APC & SLPP Mayoral Candidates Jubilant
January 15, 2018 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
Mayoral candidates of the two main political parties – the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) and the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) – last Friday expressed satisfaction after the High Court, presided over by Justice Abdul Rahman Mansaray, gave a significant ruling in their favour.
Yvonne Aki Sawyer of the ruling APC and Raymond De Souza George of the main opposition SLPP sought the court’s intervention after the National Electoral Commission (NEC) rejected their nominations on the grounds that the duo were not registered in the Western Area Urban where they wish to contest for mayoral seat.
The High Court of Sierra Leone on Thursday, 11th January, started hearing the matter with solicitors representing both parties making submission that Section 40 of the Public Elections Act of 2012, which directs the transfer of voters’ registration, does not contemplate a situation that a transfer of registration should be sent to the Board of Commissioners.
Madam Aki Sawyer was represented by Lawyer Africanus Sorie Sesay, while Raymond De Souza George was represented by Lawyer Musa Mewa.
In their argument, the two lawyers also submitted that Section 40 of the Public Elections Act of 2012 contemplates continuous existence of the office of the registrar, and that section 41 of the same Act provides that the office should be in existence because it is a very important office.
They noted that the communication of NEC clearly threatens their clients’ natural right to vote and be voted for.
On Friday, also, both counsel for the plaintiff applicants told the court that they relied on the totality of the application, and that the cause of the application in court was for the enforcement of the rights of their respective clients under section 40 of the National Public Elections Act for the transfer of their voters registration from Freetown Rural to Freetown Urban.
They noted that the response letter from the defendant (NEC) threatened the enjoyment of the plaintiff applicants’ rights to exercise their franchise to vote and be voted for, hence they approached the court to determine their fate.
They submitted that the National Electoral Commission Officer was bound by duty to do what the National Public Elections Act tells him to do and section 40 (2) of the Act made it mandatory.
“My Lord, we submit that there is no discretion so granted under section 40 to the Officer but he is bound to do what the Act says and even if they said they have discretion, it has to be justified under the law,” they submitted.
The two lawyers further noted that the judge has power under section 35 of the High Court Rules to grant the motion, with the power to compel NEC to do what the Act says.
In his response, Lawyer Drucil Talyor, representing the respondent applicant, (NEC) opposed to the submissions made by lawyers of the plaintiff applicants, stating that the respondent rely on the context of their affidavit.
He argued that the rights of the plaintiffs under section 40 were not under any threat, and that their registration could be transfer with due process.
He added that the commission is completely operational in accordance with section 40 of the National Elections Act of 2012.
After the heated argument, Justice Abdul Rahman Mansaray ordered NEC to transfer the registration of the two mayoral candidates from their previous registration centres to the Freetown Municipality with immediate effect.
Justice Mansaray further ordered that the Commission shift the nomination date for mayoral candidates to not later than Saturday, 20th January, 2018.
He again ordered that the defendant, with immediate effect, transfer the registration of the first plaintiff applicant – Yvonne Aki Sawyer – from Ward 369 at Regent Rural District to Ward 442 at Lumley in the Freetown Urban.
He also ordered that the registration of the second plaintiff defendant – Raymond De Souza George – be transferred from Ward 395 at Mount Aureol Rural District to Ward 433 at Brookfields in the Freetown Urban.
The learned judge ordered that both plaintiffs’ names be deleted from the list of their previous registration centres.
Speaking to journalists after the ruling, the two mayoral candidates expressed their elation that the judgment went in their favour.
According to Aki-Sawyer, when someone takes an action to court he or she would expect the outcome to be either way, adding that the ruling was correct because it was within the ambit of the law and that the precedent was not a bad one.
She praised her lawyers for having argued the case well in line with section 40 of the National Public Elections Act, which she insisted gives an individual the right to move his or her voters’ registration from one place to the other.
“Let me take a minute to give thanks to God Almighty for what He has done for me and I also want to give thanks to those who supported me during this difficult times especially the All People’s Congress Party and my solicitors,” she said.
She noted that the show of unity by the ruling APC and the main opposition SLPP to fight the issue in court bodes well for the democracy in the country.
Also, SLPP aspirant Raymond De Souza George he had made up his mind to accept whatever the outcome would have been, and that the unity of the two parties in court was a good sign for democracy in the nation.