Liberia: Cummings Hint Witch-hunt in CPP; Calls for Lawyers’ Validation of Investigative Findings on Alleged Framework Tampering
MONROVIA – Amid the allegation that he altered the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) Framework Document and that he should own up to it, Mr. Alexander Cummings, the man at the center stage of the allegation, has challenged the chairman of the CPP, Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence to refrain from the act of deception and submit the investigative findings and the ANC’s dissent to the CPP lawyers for validation as agreed in their leadership meeting last Wednesday.
“If the lawyers confirm that the provisions of the Framework document submitted by the ANC to NEC is materially and substantially different from the amendments made by the lawyers and approved by the parties, then I will apologize to the Liberian people and take full responsibility. However, if the lawyers find that what is filed at NEC is materially and substantially the same as the provisions in their Amendments, Benoni Urey and Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence must apologize, not only to me but also to the Liberian people for intentionally misleading them and threatening to destroy the CPP,” Mr. Cummings said on Sunday.
Mr. Cummings challenge to Sen. Karnga-Lawrence was on Sunday was in response to her last Thursday press conference in which she directly accused Mr. Cummings, the standard bearer of the Alternative National Congress, of deliberately altering portions of the CPP Framework Document as alleged by the political leader of the All Liberian Party (ALP).
Mr. Urey had claimed that he received an intelligence that some “nefarious individuals” within the hierarchy of the CPP had “dubiously, viciously and purposefully” altered portions and clauses of the Framework document and replaced with “alien clauses” to engender ulterior motives.
Last Wednesday, the investigative committee submitted their findings to the leadership of the CPP at Bella Cassa in Sinkor Monrovia. At the presentation, it was agreed that individual political leaders would refrain from making public statements on the findings of the investigative committee until it had been submitted along with the ANC’s dissent for their validation, before any public statement could be issued on the subject.
At last Wednesday meeting, this is what Senator Karnga-Lawrence told FrontPageAfrica: “Our committee presented the report today, we received the report, we reviewed it and so we decided to send the final report to our CPP lawyers for verification; so, we are not going to report on that until the verification is done.”
However, on Thursday, Senator Karnga-Lawrence, without waiting on the lawyers’ findings, called a press conference in which she squarely alleged there were a number of ‘significant’ procedural lapses leading to the submission of the Framework Document with the National Elections Commission (NEC) under his leadership as chair of the CPP. She also alleged content changes in the Framework document, adding that it happened under the leadership of Mr. Cummings as Chairman at the time.
Senator Karnga-Lawrence said articles, sections and sub-sections were significantly rearranged in both the amended and the final copy that was filed with the NEC.
“There are also structural changes between the amended copy from the lawyers to that filed with NEC,” she said.
After listing a litany of alleged challenges made to the final Framework Document filed with the NEC, Senator Karnga-Lawrence said, “In light of the violations in procedure and content change, it is reasonable enough that Mr. Cummings summons the courage to take ownership of all that has transpired and the crisis thereof.
Fellow Liberians, I have been silent to enable the Committee work and for the lawyers to respond. Unfortunately, I can no longer remain silent while my name is being dragged in the mud and my hard-earned reputation tarnished by individuals who feel entitled to state power. The Framework Document signed on Zoom on May 19, 2020 was under the leadership of Mr. Benoni Urey during the heat of the COVID crisis– Alexander B. Cummings, Standard Bearer, ANC
The Alleged Changes, according to Nyonblee
Karnga-Lawrence said articles, sections and sub-sections were significantly rearranged in both the amended and filed copies of the Framework Agreement. “There are also structural changes between the amended copy from the lawyers to that filed with NEC,” she said.
She added that the original Framework Agreement, according to Section 10.5.3, defines primary as the process by which delegates nominated by the alliance members can indicate their preference to the alliance’s candidate in an upcoming general elections, local election or by-election; while the amended and filed copies define primary as an assembly of delegates convened to elect/select CPP and alliances’ candidates for upcoming presidential, legislative and local elections or by elections.
The governance structure of the original Framework Agreement under National Assembly 6.1.1 talks about the endorsement of candidates and not elections of candidate as is placed in the amended and filed copies of the Framework document, Senator Karnga-Lawrence said.
Senator Karnga-Lawrence further said that definitions that were removed from the original document leaves a lot of ambiguity in the candidate eligibility and selection process.
Citing one example, she added: “The clause on Health (section 10.1.10). While the clause in the definitions ‘’Good State of Health” was included in both document (amended version & Filed copy) as to means, a state of physical and mental capacity that enables a person to effectively discharge the responsibilities of an elected office. (Article 1.10).”
