SINCE LAST FRIDAY, the euphoria that greeted campaigning for now disputed December 16 senatorial election was brought to an abrupt stop by the Supreme Court of Liberia when Justice in Chambers Philip A.Z. Banks placed a Stay Order on all activities related to the election in response to a petition for a Writ of Prohibition filed by some Liberians and few political parties against the holding of the plebiscite.
JUSTICE BANKS DEFENDED that his action was intended to ensure that the rightful processes are followed in line with the legal procedures in Liberia- giving one of the parties to the petition, the National Elections Commission of Liberia sufficient time to file a return, paving the way for arguments and subsequent hearings.
THE SUPREME COURT Associate Justice said NEC should have filed its response to the petition within four days, a period which elapsed on Tuesday.
ON MONDAY, fourteen political parties distanced themselves from the petition filed against the election, calling on supporters and sympathizers to gather at the Temple of Justice to support the quest for the lifting of the stay order on the election by Tuesday morning.
AS WAS PRONOUNCED by the political parties, some Liberians turned out at the Temple of Justice only to find out that the petition was not even on the agenda of the Supreme Court for hearings.
MANY WERE BEWILDERED to find out that such a crucial matter was not given priority to make its way for deliberation by the Supreme Court.
THERE IS NO explanation as to why the petition was not heard on Tuesday as lawyers from both sides were not seen at the Temple of Justice, leaving many in a state of confusion with some blaming the high court for playing delay tactics and attempting to stall the electoral process.
OTHERS ARE ALSO speculating that the failure for the petition to be heard might be due to the failure of the National Elections Commission to file its return to the petition in line with the law to enable hearings.
THE ONGOING CONFUSION regarding the matter is creating doubts in the minds of many Liberians who are unsure of what is actually unfolding whether the delay is due to the inability of NEC to file its return or the Supreme Court is playing a delay game.
BOTH THE COURT and the NEC are yet to state why the delay in hearing such a petition that has direct bearing on the constitution of the Republic and could result to breakdown in law and order.
BEFORE TUESDAY, the comments by Associate Banks meant that the onus is upon the NEC to file a response into the petition and the failure of NEC to state publicly whether it has done as required by the law leaves more questions than answers.
POLITICAL PARTIES HAVE already pledged their support to NEC and could serve as witnesses in court, especially with one count of the petition challenging that there is no evidence that NEC carried out consultations with stakeholders before deciding on the date for the holding of the election.
THE POLITICAL PARTIES in a statement declared “We cannot reverse the democratic process. All registered political parties, including two of the petitioners NDC and MPC, participated fully in the consultations leading to the new date for holding the special senatorial elections. The petitioner does not therefore represent the view of the majority of the registered political parties”.
THIS STATEMENT FROM the political parties with membership comprising lawyers and other professionals mean they are ready to defend NEC in court and there is no reason for a delay in filling response to a petition in which Liberians are eagerly awaiting its outcome.
THE SENATORIAL ELECTION has many constitutional and other implications for the sovereignty of Liberia and as such there is no justification for delay either on the part of the Supreme Court or the NEC in pushing this matter to the end.
LIBERIANS NEED TO KNOW whether these elections will be held or postponed and as such NEC which has the constitutional mandate to supervise electioneering processes must fulfill its constitutional responsibility to the Liberian people by pursing this matter without delay.
HOLDING THE PREVIOUS date for the election constant implies that the polling is just exactly two weeks or 14 days away and with five days out of the campaign period now wasted due to the stay order, further delay could jeopardize the process.
THE CURRENT PETITION is a sign of further disagreements to come-whatever way the coin is tossed-holding election or not there might still be legal issues raised by Liberians therefore the Supreme Court has to decide which way now to avert future confusions.
THE ONGOING DILEMMA regarding the senatorial election must be resolved now and whoever is causing the delay in hearing the petition-be it the Supreme Court or NEC must step up and ensure that the matter is brought to rest.