Liberia: 12 Senators Walk Out of Confirmation Hearing for Elections Commission Nominees’
Henry Karmo [email protected]
Monrovia – Some 12 Senators, advocating to have the ongoing Senate confirmation hearing for nominees to the National Elections Commission, open to Civil Society Organizations and political parties, walked out in protest Friday after their requests were denied.
Despite the Senators walkout, the Senate Committee on Autonomous Agencies and Commissions went ahead with the hearing.
Disappointment Led to Walkout
Senators Oscar Cooper(NPP, Margibi) and Varney Sherman(UP, Grand Cape Mount) had recommended to the committee chaired by Senator J. Milton Teahjay(UP, Sinoe) that the process be open to include the observations of CSOs and Political parties’ representatives.
The protesting senators who included Senator Prince Johnson(NUDP, Nimba) Sherman, Darius Dillon(Liberty Party, Montserrado County)and Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence(Liberty Party, Grand Bassa County).
Others include: Senator Henrique Tokpah(Independent, Bong County) Senator Sando Johnson(NPP, Bomi) Senator Conmany Wesseh(UP, River Gee);Senator Daniel Naathen(UP, Gbarpolu County), and Johnathan Kaipay(Liberty Party, Grand Bassa County).
Speaking on behalf of the protesting Senators, Senator Sherman said due to the nature and importance of the confirmation hearing, the committee invited all Senators to witness the proceedings. “I am not a member of this committee but I am here because of the importance and respect our colleagues have given us. Our colleagues denied our request for the suspension of the hearing and demanded that they had already scheduled two hearings and that they will go ahead. We are disappointed with their action”.
Added Senator Sherman: “We believe if we involve the CSO’s and political parties, it will legitimize those we are confirming and boost Public confidence in their work. We believe that NEC commissioners are important positions, and that is why they decided to invite all senators and the public. So, for the sake of credibility and integrity, let’s invite stakeholders who will give their opinion and base on that we make our judgments. We are not saying they are wrong to hold confirmation as a committee to conduct the hearing in secret but it reduces the integrity,” Sen. Sherman averred.
From LPRC Sales Analyst to NEC?
Ms. Josephine Kou Gaye, one of two commissioners who took the hotseat Friday, said her nomination demonstrates gender balance and paves the way for more women participation. “Honorable Senate, my experience of the Liberian civil war tells me that it was a result of power struggle that resulted from dissatisfaction from election result of election results in 1985 therefore I take seriously anything that has to do with election.”
Ms. Gaye added: “I work with a consultancy firm and I am an entrepreneur. My experience when it comes to election is that I am an eligible voter and know what’s going on.”
“I work with a consultancy firm and I am an entrepreneur. My experience when it comes to election is that I am an eligible voter and know what’s going on.”Ms. Josephine Kou Gaye, Nominee, National Elections Commission
Ms. Gaye, whose only experience in government was six-month stint at the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company as a sales analyst, told the Senate Committee that she brings integrity to the elections commission. “In this time of our Country I see election as a thin line between war and peace. If confirmed I will work with my colleagues to maintain peace and stability by conducting a free, fair and transparent elections.”
Asked to describe the qualifications that warrants her on the commission, Ms. Gaye said: “First of all I would like to say I am a woman, the strength of a woman is that woman who believe in herself, that woman who is critical and want things done in time and I am that woman who has those abilities.”
Pressed whether she belonged to any political party, Ms. Gaye said that she was apolitical. “I am no member of any political party; I am a citizen with no party allegiance.”
Nominee Says Covid-19 Biggest Challenge for NEC
Asked what was she bringing to the table of the commission, Ms. Gaye declared: “I come with integrity, consistency; you can rest assure I will give you my best.”
She described elections as a bridge between conflict and peace. “We have 26 political parties and as commissioner with oversight on elections matters, there will be no room for error, because any room for error will be construed as cheating.”
Asked what she sees as some of the biggest challenges if confirmed, Ms. Gaye said: The major Challenge of the NEC is the COVID-19. My own experience in elections mater was my work on a campaign team of an independent candidate.”
The hearing meanwhile continues Saturday with at least two more commissioners appearing. Cllr. Ndubusi Nwabudike, a Nigerian-born naturalized Liberian nominated to head the elections commission is expected to take the hotseat Monday.