OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE M. WEAH
RE: DISMISSAL OF NEC CHAIRPERSON
I present compliments to you trusting that all is well with you as Liberia experiences the most difficult time in her 175-year existence as an independent country. Liberians are nevertheless not in a state of despair, the difficult times notwithstanding.
By James M. Fromayan
Your Excellency, Liberia, like other emerging democratic states world-wide, places its hope in the electoral process under the doctrine of universal suffrage ( one person one vote ) as a means of retaining or removing elected public office holders. This is what makes an election so important in any democratic nation. The outcome of a democratic election is appreciated especially at home if the playing field is level with the process being Free, Fair, and Transparent. The recent Brazilian Presidential election with opposition leader, Lula De Silva victory over incumbent Bolsonaro is a case in point.
Mr. President, expectations of Liberians both at home and in the diaspora for the 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections are very high, and rightly so. Wherever one goes in Liberia, be it on Broad Street, Old Road, Voinjama, Barclayville, in a taxi cab or bus, the catch phrase is always the 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections. Our Electoral Management Body ( the National Elections Commission ) has to manifestly measure up to the challenges associated with the conduct of such crucial elections. This seems not to be the case with the current Board of Commissioners at NEC.
Your Excellency, the purpose of this letter is to recommend the dismissal without delay of Madam Davidetta Browne Lansanah, Chairperson of the National Elections Commission for the loss of public trust in her stewardship. I am aware of the fact that she holds a tenured position. But a tenured office holder can be dismissed for a cause. In this case, there are justifiable causes for the dismissal of the NEC Chairperson. Three of such causes are outstanding:
- The NEC failure to proclaim results of the 2020 National Referendum involving eight propositions. Credible institutions such as the Interfaith Council inter alia advised NEC against the holding of said Referendum, knowing that the Commission was ill-prepared in simultaneously holding the Referendum alongside the Special Senatorial Election;
- The twenty (20) Thermometers scheme. The NEC Chair ripped the GOL of more than 182K (USD) of an overly inflated cost per thermometer on a rental basis. There was no need for twenty thermometers in those elections that involved more than 300 polling places spread in four counties: Bong, Bomi, Nimba and Grand Gedeh. The thermometer scheme was kept outside of the NEC procurement plan that was submitted to the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC). The PPCC would have raised the red flag on such an illegal deal. That astronomical amount was given to an IT firm owned and operated by the NEC Chairlady’s biological brother according to a Daily Observer report substantiated by the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission (LACC) in a detailed and comprehensive investigation conducted by that institution.
- The third reason why I believe that the NEC Chairlady needs to leave such an integrity institution is the fact that she was hell bent on imposing a Biometric Voter Registration vendor, EKEMP on the country. The NEC Chair failed miserably to circumvent the rule of the PPCC. The PPCC check point saved the day as EKEMP was roundly exposed as a vendor that was the least qualified for consideration.
Mr. President, you are fully aware that people who hold elective or appointed public offices ought to be servants, not lords of the people. Public office is not meant for profiteering or stealing. It is even disgusting and shameful when a member of an integrity institution, especially its head engages in such egregious criminal act. Keeping her on the job would be interpreted by many as a quid pro quo. That means you won’t dismiss her and she in turn will work to ensure your “ re-election” in 2023 through fraudulent means.
In closing, Mr. President, I wish to endorse without reservation the recommendations contained in the Press Statement issued by Senator Nyonblee Lawrence faction of the Liberty Party about three weeks ago. They include:
- The dismissal of Davidetta Browne Lansanah as Chairperson of NEC;
- GOL request for a five-member Counterpart Commissioners drawn from ECOWAS, the UN, and the AU to join the Board of Commissioners to ensure efficiency, competence and more importantly, the protection of the collective interest of Liberians in the face of a heavily pro CDC Board of Commissioners unprecedented in Liberia ;
- The acceptance of an International IT Expert to work in concert with the NEC Data Center staff to guarantee smooth voter registration and safeguard the data processing of the 2023 elections results; and,
- A request to ECOWAS to send an urgent Team of Electoral Experts to assess NEC state of readiness for the 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections.
It is now abundantly clear that Biometric Voter Enrollment is not feasible at the moment. The delay in trying Biometric for the 2023 elections is due to the insistence of the NEC Chair on super imposing EKEMP on the country. Liberia has to revert to the Optical Marked Recognition (OMR) for the 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections in order to ensure peaceful, transparent and credible electoral process.
Your Excellency, Liberia is painfully living with a 2022 Census fiasco due to incompetence, and poor management on the part of some LISGIS managers. The NEC cannot afford to go that route. We have to avoid cutting corners and work towards credible elections in 2023.
Mr. President, in order to show a good faith commitment to a credible, transparent, and fair 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections, accepting the above recommendations will restore the confidence of the Liberian people in the electoral process.
James M. Fromayan
National Elections Commission