Karnga-Lawrence also alleged that it is being observed that the Original Framework Document has December 1, 2021, Wednesday as the date to reach a consensus in selecting both the presidential and vice presidential ticket. And in the event no consensus is reached, the nomination process must be determined at the primaries, while the amended and filed copy of the Framework Section11.4 talks about consensus dates of September 30th and November 2021.
The issue of eligibility to stand for elections for presidential and legislative candidates under subsection 10.3.1 and section 10.3.1.2, according to Karnga-Lawrence, was changed.
“Additionally, Article 10 (Definitions) of the original framework document was removed; and A broad “not in good state of health “clause as a criterion for selection, as opposed to the detailed conditions that were in the original framework document. The section 10.3.1.2 in the original framework document that talks about a person vying for any electoral seat subsection (i), the Clause,” has been or is a convicted felon, provided such conviction is not derived from a political charge to include, treason, etc, was removed completely. Both the amended copy and the filed copy maintained the descriptions under section 11.1 (Eligibility for contesting),” sh added.
The allegation against Cummings comes after Benoni Urey of the ALP had earlier complained to Karnga Lawrence, that some high ranking members of the collaboration dubiously altered the Framework Agreement binding the four political parties.
The investigative committee comprised J. S. B. Theodore Momo, Jr., Chairman, ALP; Augustine Fredricks, Vice Chairman for Inter-Party and NEC Affairs, Liberty Party; Atty. J. Cole Bangalu, Vice Chair for Inter-Party and NEC Affairs, Unity Party; Cllr. Yafar Baikpah, ANC; and Mr. Mohammed Ali, Secretary General, Unity Party.
“Today, I want to confirm and assure you that I, Alexander Benedict Cummings, did not alter the Framework Document as Amended by the lawyers and approved by the Parties. That is the singular fact, and Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence knows that, Joseph Boakai knows that, Benoni Urey knows that. The Committee’s report in its ‘Observations’ stated that.“– Alexander B. Cummings
Mr. Cummings, however, maintains that he never altered the Framework Document.
According to him, the Document as amended by the legal advisors and approved by all parties is materially, substantially and provisionally the same as the Framework Document filed with the NEC to register the CPP.
He said, “Then and now, the Framework Document filed at the National Elections Commission offers me no advantage over anyone in the CPP. Then and now, it offers the ANC no advantage over any other member-party in the CPP. And then and now, the Framework Document contains all of our agreements as amended by our legal advisors and approved by all the parties, and was the same instrument used to register and certificate the CPP as well as enable us to successfully field CPP candidates in various by-elections and the Midterm Elections of 2020. This was true then, is true now, and will be true forever – because it is the simple truth.”
According to Cummings, the investigative report, which the CPP leadership is yet to officially make public, states in its observations that from Page 13 to Page 22, the Committee, except for slight structural rearrangements, all provisions including Definitions, Headquarter, Party Membership, Withdrawal Clause, National Executive Committee, Leadership of Advisory Council, Communication, Eligibility, Nomination, Dispute Resolution, Timeframe/Duration are all the SAME in the Copy filed with the NEC as it is in the Amendment Copy from the lawyers.
According to Cummings, the investigative committee contradicted their own observations by only comparing the May 19 Framework Document (the original Document) to the Framework Document filed at the National Elections Commission, without regard for the lawyers’ amendment (Amended version), knowing that the focus would be on the findings and not the observations.
He stated that the committee’s findings were inconsistent with their observations, therefore, prompting a dissent to the National Advisory Council.
Cummings disclosed that at the last Wednesday meeting, it was agreed that the Report, along with the ANC’s objections to the findings would be submitted to the lawyers for verification.
“This important validation of the lawyers was a safeguard against an investigation by partisans who were under pressure from their principals who happened to be the accusers. It was also agreed that we would call on our supporters to calm down and fall back until the lawyers had responded to the Report,” he said.
He added, “We agreed that a statement by the NAC would be issued, informing the public of the outcome of the NAC meeting. After the meeting, as agreed, I called on all of my supporters to stand down. Understandably, all Parties were clamoring on social media with the ANC feeling vindicated by the observations in spite of the inconsistent findings and calling on Mr. Urey to apologize for his accusations, while other partisans believed the findings and became upset about the lawyers being asked to verify. That night, I was contacted by Sen. Lawrence and the Chairman of Unity Party asking me to call on my people to stand down as they were under pressure to respond. Amb. Boakai also contacted me to tell my supporters to stop asking Benoni to apologize. In good faith, I issued a statement the next day again calling on my supporters to stand down.”
