It can be recalled in October 2022 the simmering internal wrangling within the National Patriotic Party (NPP), one of the sects in the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) reached its peak during the Party’s biennial convention over the weekend.
The convention was meant to elect the party’s new officials ahead of the crunch meeting with the other two factions of the ruling Coalition – the Congress for Democratic Change of President George Weah and the Liberian People Democratic Party (LPDP) of former House Speaker J. Alex Tyler to renegotiate the coalition’s framework document ahead of the 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections.
Judging from the theme, “Unity, Commitment, Trust and Reconciliation, the requirements for a genuine national partnership,” the biennial convention was also meant to unite the party and reconcile the leaders’ differences following years of bitter disagreements, notably between the Party’s Standard Bearer, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, and the party’s National Chairman, Maryland County Senator James P. Biney.
However, Friday’s event held at the Paynesville City Hall was the complete opposite of the partisans’ anticipation – it was marred by acrimonious disagreements that led to violent altercations between partisans loyal to both leaders.
Both sides accused each other of tampering with the delegate list and when their disagreement could not be resolved, the convention split, and VP Taylor, claiming to get the backing of thirteen of the party’s county chairpersons moved outdoors with her supporters and conducted their affairs, while Senator Biney and his team stayed within the hall held theirs.
During VP Taylor faction’s convention, a resolution was adopted declaring all positions within the party vacant, and new leadership was set up. VP Taylor was unanimously chosen as the standard bearer while Cllr. Stanley Kparkillen was elected as National Chairman.
Speaking to reporters, the Vice President said the decisions reached were legitimate because it meets the approval of the majority members of the party’s executive committee.
“We gathered together with all the county chairpersons who brought their delegates. And they have chosen their leaders… There is a resolution that is signed by 13 county chairpersons. So, when you have two-thirds of the delegates that have signed this resolution for this new leadership then it is legitimate. Where the leadership is, is where the party will sit,” she said in October this year.
On the other divide, Senator Biney was re-elected as the party’s national chairman, along with several others including former Bong County Representative, George Mulbah, Vice Chairman for Administration; Mezgar Daudar, Vice Chairman for Operations and Alison Barco, Vice Chairman for Inter-Party Affairs.
Senator Biney’s side also adopted a five-count resolution mandating the new Chairman to maintain cooperation with the Coalition for Democratic Change for the 2023 presidential and legislative elections and to re-negotiate the framework document of the CDC.
He accused VP Taylor of sowing discord within the party and said the election of the party’s new code of officers was in fulfillment of the court’s order to conduct the biennial convention within 45 days.
“This party is based on constitutional democratic values. It is unfortunate that our standard bearer brought herself so low today. But our collective resolve has proven to us that the party is stronger,” Biney said in October.
He then constituted a 15-member committee headed by former Grand Cape Mount County Senior Senator Abel Massalay to represent the party in renegotiating the framework document with the CDC and LPDP.
The National Patriotic Party (NPP), one of the sects, in the Coalition for Democratic Change, has endorsed a Weah-Taylor Ticket as a legitimate structure for the continuation of George M. Weah’s Presidency, come 2023.
Taylor’s Faction Moves Swiftly
Meanwhile, in its resolution, VP Taylor’s faction endorsed the reaffirmation document signed by James P. Biney and VP Taylor as a legitimate instrument of the current Coalition for Democratic Change framework document for the continuation of the coalition for the year 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections.
“Having realized the significant and tremendous social, economic and infrastructure development made under the PAPD agenda under the Coalition led government does hereby unanimously endorse the ‘WEAH-TAYLOR Presidential ticket for 2023’ Legislative and Presidential elections,” the resolution stated.
Delegates resolved that the National Executive committee of the NPP constitutes a seven-man committee to lead the process of discussion with Congress for Democratic Change and Liberia People’s Democratic LPDP concerning jobs allocation and other benefits associated with the Coalition for the NPP.
It was also decided that in recognition of the standard bearer being the Political Leader and highest-ranking officer of the party, it should be enshrined during the amendment of the constitution that the Standard Bearer of the party shall be consulted on all matters of the party before a decision is reached by the National Chairman and corps of Officers.
The resolution states: “Further, the amendment shall also reflect that at every called meeting where the Political Leader and Standard Bearer is in attendance, the National Chairman and presiding Officer upon calling to order the meeting, shall turn the gavel of authority to the Standard Bearer to preside over National meeting.
At the same time, the delegates resolved that the National Executive Committee (NEC), shall conduct a comprehensive analysis and inventory of all the party’s assets including 5th Street and Tarr Town properties to determine the status of said properties, and conduct a full audit of the party’s bank account(s) and take appropriate actions to safeguard the party properties and funds.
The Taylor faction of the Biennial Convention mandated the National Executive Committee (NEC) with the approval of the standard bearer of the Party to be the sole authority to vet and approved partisans for a recommendation for job placement in Government.
