Liberia: Doctors Express Disenchantment over Conduct Leading to Upcoming Elections
From: Dr. Yatta Sackie Wapoe & Dr. Doryea F.W Kaba on behalf of Concern Doctors
To: Dr. Louis Marpleh Kpoto, President, Liberia Medical and Dental Association (LMDA)
Dr. Jonathan Hart, Secretary General
Cc: Dr. Williamatta Sweet-Sweet Williams and other newly-appointed LMDA Election Commissioners
Cc: LMDA Executive Council
Cc: All Members of LMDA
Re: Disenchantment regarding the conduct of the December 2018, LMDA general Elections for Officers of the Association
Dear Officers and Members of the LMDA (herein after referred to as the Association):
We present our compliments and draw your urgent attention to the following deeply troubling state of affairs of the LMDA regarding holding of the pending elections for immediate correction so as to restore our rights and maintain the unity, dignity of the Association in keeping with our Constitution, By-Laws and Laws of Liberia.
You will recall that few weeks ago, the President and Secretary General of the “Association” announced plans for the conduct of the LMDA General Elections to elect a new leadership during the pending Annual General Meeting of the Association in December 2018. In his communication the Secretary General requested all members interested in becoming President, Vice President, Secretary General, Treasure or Chaplain to apply to the Elections Commission to Contest the elections and that candidates could also be nominated to the commission. In line with this announcement, the leadership in person of Dr. Louis M. Kpoto, the president of the Association appointed Dr. Thelma Nelson, Dr. Numenee Enders as Elections Commissioners and Dr. Augustine Y. Fannieh, as Chairman of the Commission.
After their nomination, the commission came up with their guidelines which included eligibility criteria from which we were nominated to participate in these upcoming elections. However, during its lifespan the Commission complained on several occasions about the numerous interferences of the LMDA leadership in its work and was concerned that the elections would lack the transparency and fairness required by law. It was not long while the Commission was proceeding with activities in preparation of said elections when the entire commission was summarily dissolved by the President without consultation and approval of the LMDA membership in general and without due process. No satisfactory reasons were given to members for this grave action on the part of the leadership. We found this act very troubling and unprecedented.
While the LMDA Constitution is silent as to conditions for dissolution of the Commission and the process to be followed we take due notice of the fact that elections Commissions are intended by law to function independently and with the highest level of neutrality and transparency to enable it jealously guide and implement the democratic process. Hence, we see this action of the Leadership as illegal, unprecedented, inconsistent with law and a calculated attempt to prejudice the elections process. At no time after dissolution of the Commission did the Association Leadership conduct investigation consistent with due process and seek a mandate from the LMDA as to how to proceed under circumstances wherein the Commission was not proceeding in the good spirit of the law. While this concerned remained unaddressed, the leadership appointed a new Commission under the leadership of Dr. Williamatta Sweet-Sweet Williams-Gibson and mandated it to proceed with the conduct of elections to the shock and dismay of the entire membership of the Association. We believe that this new Commission is illegal and that the Association has been proceeding illegally.
Consistent with its mandate, the newly illegally-appointed Commission chaired by Dr. Williamatta Sweet-Sweet Gibson, published new guidelines for the conduct of said elections. In these guidelines, the new Commission communicated in clear and unambiguous terms that the LMDA leadership and all its members were in violation of the Constitution and By-Laws of the LMDA regarding the conduct of the election. We were confident that with candid and opened acknowledgement of the wanton and grave irregularities the new Commission would have been deem it sufficient justification to temporarily halt the elections, investigate the violations and remedy the situation. Unfortunately, and to our utmost dismay, the Commission decided that it will proceed albeit illegally with the conduct of the elections.
Consistent with its decision, the Commission then published a list of candidates it considered qualified to participate in the elections. However, some full members nominated to participate in said elections were eliminated from the list of candidates without any explanation, due process as to establish a genuine and legal reason for their omission from the elections process. Two examples include Dr. Yatta Wapoe who was nominated to contest for the presidency and Dr. Doryea Kabbah who was nominated to contest for the vice presidency. How did the Commission arrive at the decision to exclude some nominees without due process and without any notice to them and membership of the LMDA in general as to the outcome of any investigation or evaluation and the outcome of the nomination process? This, we believe is inconsistent with the spirit of the law and require investigation and correction to bring the Association back in compliance with its laws. We are concerned that if these errors cannot be corrected, they work injustice to some members of the Association, lead to conflicts and may threaten the viability of the Association in general.
