Liberia: Collaborating Political Parties Disappointed Over Delay in The Cleaning of Voters Roll; Intends Going to ECOWAS Court or Stage Peaceful Protest
MONROVIA – The Chairman of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), Mr. Alexander Benedict Cummings, says the CPP is pursuing additional means to ensure the cleaning up of the Voters Registration Roll (VRR) prior to the conduct of the much-anticipated December 8, 2020 senatorial elections, despite the latest ruling from the Supreme Court of Liberia.
The CPP is a conglomeration of opposition political parties including the Unity Party (UP), All Liberian Party (ALP), Liberty Party (LP) and the Alternative National Congress (ANC).
It can be recalled that the Supreme Court of Liberia, through its Associate Justice Sie-A-Nyene Youh’s denied the CPP a Writ of Mandamus intended to compel the National Elections Commission (NEC) to clean up the 2017 Voter Roll.
A writ of mandamus is a court order compelling someone to execute a duty that they are legally obligated to complete. A writ is also used to order a lower court or government agency to complete a duty to uphold the law or to correct an abuse of discretion.
Speaking when he appeared on the Prime Morning Drive (PMD) on Prime FM 105.5 over the weekend, Mr. Cummings maintained that the CPP remains disappointed over the court’s ruling.
He wondered why the court, which took similar decision in 2017 to clean the VR, would renege on withholding the rule of law in Liberia.
Mr. Cummings stated that the CPP believes that the Voters Roll which was used for the conduct of the 2017 elections is not the same that is expected to be used by the NEC for the conduct of the senatorial elections across the country, and as such, the CPP is insisting that the exercise takes place.
He added that despite the intervention of ECOWAS to clean up the 2017 voters’ roll ahead of the ensuing polls, the “benefit of the doubt” will be accorded the technicians, the court and the NEC for the cleaning of the roll.
He indicated that executives and members of the CPP will not hesitate to take additional options including the right to peacefully assemble, if a satisfactory determination is not made on the cleaning of the Voters’ Roll prior to the senatorial elections.
Mr. Cummings disclosed that the postponement of the peaceful protest announced by the CPP previously was only intended to enable the court, government, and the team from ECOWAS that is presently in the country, decide on the cleaning of the voters’ roll.
He noted that the right to peacefully assemble will be reserved for now until all parties take a decision on the matter.
“The government has to make sure it happens or decide the elections will take place or not. The CPP will look at all of its options and make a decision. I think it will be premature for us to project what we will do; legal actions including the right to peaceful assemble are open to us. We want to be responsible and we want to see what the government will do before we start to take any other legal action”.
“We are very disappointed in the decision of the Supreme Court. This is a court that in 2017 mandated the cleaning up of the voters roll. There was an ECOWAS team that came and also said that the voters roll was flooded and needed to be cleaned up. In June of this year, a Joint Resolution of the National Legislature, signed by the President says the voters’ roll should be cleaned. As far we are concerned, none of that has happened. This is unacceptable”.
Mr. Cummings continued: “We are going to continue to pursue other means. We are exploring for example going to the ECOWAS court to make our case there. It is very, very disappointing that the court decided to not grant our petition and almost allow this fraudulent voters roll to continue into December 8”.
He noted that despite the situation, the CPP remains hopeful of winning the senatorial more seats if the elections are free, fair and transparent.
He maintained that both the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the Supreme Court of Liberia must play their constitutional roles to ensure that the ensuing elections are free, fair and credible.
It can be recalled that the CPP filed a lawsuit against the conduct of the referendum along with the by-elections and the senatorial elections in Sinoe, Montserrado and across the country respectively.
The by-elections in Sinoe and Montserrado were triggered following the deaths of Representatives Jay Nagbe Sloh and Munah Pelham-Youngblood.
Mr. Cummings claimed that adequate voters’ education has not been carried out by the National Elections Commission, and the timing of the conduct for the referendum is allegedly unconstitutional.
“We do not believe that the appropriate level of voters’ education has taken place. As you know, it’s unfortunate that most of our population is not illiterate. And therefore, voters education is require for any referendum. The second one is about the timing”.
Though the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the conduct of the two by-elections along with the senatorial elections across the country on December 8, the court is yet to make a final determination on the conduct of the referendum.
CPP concerned over Weah “third term”
At the same time, Mr. Cummings has disclosed that the CPP remains concerned about recent revelation made by the political leader of the Movement for Democratic Reconstruction (MDR) of Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson that President George Manneh Weah will be able to run for a third term after the December 8 referendum which also has a proposition to amend the presidential tenure.
Delivering one of his regular Sunday sermons at his Faith Chapel Ministries church in Paynesville, Senator Johnson, who is a staunch supporter of President Weah claimed that Pres. Weah would win a second term in the current six-year tenure to complete 12 years of rule but would be granted another opportunity to contest presidential elections after the referendum proposition calling for the reduction of the tenure is voted for in the December 8 elections and referendum.
“I tell you the truth, President Weah will be there twelve years – and when the referendum passes – the first six years would be zero years for us – that will make it two more terms, that’s a third term,” he said.
By voting ‘YES’ to said proposition would annul the current.
Under the current Constitution, Article 50 reads, “The Executive Power of the Republic shall be vested in the President who shall be Head of State, Head of Government and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. The President shall be elected by universal adult suffrage of registered voters in the Republic and shall hold office for a term of six years commencing at noon on the third working Monday in January of the year immediately following the elections. No person shall serve as President for more than two terms”.
