Special Senatorial Election Must Be Held Within A Realistic Timeframe

By Dusty Wolokolie

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
October 10, 2014

                  


 

It is being advanced in some quarters of our society that there is evolving a looming constitutional crisis due to the virtual impossibility of holding the special/mid-term senatorial elections on 14th October 2014 as a result of the outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

Yes, Article 83(a) of the Constitution provides that “Voting for the President, Vice-President, members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives shall be conducted throughout the Republic on the second Tuesday in October of each election year.”

But given the severe enormity of the EVD epidemic, the President, with the overwhelming endorsement of the national Legislature, declared a State of Emergency. Under the State of Emergency (Article 86[a], “The President may, in consultation with the Speaker and President Pro Tempore of the Senate, proclaim and declare the existence of a state of emergency in the Republic or any part thereof. Acting pursuant thereto, the President may suspend or affect certain rights, freedoms and guarantees contained in the this Constitution and exercise such other emergency powers as may be necessary and appropriate to take care of the emergency, subject however to the limitations contained in this Chapter.”

Limitations to emergency powers are clearly defined in Article 87(a): “Emergency powers do not include the power to suspend or abrogate the Constitution, dissolve the Legislature, or suspend or dismiss the Judiciary; and no constitutional amendment shall be promulgated during a state of emergency. Where the Legislature is not in session, it must be convened immediately in special session and remain in session during the entire period of the state of emergency” and Article 87(b): “The writ of habeas corpus shall remain available and exercisable at all times and shall not be suspended on account of any state of emergency. It shall be enjoyed in the most free, easy, inexpensive, expeditious and ample manner. Any person who suffers from a violation of this right may challenge such violation in a court of competent jurisdiction.”

Like Cllr. Tiawan S. Gongloe, I am, by this piece supportive of postponement or suspension of the October 14 senatorial election as has been proclaimed by the until it is determined that the epidemic is under control and there is an appreciable level of management of the situation such that the State of Emergency is no longer necessary, thereby engendering an atmosphere conducive for the holding of free, fair and transparent election. And as Cllr. Gongloe has so aptly and brilliantly articulated in his piece in the 3rd October 2014 edition of The Perspective, “An Argument For An Indefinite Postponement Of The Mid-Term Senatorial Election,” there would be no constitutional crisis as some would want us to believe.

As there is no need to repeat the efficacious arguments propounded by my learned comrade and friend, I can only refer readers of my take on this issue to his legal reliance on Constitutional Articles 33, 38, 43, 45, 46, 54, Senate Rules 7 & 14 and Black’s Law Dictionary 9th ed., particularly Article 46 of the Constitution and Senate Rule 7 which allow for the transaction of business by the Liberian Senate with fifteen Senators without let or hindrance, and thereby the conduct of official business of the national Legislature.     
           
Given the Ebola crisis in the Mano River Union with Liberia being the hardest hit, and with the projection of the medical/scientific experts that it may take the next six to eight months to stem out the outbreak and bring EVD under control, it would be in bad taste for any reasonable, patriotic citizen to call for holding of the mid-term senatorial election any time sooner than six to twelve months from now. Moreover, the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning (MFDP) is projecting a potential funding gap of US$132.6 million for FY2014/2015 in the midst of our country being caught in this epidemic predicament. Where are we going to get the resources to hold election? Certainly not from our donor partners, nor from bilateral/multilateral institutions.  

Since the mandate of the fifteen senior Senators (Category A) will expire by the second working Monday of January 2015, we will then be faced with the challenge of filling the vacancies in the absence of election which is very unlikely to be held before that second working Monday of January 2015.

 

The President of the Republic has just issued a proclamation suspending the Special Senatorial Election of 14th October 2014 and by the same proclamation directed the National Elections Commission to “… immediately commence consultations and discussions with all recognized and accredited political parties, independent candidates, and civil society organizations and other stakeholders, as well as national and international health authorities on a new date for holding the Special Senatorial Elections”.

Since I am convinced, as I think any rational, keen observer of the Liberian political landscape would be as well, that free, fair and transparent elections cannot be held under the present prevailing conditions in our country by 12th January 2015 and probably three to five months beyond, I would propose that the following issues be seriously contemplated and feasible measures be considered for moving forward in a smooth constitutional order of transition in our fledging democratic development:

 



Garsuah Gborvlehn
Et tu Dusty? Well, its good the National Legislature seems to be trashing such a lopsided idea which is only in the interest of Ellen. I am disappointed, for when I saw your name I thought I was about to read something trashing or debunking the political insanity of Ellen´s attempt to legalize and legitimize herself as a dictator bent on seizing the fundamental rights of everybody.
Garsuah Gborvlehn at 03:22PM, 2014/10/10.
Fatu Sheriff
Well, Dusty Wolokollie has always been a failure. These are the guys used by people Amos C. Sawyer and his likes.

Amos Sawyer today earns US$ 12,000 a month from Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's administration for sitting in an empty office doing nothing. These are the kinds of people that God will punish with their eyes open.

These people deceived our people and destroyed our nation. Not a single word of advice comes from Sawyer about what Sirleaf needs to do to help Liberians as long as he gets his free money- money that he could not make when he was a library assistant called professor in Indiana, USA.
Fatu Sheriff at 02:49AM, 2014/10/26.
James McGill
I wondered what was the point of criticizing Dusty? The world's attention was highly focused on Liberia during the Ebola crisis. Many world health agencies including the World Health Organization (WHO), did issue dire warnings to West Africa about people staging political rallies and/or meeting in groups, because it had the potential of rapidly spreading the disease. So the president's decision became to temporarily ban group gatherings until the crisis abated.

Unfortunately, some people decided to put the interest of their political parties before the national interest. The propaganda mills went in full circle, that Ellen's proclamation was meant to make her president of Liberia for life.

Despite the call for calm and the exercise of restraint, leaders of political parties urged their followers to get in the streets and demonstrate; and in the height of the merciless Ebola disease,they did anyhow.

A word of caution: we must be mindful of the wolves in sheep skins. This incidence is an attestation that there are elements within the Liberian society that are bent on spreading hate, rumors, and lies and would not stop until their wicked designs are accomplished. Liberia has been enjoying a relative peace and calm, but that peace and calm is still very fragile.

Many of our youths should always reflect on the past that those who pose to be really in their interest are never in their interest. They have seen this time after time, and from one deceitful administration to another.

Ellen may not be the greatest president that Liberia has ever had, but at least she is keeping the peace and respecting the rights of the citizens. If this statement is incorrect, then let someone show me one African country where the citizens are given a directive not to stage rallies as they could jeopardize the collective health of the nation but they ignore it and still march? Let us be realistic. Was this possible under the Doe and Taylor regimes?

Is that how democracy functions? I doubt it, because in order for democracy to become functional it must co-exist with civility and the rule of law. Moreover, nobody is exempted from its application. If we must hold our officials to the letter to do the right thing then we must also do the same.

The man whom you are putting your life on the line for today, might be the one in power tomorrow. Sooner or later you will be crying foul again, because you allow frantic thinking and sheer emotion to blur your judgment.





James McGill at 08:03AM, 2015/03/11.
Manzano
Mine too, which Dave can attest to. Which binrgs me to another point, am I allowed to call daveberta "Dave" on his blog? Or should I restrict myself to daveberta?
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