At this juncture, we would like to draw your attention to the relevant portion governing the conduct of elections. Article II, Elections of Officers States:
Article 2.1 Mode of Nomination:
a) Six (6) months prior to the biennial general meeting, the Secretary General shall send nomination slips to full members of the Association in good standing. Said slips shall be completed by each member with his/her list of candidates for election and returned to the Secretary General not later than the first Monday in September in the year of said election.
b) Nomination slops shall be sent to non-resident members in good financial standing.
c) Nomination shall be accepted from the floor in addition to nomination slips already received.
d) The name of any two candidates receiving the highest number of nominations shall be circulated not later that the first Monday in November in the year of said election
Section 2.2 Mode of Election:
a) There shall be an election commission to be appointed by the President with the advice of the Executive Council and shall be composed of not less than three (3) members.
b) Voting shall take place during the Annual general Meeting and it shall be by secret ballots.
c) Absentee ballots shall be accepted.
The Secretary General did nothing to ensure compliance with Article 2.1 cited above. In addition to disregarding some nominated candidates, the Commission further announced a list of 100 eligible voters in an Association of more than three hundred full members. This in itself, is deeply troubling. Many members feel disenchanted with the exclusion of their names from the voter role although they were in good standing with the Association by paying their dues and many reached out to the leadership requesting it to mitigate errors on the voter role. Surprisingly, the leadership has done nothing to address these grave concerns. We believe this and all the above represent a systematic attempt to exclude some full members of the Association from the elections.
Many members in the diaspora in good standing with the Association have not been accorded the fair chance to participate in the democratic election according to the LMDA Constitution Article 2.1(b) by not disseminating the nomination slips to them as required by laws. The LMDA has numerous members in the diaspora who consider themselves non-residential given the circumstances of their work and other activities.
In all these happenings, the Executive Council of the Association has remained silent and refused to take a leadership role. In fact, we believe that the leadership failed to establish and convene the Executive Council as required by law. For example, the immediate past president of the Association by law is a member of the Council. He was denied his constitutional membership and although he had reached out to the sitting leadership to remedy the situation, the leadership of the LMDA refused to respond to his request and neglected to remedy the constitutional error. Secondly there is no evidence to establish that the President appointed to members of the LMDA to serve on the Executive Council as mandated by the Constitution and By-Laws. Had leadership complied with the law and establish the Council and make it fully operational we believe the Council would have been in position to remedy this irregularity.
As if this is not enough, many members of the Association has been eliminated from the LMDA official google mailing list thereby preventing them from following the activities of the elections, the pending national general assembly and any and all activities of the Association. The google mail group is the official means of information dissemination to members and leadership of the association. Some members have reached out to the leadership requesting to be added to the mailing list but up to now have not been re-added. We draw your attention to the fact that this is the very first time in the more than thirty-years history of the Association that full members, fellow doctors, some very senior have been denied their constitutional right to participate in the Association’s democratic processes and daily activities.
In view of all the above and any and all other grievances not herein mentioned, we strongly recommend the following:
- That the leadership placed a temporary injunction to the holding of the LMDA Elections and any and all activities intended for the holding of said elections, pending certain actions as below enumerated;
- Request urgent comprehensive, transparent and fair investigation, explanation and correction of violations of the LMDA Constitution and By-Laws governing the conduct of LMDA Elections and governance of the LMDA in general and where applicable punish violations according to our laws.
- Immediately open participation in the pending elections to all full members of the Association as has been practiced time immemorial in all previous elections of the Association. We believe that in a common law jurisdiction as ours, precedence is law in and of itself and must be followed unless overturned by a new and binding law or a recognised and equally binding decision of its members taken as an amendment to the existing laws in a general meeting called for this purpose and activity.
- Immediately publish the election voter role and all other important elections paraphernalia relevant to the conduct of the pending elections.
- We request under freedom of information practices to make available to us all minutes and resolutions of the Executive Council and leadership over the past one year from the date of this election. We believe this will enable us clarify certain doubts regarding the administration of the Association.
Failure on your part to do all of the above, we will be left with no other alternative but to seek further measures consistent with good practice to compel the leadership to comply with our recommendations and reassert our constitutional rights to the LMDA.