If amended, the law will now read: “The Executive Power of the Republic shall be vested in the President who shall be Head of State, Head of Government and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. The President shall be elected by universal adult suffrage of registered voters in the Republic and shall hold office for a term of five (5) years commencing at noon on the third working Monday in January of the year immediately following the elections. No person shall serve as President for more than two terms”.
However, the Executive Mansion has denied the claim made by Senator Johnson.
According to Mr. Cummings, the latest revelation from Senator Johnson clearly underscores the need for an independent and impartial elections commission in Liberia.
He maintained that Liberians should not even allow President Weah to win another term in 2023.
“The CPP is extremely concern about this because you know, Prince Johnson supported President Weah. We should take heel to his suspicion in terms of what he thinks. But let me also say that it’s up to the Liberian people to make sure that President Weah does not even get a second term”.
“This is why it is important that we have a NEC that is independent and have the necessary resources to conduct free, fair and transparent elections. If that happens, I do not believe the Liberian people will re-elect President Weah”.
Mr. Cummings noted that ample time must be given Liberians to decisively decide on the various propositions during the referendum.
Mr. Cummings termed as “unacceptable” the high level of fear that has engulfed the Liberian society following the deaths of four Liberian auditors who died under mysterious circumstances in the country.
It can be recalled that on Thursday, October 2, 2020, the lifeless bodies of the Assistant Commissioner for Internal Audit and acting Manager for Tax Payers of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) were found in a vehicle on Broad Street in Monrovia during the early morning hours.
Two days later, another auditor from the LRA, Mr. George Fahnboto, reportedly died in a vehicle accident around 72nd Paynesville, outside Monrovia.
On Saturday, October 10, the Director of the Internal Audit Agency (IAA), Emmanuel Barten Nyeswa was also found dead in his compound along the 72nd Boulevard, outside Monrovia at 2AM.
The CPP Chairman added that government has failed to provide explanation on what really happened to “these young professionals” who were reportedly working on an audit report on donors’ funds given the country for the combat against the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Nobody will argue that there are not natural deaths in or out of government. This is why the government should investigate and should tell us what the causes of these people deaths are. Their deaths were suspicious. It’s very suspicious that it happened to people working for government agencies. The investigation should work to determine whether these suspicions are correct or incorrect”.
He noted that it remains the responsibility of government to allay the fears and make sure that Liberians go about their businesses normally in the midst of numerous economic constraints and challenges.
“There is now fear in our country. People fear for their lives; CPP partisans and the Liberian people are angry about this. When I try to schedule meetings for people, who live in the Brewerville, area and other parts of central Monrovia at 4 to 5PM, people are declining because they want to get on the road to be home soon. This is not acceptable in 2020. No investigation has taken placed. The families and the Liberian people are owed explanation on what happened to their husbands, loved ones, and friends”.
Mr. Cummings further expressed dismay over the alleged failure of government to launch an investigation into attack against him and Representative Yekeh Kolubah during a brief stop in the county from the South-East.
On Thursday, July 30, the Chairman of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), Alexander Benedict Cummings, and Montserrado County Representative Yekeh Kolubah were attacked by aggrieved citizens of Grand Gedeh while they and several others were lodging at a local guest house in Zwedru, the capital city.
The protesters attributed their action to the consistent use of profanities against President George Manneh Weah by the Montserrado County lawmaker.
Two days later, the Government of Liberia condemned the act, summoned the county’s Superintendent, Kai Farley, to return to Monrovia to assist an inquiry into the matter.
In a communication dated August 4 and addressed to the CPP Chairman under the signature of Cllr. Nyenati Tuah, Deputy Justice Minister for Codification, the Ministry of Justice admitted that the violent protest which occurred in Grand Gedeh poses a threat to Liberia’s peace and security.
“We present our compliments and have the honor to inform you that the Joint Security Board of Inquiry has constituted an investigatory board relative to the incident that occurred on the 30th of July A.D. 2020 in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County between your delegation on one side and a group of citizens from Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County”.
“Given the Voltaire nature of this matter as well as a threat it poses to the security and maintenance of the peace, we herewith invite you along with your legal counsel for a meeting aimed at working out modalities for the conduct of a full-scale investigation on the 11th day of August A. D. 2020 at the precise hour of 1:00pm”.
But Mr. Cummings since he snubbed the invitation to attend a meeting to “work out modalities”, no investigation has been launched by the government.
“As far as I know nothing has happened since the incident. No investigation has taken place. As a citizen of Liberia, I don’t need a passport to go to any part of this country. Shame on this government and the Superintendent (Kai Farley), who instigated those acts of violence”.
He added that it remains the responsibility of government to sustain the peace and stability of the country, and not to reward instigators of violence in the Liberian society.
He further called on members and partisans of the CPP to remain calm and peaceful in the midst of the legal proceedings.
“We will be peaceful in exercising our franchise. But let me say, we will defend ourselves if we are attacked. We want a violent free election. We will exercise our franchise in a non-violent way but its up to the government to ensure that the elections are free, fair and transparent. If these elections are free, fair and transparent, we will win”.
Mr. Cummings further frowned at what he called “over stating” of reports in the media of a split within the CPP.
He noted that though misunderstanding or the expression of differing views would erupt among leaders and partisans of the four political parties that make up the CPP, those acts should not in any way be misconstrued that the CPP is heading to a split.
“We’ve been busy focusing on our candidates and the elections. We have about 15 candidates now running from the CPP. We are also focused on the cleaning of the voters roll and that’s why we went to court”.