‘Shocking & Unfortunate’: Female Contestant for PUL Leadership Slams Rejection by Election Committee

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DECISION UNDER SCRUTINY: The Elections Committee of the Press Union of Liberia, in approving the candidacy of incumbent Charles B. Coffey and his controversial vice president, Octavin Williams, said it was rejecting contestant Facia Harris because of her current role as Director of Outreach and Sensitization at the Independent Information Commission which is a public relations function. Harris says the decision raises eyebrows.

Monrovia – Facia Harris’s quest to become only the second woman to lead the Press Union of Liberia has been dealt a major blow after the PUL’s elections committee declared her ineligible to contest the upcoming presidential elections.

The last time a woman headed the PUL was in November 2004, when the 40-year spell was broken with the election of Elizabeth Hoff.
The commission, in a statement said after a review and scrutiny of all the aspirants who applied to contest, only nine aspirants were approved.

EC Member Dissented Decision

“I threw my hat into the ring for the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) Presidency after serious thoughts and consultation with some professional colleagues, many who are gauging their opinions on what they aspire for the Head of our Noble Institution. Many were of the opinion that they need a new breed of leaders with integrity, results-oriented, etc. They believed I possess those characteristics; hence I answered to that call.

Facia Harris

For the position of President, the EC approved the incumbent Charles B. Coffey and his controversial vice president, Octavin Williams; for the position of Vice President, the EC approved its current Secretary General Danial Nyankonah and Weemon J. Cole-Boyce; for the position of Secretary General, the commission approved E.J. Nathaniel Daygbor and Musa M.B Kenneh while for the position of Assistant Secretary General, Akoi M. Baysah, Jr., Jutonu Y. Kollie and Moses K. Garzeawu were approved.
Explaining its decision for rejecting Harris’s application, the commission said it was unsuccessful based on her current role as Director of Outreach and Sensitization at the Independent Information Commission which is a public relations function.

“The EC’s decision to disqualify aspirant Harris is based on Article 4 Section(iv) of the PUL’s Constitution adopted October 10, 2009 which states: ‘Public Relations Officers/Managers who were full members of the union, they shall vote, but shall not be voted.”

The commission’s secretary Tetee C. Kanneh dissented the decision to disqualify Ms. Harris.

Official campaigning has been declared open on Monday, October 28 and ends Thursday, November 7, 2019.

‘Unfortunate’ Process

“The EC’s decision to disqualify aspirant Harris is based on Article 4 Section(iv) of the PUL’s Constitution adopted October 10, 2009 which states: ‘Public Relations Officers/Managers who were full members of the union, they shall vote, but shall not be voted.”

For Harris, the entire process surrounding her rejection was unfortunate. “I have read the statement by the EC issued on October 25, 2019, a day after my interview, rendering my application and candidature “unsuccessful”. The decision is shocking and unfortunate,” Harris said Saturday.
Harris says not only has the decision by the EC raises several vexing questions bordering on her constitutional and democratic rights as a legitimate and good-standing member of the PUL – who can vote and be voted upon, the EC decision also brings into serious question the legitimate interpretation of the constitution of the PUL as well as the nationally constitutionally-grounded Legislative Act Establishing the Independent Information Commission (IIC).

In fact, Harris says the Independent Information Commission, as an independent public interest institution, is a brainchild of the PUL.
She explains: “Consequently, the relationship between the IIC and the PUL is most closest inseparable, not least the goals of the PUL and IIC to ensure unhindered rights of access and promotion of freedom of information and expression – both by the public and the media – all aimed at engendering democratic governance, transparency and accountability in the public interest.”

Harris says the IIC fully works for media development as the PUL.
Now she’s wondering how and why these very goals advanced by the PUL, independent civil society organizations, international media and freedom of information and expressions institutions do conflict with the very work of the PUL.

She said the issue needs to be further understood based on facts than the precipitous opinion of four members of the five-member committee of the EC of the PUL.

Harris says while it is a fact that she works for the Independent Information Commission as Director of Outreach and Sensitization – a closest comparable role routinely performed by the President and leadership of the PUL as well as the media community, the IIC is not an ordinarily institution and the position of Director of Outreach and Sensitization cannot be reduced by the strike of an ink to a PRO, as done by the EC.

‘Gross Mischaracterization’

She said the issue raised by the EC is a gross mis-characterization of the egregious nature and serious misunderstanding on the part of the EC. “These calls for the domains of interpretation above the EC, which by itself cannot be the law and gospel of a delicate constitutional matter as such.”
In consideration of these and the very dangerous decision by the EC, as a law abiding person and in the interest of ensuring that your faith and hopes are not dashed, Harris says she is exploring all relevant available institutional avenues, at this stage, to have her rights fully, impartially, and unbiasedly respected as embedded in the PUL constitution and all relevant legal instruments. “However, the avenues are not limited to the institutional channels of the PUL but relevant mechanisms of social justice of Liberia. The aim is to ensure that the elections are clean and that rights are not only respected but upheld.”

Ms. Harris said her decision to contest the PUL leadership position was in keeping with her desire to restore credibility to the union. “I threw my hat into the ring for the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) Presidency after serious thoughts and consultation with some professional colleagues, many who are gauging their opinions on what they aspire for the Head of our Noble Institution. Many were of the opinion that they need a new breed of leaders with integrity, results-oriented, etc. They believed I possess those characteristics; hence I answered to that call. A call that was clear, ‘Come let us re-image and re-brand the PUL’ and advance a progressive agenda for a genuine institutional reform, credible and independent professionals.”

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