Counselor Theophilus Gould, representing the National Elections Commission (NEC) in the case of whether or not to proceed with the planned December 16 Senatorial elections, made what could well be considered a rather strange remark to the Court on Monday. He told the Court that should it accept the petitioners’ request to halt the planned December 16 elections, “all of you would lose your respective jobs, because there would be a change of government.”Counselor Gould, who is also president of the Liberia Bar Association, warned that the petitioners’ real intent hadlittle to do with the Ebola epidemic, but more to do with what he called their real intention of establishing an interim government. For if come January there are no newly elected Senators to replace the outgoing ones, a constitutional crisis could erupt that could lead to the fall of the government, necessitating an “interim government.”But the petitioners’ lawyer, Cllr. Laveli Supuwood, vigorously rejected that argument. They were not interested in an interim government; but in preventing the violation of the Constitution by NEC and the Legislature.Cllr. Supuwood based his argument on Articles 86 (a,b) and Article 88 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, which deal primarily with Emergency Powers. NEC and the Legislature, however, in setting the election date to December 16, 2014, said they took into consideration the failure to hold the elections which, in keeping with the Constitution, were scheduled for October 14, 2014. NEC and the Legislature feared that a further delay in holding these elections would, come January 2015, leave the Senate chamber half empty—or half full—depending on whether one sees this from the eyes of a pessimist or optimist. In any case, that could veritably lead to a constitutional crisis, for the Senate chamber has never been halved during normal democratic times.The Supreme Court Justices will have to decide which is the lesser of two evils—hold the elections now, given the considerable decline in the Ebola epidemic, or wait until a later date and drag the country into an even deeper constitutional quagmire (swamp, predicament). Most political parties, including the two leading ones, the ruling Unity Party and the opposition Congress for Democratic Change, have agreed to proceed with the December 16 Senatorial elections.There are, however, two sticky situations, which have nothing to do with the matter before the Supreme Court but are nonetheless at the very center of political discussion at this time. The first is President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s announcement of Executive Order #65 banning public gatherings of any kind for the next 42 days. This means that should this Executive Order be executed, it would abrogate campaign rallies or political gatherings. The second situation is the senatorial campaign for Montserrado County of the President’s son, Robert Sirleaf.There are many who suspect a link between this Executive Order and the President’s son in the senatorial race. And that is why some are calling it “sinister,” while others contend that it violates the constitutional guarantee of freedom of assembly.Ostensibly, Executive Order #65 is intended to prevent what happened last Friday—the CDC mass demonstration, which many felt renewed the threat of Ebola viral transmission. There were two portions of the Executive Order that raised RED FLAGS! First, it is to last for 42 days, well past the date when the election results would be announced. The second is that the enforcement of the Executive Order is restricted to “the streets of Monrovia.” Why Monrovia only, people are asking? Is there a fear of public reaction when the Montserrado result is announced? What would that result be and why the fear? People who were around for the 1985 presidential and legislative elections recall what Head of State Samuel Doe did on the day the results were announced: he ordered everyone to stay home and the streets of Monrovia were barricaded with soldiers and armored vehicles. Of course, the purpose of that massive show of force was obvious: Doe and Elections Commissioner Emmet Harmon blatantly (barefacedly) rigged the elections and they wanted no trouble afterwards.President Sirleaf herself can fully understand public suspicion surrounding her Executive Order, for she was present to remember that it was Jackson F., not Samuel K. Doe, who REALLY WON that election!The Liberian people eagerly await the Supreme Court’s verdict which will come probably before the weekend. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Better wages strike Teachers are now confused at the position of Government on their strike action, since, according to them, President David Granger’s position on the issue is different from the Education Ministry’s action.According to teachers, the call by President David Granger for full mediation and possibly arbitration is completely different from what his Education Ministry is attempting to do in relation to their salary and other benefits’ negotiations.On Friday, the President hosted his third press conference since taking office in 2015, and called Guyana Teachers Union’s strike action “extreme…premature” and urged that there be full mediation and possibly arbitration before such extreme measure is taken.However, when contacted, GTU General Secretary Coretta McDonald told the Guyana Times that they have listened keenly to the President’s comments and they are still ready to go to the bargaining table, provided that their conditions are assented to.Additionally, she explained that the actions of the Education Ministry are quite contradictory, since the Union is yet to be contacted since meeting with the Education Ministry on Thursday. McDonald said the GTU are still going ahead with the strike action, and noted that they are ready to provide relief to teachers if Government decides to cut salaries.This publication spoke to a number of teachers on Saturday, and they related that they are being forced to strike due to non-consideration by the Education Ministry.Education Minister Nicolette Henry“The Ministry is not doing anything. They are trying to strong-arm the teachers into accepting what is on the table, and that is it. We have been waiting on debauching money for so long, and now they want to give you a small sum. Then we have the President saying something else. The Government needs to get their act together and get on the same page,” a teacher who gave her name only as Ms Persaud said.Persaud has been in the teaching profession for over 20 years, and she said it is time that the teachers take a collective stance because their rights would be trampled upon. She said that all the teachers at her school, on the West Bank of Demerara, would be supporting the strike.Another teacher noted that teachers need to understand that they have to band together in order to have their demands met.Meanwhile, there is a growing level of anxiety cause by the uncertainty of the quality of education to be delivered when school reopens tomorrow (Monday). Parents are questioning the Education Ministry’s contingency plan, since that plan seemingly does not have all in place to cushion the effect of the teachers’ absence.“We now seeing that the Ministry sending out notice for trainee teachers and retired ones, when they saying that they have it under control. How can we rest when it seems like the Ministry don’t know what they are doing?” questioned Johnathan Persaud.The man said his son is now a third form student at Patentia Secondary School, WBD, and he is concerned about the quality of teaching his son will receive, since he has to prepare for the National Grade Nine Assessment.Contingency PlanEducation Minister Nicolette Henry and her officers have been saying that a contingency plan is in place. The plan would see trainee teachers, substitute teachers, parents and retired teachers taking over classrooms. However, it is unclear whether the Teaching Service Commission is on board with this plan. Additionally, former CPCE lecturer Tamashwar Boodhoo has said that trainee teachers cannot take school registers since registers are legal documents and could be used in a court of law.Like many parents, even President Granger said he does not find favour with trainee teachers taking over the classrooms, come September 3.The Education Ministry has issued a notice to Education officials, detailing the responsibilities of the CPCE teachers on attachment, parents and substitute teachers it intends to deploy to cushion the effects of the strike.The notice said they are to follow the regular lesson plan, scheme of work and other curricular documents; record tasks/assignments; record daily attendance in the Attendance registers; keep an up-to-date record of the content completed; and maintain a relationship with parents, among other requirements.However, teachers and the GTU are questioning where the substitutes would access lesson plans and schemes of work, since those are usually completed during the pre-term activity period, and the strike commenced during that period.Teachers are seeking increases of 40 per cent under a multi-year arrangement up to 2020. However, Government has maintained that it just cannot afford this proposal, offering a 2018-2019 pay off.Additionally, Granger said they are currently looking to source additional funds to meet the teachers’ demands, but explained that Government is not going to commit to a multi-year agreement.