be left with the NEC to handle and individuals not satisfied with the outcome of NEC’s decision can go to the Supreme Court for further redress.
“There are laid down procedures and processes by law, the National Elections Commission has the authority to investigate complaints coming out of the elections, what we said was at the end of those processes parties that are not satisfied can go to the supreme court”, said the Speaker. The head of the Legislature who is an Attorney –At-Law proposed a legal argument that the involvement of the Supreme Court in such issues as complaints from individuals will force the high court into looking at the evidence when it should not be doing so as per law.
“If the supreme court, which is supposed to be the final arbiter of justice can become the one to start investigating first, then we will go nowhere, I don’t think it is good for our democracy and I think it is a wrong precedent, I think, and I want to reemphasize that, I think the precedent is wrong, it is a very bad precedent for our emerging democracy and it is important that we allow people to exhaust the laid down processes”, he stated.
In a strong expression, the Speaker said he and others cannot continue to allow the Supreme Court to set the wrong precedent. Said Speaker Tyler “We cannot allow the Supreme Court to continue or set the wrong precedent and I maintain that and if the bench wants me to explain further, I will do that because of the interest of the country”.
The Speaker is calling on the Supreme Court to speedily look into the matter. “I hope they will speedily look at the issues laid before them, but I am quite aware that the Supreme Court cannot take evidence so if they start to investigate, then they will have to look at evidence”.
NEC Chairman Korkoyah also expressed that as a citizen of Liberia and a lawyer, it is a strange, indicating saying that the decision by the Supreme Court ignores the law. Said Chairman Korkoyah: “It is strange indeed, because I absolutely see no reason why prohibition will prevent the certification of the senators elect, I see no reason. I am disappointed because, in my profession as a lawyer, I have learned to respect the decision of the court, so I had to do so. But when the decision flow from court that has the potential to ignore the law that appears to be something outside of the law than as a lawyer I get disappointed”.
The NEW Chairman said some Liberians see the decision by the court as an attempt to undermine the court of NEC
“As a citizen, I do not believe that there is basis to stop these people because the law is clear. The law is very clear that in the event of a protest of the election, the protest does not operate as a stay, the law further provides remedy. Why you stop the people, the court should explain that, I think people should not play with the political stability of our country in this manner. Some candidates matter has been heard and dismissed the people who are complaining now have failed to complain to the commission” Chairman Korkoyah further said.
The head of the Liberia National Bar Association, the umbrella organization for all lawyers, Cllr. Theoliphus Gould has described the statement by Speaker Tyler against the Supreme Court as contemptuous in nature. “I am surprised by trainee Tyler to question the wisdom of the Supreme Court. He has no capacity to do that and he should realize that he can be held in contempt of the court”, said Cllr. Gould.
The Head of the Bar Association expressed that the Speaker should be held in contempt by the Supreme Court. Said Cllr. Gould: “He should be held in contempt because he has no place in questioning the wisdom of the Supreme Court. I hope the Supreme Court will warn him never to do that”. Cllr. Gould contends that the Supreme Court does not create a case, but rather citizens and party litigant petition the court on issues and the court looks into those issues.
The outbursts by the Speaker and NEC chairman signal that many Liberians including stakeholders are getting weary of the persistent decisions by the court on political issues even though Chief Justice Korkpor recently stated that the court does not rule on political doctrine.
Speaking on the writ of prohibition against the senatorial election, the Chief Justice said “The Supreme Court cannot rule on political doctrine, we discuss issues that are judiciable though we are concerned of the virus in the country; all we can do is to request the National Election commission to put in measures that will minimize the spread of the deadly Ebola virus”.
But two associate justices of the full bench, namely Justice Philip Banks and Justice Kabina Jan’eh in different view differed with the majority on grounds that the issues brought to the court is not political as the citizens see the court as the final arbiter of justice. Justice Jan’eh said: “We are 3 to 2 on the bench, but the majority spoke for the entire court and despite of their opinion, we have our rights to oppose what they said, this does not mean that the bench is divided.
While Justice Banks said he believed that there are limitations imposed on the two political branches of the government and that holding a narrow interpretation as the majority opinion ignore the rights granted the people of Liberia by the Constitution, defeats the intent and purpose of Article 2 of the Liberian Constitution.