Witnesses testifying on behalf of the National Elections Commission or NEC Saturday debunked claims of fraud and irregularities made by the ruling Unity Party or UP and Liberty Party or LP at the ongoing hearing of the October 10, 2017 electoral disputes.
Both parties are challenging the results of the 10 October poll citing wide spread fraud and irregularities. The LP in particular is calling for a re-run of the entire poll. Its leader Cllr. Charles Brumskine came 3rd in the poll with 9.8%, while the UP with over 28 percent had been scheduled for a runoff with former soccer star turned politician George Weah but has joined itself to the LP suit.
Thus the Supreme Court here has placed a preemptory prohibition on the runoff till disputes before the commission are deposed of. However, at the marathon hearing which begun Saturday morning and ran up to the night hours saw NEC Executive Director Lima Lighe and two other staffs of NEC testifying to documents which were purported to dispute claims by the LP and UP.
Mr. Lima, who was later cross-examined by UP and LP lawyers headed by Cllr. Varney Sharman and Cllr. Charles Brumskine respectively, was led into evidence by his lawyers, Cllr. Musa Dean of Dean and Associate and Cllr. Zoe of Zoe and Associates.
The NEC Executive Director had provided clarity on the Final Registration Roll or FRR and said the issue of addendum was inherited by the current board of commissioners, arguing that previous commission both the 2005 commission headed by Cllr Frances Johnson Alison and 2011 commission headed by James Fromayan used addendums for voters whose names appear in the NEC data base but were not on the precinct listing. He provided manual covering the three periods to substantiate his claims.
His testimony came days after both Cllr. Mrs. Allison and Mr. Fromayan testified on behalf of the ruling Unity Party to support the party’s claim of fraud and irregularities.
“The addendum to the FRR is not the making of this current board,” Lighe told the hearing officer, Cllr. Muana Ville. “Also I will like to clarify that the commission statement regarding those with valid voters’ ID card not being found on the provisional roll, at that point in time we were speaking to voters who had raised concern that they could not find themselves on the provisional roll. The essence of exhibiting the provisional roll is for verification, addition, subtraction and modification of voters’ details prior to the compilation of the final voters’ roll,” he said.
“When chairman Kokoyah spoke, (regarding those whose names were not on the provisional voters’ roll) he was calming the fears of those who had not seen their names on the provisional voters’ registration roll. And he assured them that by the close of the voters’ roll exhibition process when the final roll is being prepared, those voters who had legitimate voters ID cards issued by the National Elections Commission names will be on that roll,” he clarified before being led into testimony by his lawyers.
During his testimony which lasted for over 8 hours, Lighe identified ballot papers purported to be papers claimed by the UP and LP as the actual ballot papers to be “the know your candidates” ballot papers that were given to political parties and civil society groups to provide voters’ education.
The LP and UP had claimed that presidential and legislative ballot papers were found in a toilet in Grand Gedeh County. He also clarified the issue about CDC receiving over 1000 vote in a center that has 500 voters saying that was not the case but rather it was some correction made after a mistake by the presiding office to write 110, as 109, and that was corrected. And all party agents at the center signed to the document. He later tendered in the disputed worksheet, tally sheet as evidence.
Mr. Lighe also debunked testimony by two UP witnesses both Wilmot Paye and Josiah Jockar, both of whom claimed to have voted despite their names not being on the voters’ registration listing for the centers at which they voted. They claimed to have used an addendum. But Lighe turned over to the hearing officer voters’ roll from the two centers bearing the names of both Josiah and Wilmot with their pictures, explaining that even though their polling officers could not identified their names at the time of voting but their names are in the data based like every other voter who had similar issues.
His testimony was interrupted by several objections from Cllr. Varney Sherman most of which were over ruled not surprisingly to Cllr. Sherman himself. His testimony before Cllr Brumskine almost became confrontational as Cllr. Brumskine appeared to have pushed the witness further.
Lighe also provided clarity on the issue of the ballot papers not having serial numbers: “The ballot paper before it is issued on elections’ day. When the ballot paper is being issue to voters, to protect the secrecy of the voters’ choice as enshrined in the constitution, the detachable part of the ballot paper is removed from the ballot stalk and given to the voter, in this way there is no way the presiding officer can determine the choice of the voter.” He said the serial numbers are then left on the ballot stalk.