He lamented that following the common understanding among the political leaders of the CPP, Senator Karnga-Lawrence unilaterally hosted a press conference under the auspices of the CPP without sharing the release with the ANC for review or input as is consistent with CPP statements.
“She intentionally and maliciously, with intent to deceive, read selective parts of the contested findings as the basis for claiming that I should take responsibility for alterations of the Framework Document, thus unleashing the public onslaught,” he said.
“She intentionally and maliciously, with intent to deceive, read selective parts of the contested findings as the basis for claiming that I should take responsibility for alterations of the Framework Document, thus unleashing the public onslaught.”– Alexander B. Cummings, Standard Bearer, ANC
The Facts, According to Cummings
Cummings explained that the original Framework Document was signed on May 19, 2020 under the leadership of Mr. Urey during the height of the corona virus pandemic. That Document was signed during a Zoom meeting, where individual political leaders signed separate copies via Zoom, he said.
He further disclosed that it was after that Zoom signing ceremony that Mr. Urey turned over the leadership of the CPP to him with no turnover notes.
“At no point did all of us sit in one room during the Zoom ceremony and sign one Framework Document signature page. We all signed our individual copies at our respective locations on Zoom on May 19 and kept it with us. There was no one signature page from that signing ceremony with all of our signatures,” Cummings insisted.
He said upon approval of the lawyers’ amendment, Mr. Mohammed Ali, currently the Secretary General of the Unity Party, was instructed to collect the signatures of all persons on one page.
Mr. Ali submitted the signature page to the ANC for filing, Cummings said.
“That my colleagues cannot be honest to the public and admit that the signature page they signed was taken to them long after May 19, and that they backdated their signatures, speaks to the level of deceit and the underlining intent,” he said.
He further disclosed that all parties submitted their resolutions to the ANC on July 6 & 7 after a message to them on June 25th, reminding them about the need to submit their parties’ resolutions to enable them file the approved Framework Document as Amended by the lawyers.
He said, “Today they claim that the resolutions they submitted was for the May 19 Zoom ceremony, yet Sen. Lawrence signed the Liberty Party’s resolution on July 1, 2020. It is also important to note that it is impossible for us to have used the signature page from the original document on the filed copy because the order of the signature page on the document we signed on Zoom is completely different from the order of the signature page filed at NEC. The original document starts with Unity Party signatures while the Filed copy starts with ALP signatures.”
The ANC standard bearer noted that his colleagues within the CPP are deliberately ignoring the facts relating to the matter.
He said, “All of the substantial content changes made to the original/Zoom document was made by the lawyers in their Amendments. My colleagues know this. They have a copy of the lawyers’ amendment and they know that the lawyers will confirm the changes they made.”
“That my colleagues cannot be honest to the public and admit that the signature page they signed was taken to them long after May 19, and that they backdated their signatures, speaks to the level of deceit and the underlining intent.”– Alexander B. Cummings
“Assault to My Character”
The embattled political leader of the ANC said the allegation that he altered the Framework Document is only intended to tarnish his “hard-earned reputation and try to present me to the Liberian people as being the same as the accusers”.
He said, while this may be politics to them, it is “evil and malicious”.
“They may have succeeded temporarily as no matter what we say today, there are some people who will not believe us, but I promise you, they will fail. Today, I want to confirm and assure you that I, Alexander Benedict Cummings, did not alter the Framework Document as Amended by the lawyers and approved by the Parties. That is the singular fact, and Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence knows that, Joseph Boakai knows that, Benoni Urey knows that,” he said.
He said he has come to the realization that he is up against a system that is deeply rooted in the Liberian society – a system that is intent on keeping things as they are because they benefit a few.
Cummings: “It is such an irony to be called a criminal just because I am threatening some people’s last chance to power. The fact is, the CPP was not formed to make any one person President or Vice President, that is why we have laid out a democratic process to select our candidate. All I have consistently asked is that we go through this process and if I do not win, I will respect and support the outcome. Yet the fear that I will win through that process is what is fueling this malicious reputation damage. This is intended to have me leave the process so they avoid the primary which they know they will lose. You can only assume what they would try to do next. This is why most good and well-meaning people who want to help change our country stay out of politics and sit on the sidelines. That Sen. Lawrence will intentionally try to tarnish my reputation by giving her stamp of approval to falsehoods, says a lot about her.”