Similarly, they mandated the National Executive Committee (NEC) to ensure that all party programs be passed on by the NEC and appropriated budget be expended accordingly in keeping with administrative and fiscal policies of the party to be developed and adopted by the NEC.
The convention also provides that during the amendment of the constitution, the standard bearer shall instruct any ranking officer in the line of succession to the National Chairperson and same at the level of the Secretariat to send out citations to convene NEC meetings to plan and implement the conduct of the convention in closed consultation with the Political Leader and Standard Bearer of the party who is the highest ranking officer of the party.
Meanwhile, delegates have instructed that within Six months of the date of the Resolution, the National Executive Committee shall convene a constitution review session for the singular purpose of amending the 2004 Amended Revised Constitution and By-Laws of the party, while the National Executive Committee shall conduct nationwide tour aimed at strengthening the party County Executive Committee (CEC) and Districts Executive Committee (NEC), and conduct elections where there are vacancies within the counties
‘Null and Void’
In the wake of the split, the Chairman emeritus of the NPP Chief Cyril Allen said the decisions reached by both divides were illegitimate and will not be accepted by the party.
Chief Allen said the party’s constitution did not give the authority to VP Taylor, as the standard bearer to preside over a convention. He also noted that while Chairman Biney remains legitimate, the decision reached by his faction could not be accepted because the resolution to open the convention was not officially endorsed by the party’s executive committee.
He called for both sides to return to status quo ante and implement the court’s mandate in accordance with the party’s constitution. VP was in error to preside over a convention and direct.
The NPP disputed convention should have been in fulfillment of the Civil Law Court’s mandate to take the Party to its long overdue 7th Biennial Convention in keeping with the 2004 Constitution.
However, with the misunderstanding, it is highly likely that the disputed parties will return to the court again.
Supreme Court Takes ‘Power’ from VP Taylor in NPP
The Supreme Court of Liberia on Tuesday, August 4, 2022, ruled that the decision of the former ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) Executive Committee to revise the Party’s Constitution and execute all policies and decisions under the authority of Mrs. Jewel Howard Taylor as Standard Bearer is illegal and ordered that said authority be taken from her.
The Supreme Court in its judgment mandated that the current Party Chairman Mr. James Biney and corps of officers are the proper and lawful authorities within the NPP to convene meetings of the party, issue communications and conduct biennial conventions.
The High Court said had if it not been for the intra-wrangling within the NPP that led to the filing of a petition for declaratory judgment on August 12, 2020, by the NPP Chairman, Mr. Biney in the Civil Law Court and the subsequent appeal and complaints that ensued, the party National Chairman and his corps of officers would have convened and conducted the biennial convention.
“Therefore, it was no fault of the leadership for the expiration of their tenures during the pendency of all these suits and counter suits,” the High Court said.
The Supreme Court, meanwhile, instructed the Civil Law Court to resume jurisdiction over the Jewel Howard and others versus NPP case emanating from the petition for declaratory judgment and enforce its final ruling of September 18, 2020, nothing that the said ruling is conclusive and binding on all NPP members.
It can be recalled on August 12, 2020, the NPP through its National Chairman, Mr. James Biney and corps of officers filed a petition for declarative judgment in the Sixth Judicial Circuit Civil Law Court, before Judge J. Kennedy Peabody against Vice President Jewel H. Taylor and all those acting under her authority and control.
Chairman Biney requested the court to declare him and his corps of officers legitimate leaders of the NPP; that the Vice President and others have no power to convene meetings, established sub-committees, issue communications in the name of the party or revise the party’s constitution.
He further stated that the 2004 NPP constitution and its amendments adopted in 2016 in Tubmanburg City, Bomi County are the only valid constitutional instruments of the party; and that the NPP be allowed to hold its Biennial Convention on the 2nd Saturday, December 2022.
Upon receipts of the trial court’s precepts, Mrs. Jewel Howard Taylor and others filed returns wherein they alleged that the Vice President is the Standard Bearer of the NPP, by virtue of which is responsible to execute all policies and decisions of the National Executive Committee of the party.
Mrs. Taylor noted that the National Executive Committee of the party under her leadership was within the pale of the law to review the NPP Constitution; that all the tenure positions of the petitioners had expired; and that declaratory judgment is inapplicable to the petitioners.
On September 18, 2020, the Resident Judge President over the Sixth Judicial Circuit Civil Law Court, J. Kennedy Peabody upon listening to oral arguments, enter final ruling in favor of Mr. James Biney and corps of officers.
Judge Peabody in his ruling stated that Mr. James Biney and corps of officers are the proper and lawful authorities within the NPP to convene meetings of the party, issue out communications and to conduct Biennial Convention.
Judge Peabody further said the decision of the NPP Executive Committee to review the Party’s Constitution under the authority of Mrs. Jewel Howard Taylor as Standard Bearer is illegal.
The Vice President noted exceptions to the final ruling of the Civil Law Court and announced an appeal before the Supreme Court.