There were dramas, at most time as what is seen in court rooms with a little bit of intimidation from lawyers to put the witness off guard or to test the witness IQ. These displays were followed by cheers and laughter from the audience. Mr. Lighe’s testimony was followed by two other NEC officials. Hearing is expected to continue today.
By Othello B. Garblah
The Supreme Court here has denied ruling Unity Party (UP's) bill of information filed before it against the National Elections Commission (NEC), requesting the high court to set a specific date on which the Commission could decide a matter before it and to also hold the Commission in contempt.
But the Supreme Court ruled on Friday, 17 November, that it took judicial notice that the NEC's Board of Commissioners had made a ruling on UP's appeal, thus rendering the bill of information moot.
The UP filed a bill of information before the Supreme Court last week, contending that the NEC's Board of Appeal had not decided on an appeal it filed in ten days in an electoral matter that the Commission is investigating under a 30 - day period.
The UP was demanding some instruments that the party says are crucial to proceeding with an alleged elections fraud and irregularities case, but had been denied by the NEC Hearing Officer.
Out of seven instruments requested by the UP, the Hearing Officer had granted two and denied five, thus prompting an appeal before the NEC's board of appeal that was not decided up to the time the party filed a bill of information with the Supreme Court. But the NEC's board of appeal made a ruling the same day the Supreme Court was due to hear the bill of information on Thursday, 16 November.
Reading the Court's ruling, Associate Justice Jamesetta Howard - Wolokolie indicated that the UP requested among other things that the Supreme Court sets a specific time in which the Commission makes a determination of the matter, and to hold the NEC in contempt.
But Justice Wolokolie notes that the Supreme Court is unable to grant any of the requests made by the UP, noting that the Constitution gives the NEC 30 days to investigate a matter.
She notes that for the Court to set a specific date for the Commission to hear a case would contravene the Constitution and exercise power not conferred upon the high court.
The UP is backing an alleged elections fraud and irregularities case filed before the NEC by defeated opposition Liberty Party (LP) presidential candidate Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine and his party in challenge to the outcome of the 10 October presidential and representatives’ elections.
The UP and opposition Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) are due to contest a presidential runoff after topping 18 presidential candidates in the first round of the polls. But the runoff has been stalled by the case at the NEC, with demands from the complainants for a rerun of the entire polls over claims of gross irregularities.
Both UP and LP are said to have rested their cases at NEC, and the NEC is expected to begin production of evidence on Monday, 20 November before the Hearing Officer.
By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah
Liberia’s Defense Minister Brownie Samukai angrily reacts to rumor here that he secretly held meeting with Dr. Allan White, An American, who was at the center- stage of gathering pieces of evidence against Jailed, former Liberian president Charles Taylor.
Rumors circulating in the country say during Dr. White’s recent visit to Liberia, several government officials believed to be supporting the presidential bid of Vice President Joseph Boakia held closed door meetings with him at an undisclosed venue. Though the purpose of the meeting remains unclear, it is believed to centering on critical political issues in Liberia.
But in his reaction, Minister Samukai says never was he a party to any meeting or held private discussions with Dr. White, challenging those spreading such rumors to make available pictures or recordings of said engagements. Though he confirms being aware of the visit of Dr. Allan White to Liberia, the defense boss maintains he is innocent any meetings with him.
Speaking to the media over the weekend via mobile phone, Minister Samukai asserts that such rumors have the propensity to create unnecessary suspicion and subsequently cause division in government. “I serve as Defense Minister of Liberia, why will I want to have a private meeting with a private citizen of the United State?” He asks.
According to him, said rumors are being spread by people in the intelligence circle of the state, but declines calling name. Samukai, who is one of the longest serving members of the cabinet of the governing Unity Party-led administration, notes that news about him meeting with Dr. White is meant to sour his relationship with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
“It is easy to see that because of my loyalty to President Sirleaf, one would decide to lie to the President by mentioning said rumor”, he avers.
The defense minister says there is no reason someone will engage in spreading lies about him because of the side he has chosen to support in these political processes.
Minister Samukai has publicly declared his support for the candidacy of Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai of the ruling Unity Party to succeed President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
-Editing by Jonathan Browne