Monday, August 29, 2011

President Sirleaf & Others, What Happens to Their Candidacies after the 2011 Referendum?


Abraham G. Massaley
Resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
& Former President, Press Union of Liberia (PUL)

It appears that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's aspiration for a second term and the 2011 presidential ambitions of Messrs Winston Tubman, Charles Brumskine, Dew Mayson, Senator Prince Johnson, Ms Gladys G. Y. Beyan, Messrs Gbleyah Kennedy Sandy and Hananiah Zoe are seemingly running paradoxical to the aspirations of the Liberian people, considering the provisional result of the August 23, 2011 referendum. All of these make up the list of provisional candidates recently published by the Elections Commission of Liberia.
3840 of  the 4457 Polling Places nation-wide have reported and the result is not good for those who are constitutionally ineligible (ten year clause) to run for president of Liberia in 2011. Bomi, Bong, Cape Mount, Grand Kru, Rivercess, Sinoe, River Gee, and Gbarpolu have all reported 100%. 317 of the 336 polling stations in Bassa have reported. In Nimba, 500 of the 566 polling stations have reported. In Lofa, 373 of the 378 have reported. Grand Gedeh and Maryland still have one polling station each to report. Monsterrado and Margibi counties are the two remaining counties that still have significant polling places to report.
So far,
Liberia has a total of 4457 polling stations. Of this number, returns from 617 polling places mainly in Monsterrado and Margibi counties have not been published by the Elections Commission. But judging from the trend in the referendum results so far, it appears that it is now an uphill battle for those hoping on Preposition 1 passage to run president in 2011.
In Monsterrrado County, 975 of 1477 polling places have reported. According to the result from Monsterrado County so far, nearly 50% voted in favor of Preposition 1 and 50% voted against. The published result so far from Monsterrado County is  59,617 voted YES and 57,543 NO. In Margibi County, 282 of 305 Polling Places have reported. The published result so far from Margibi County is 14,712 YES and 11,949 NO. It certainly does not look good in Monsterrado and Margibi for the passage of Preposition 1, which is seeking to reduce the residency requirement to 5 years for presidential candidates.
Some of us have questioned the judgment of holding referendum barely two months to presidential and general elections and using the referendum result as a basis for conducting the general election. We are on record for opposing the referendum and the Threshold Bill. Of course, it seems meaningless in Liberia to hold a contrary view if you are just an ordinary citizen or group of citizens. Our voices outside government have not been counted.
Even the Supreme Court which should serve as a buffer between the people and the government seems not to care about what ordinary Liberians think. A case in point, last year, I led a group of Liberians to file a petition for a Writ of Prohibition against the Threshold Bill. We spent more than $US6, 000.00 just to do the filing and other preliminary work. So many attorneys that we contacted did not want to be seen as going against the wishes of the Liberian government on a political issue like the Threshold Bill. The Supreme Court did not even decide whether or not to take our case until the Threshold Bill was implemented. Just recently, the Movement for Progressive Change (opposition party) of Simeon Freeman sued to block the holding of the August 23, 2011 Referendum. The Supreme Court went silent on this case and the referendum was held, notwithstanding.
Nearly 70% of the 1.7 million registered voters in Liberia stayed away from the August 23, 2011 referendum. A big defeat for the Liberian government including the National Legislature that was bent on holding a referendum barely two months to general elections. The Liberian people by a margin of 70% have expressed their dislike about how the National Legislature and the Executive Branch forced the referendum down their throat. I hope they will begin to listen to us, the people of Liberia. The fact that the overwhelming majority that even voted, almost unanimously rejected Preposition 2, to increase the age limit of Supreme Court judges sends a crystal clear message of disapproval of the performances of our Supreme Court judges. I hope they too take notice. As Liberians, we don’t have to be in government to be listened to. 
The alarming number of invalid votes in the August 23, 2011 referendum clearly attests to how poorly the referendum itself was organized. Of the nearly 500,000 votes that have been counted so far, 64,252 votes were declared invalid by the Elections Commission. This is a staggering number of invalid votes and it only points to how unprepared the nation and the Elections Commission were before going to the referendum. I need not mention the careless printing blunder on the ballot itself. In countries that hold people to accountability, someone at the Elections Commission should have been penalized for that printing blunder. But instead, this serious blunder was declared inconsequential. That was the end of discussion. 
What is the essence of wasting millions of desperately needed funds to conduct a controversial referendum? Our people have spoken and they have sent a clear message to the National Legislature, the Executive and the Supreme Court that the Liberian people did not like the way they sought to hastily change provisions of our constitution. The Liberian Constitution is the organic law of the land and the process to change any provision must be carefully done, properly organized and systematically executed. A purported joint resolution without a vote in the senate and the house is not a way we should treat our country and our constitution. We had six years to change some provisions of our constitution if we were really serious about meaningful effort.
Personally, I seriously differ with the assertion by the Chairman of the Elections Commission that a 2/3 majority of the 1.7 million registered voters did not need to say yes to changing any provision of the constitution. But that’s how I understand the language to be, in the Liberian Constitution. Two-thirds of state legislatures must approve any amendment to the United States Constitution. Amending any provision of a country’s National constitution should not be an E-Z process. Besides, Prepositions usually require certain percentage of registered voters in order to pass. That’s why in other countries, people campaign for vote boycott so that the threshold cannot be met. 
Granted the NEC Chairman’s assertion, it is now completely difficult to amend at least two of the four provisions including Preposition 1 that were submitted to voters on August 23, 2011. Even going with the Chairman’s assertion, it is becoming harder, from the votes already in, to get a two-third majority to reduce the residency requirement to 5 years. Out of the 3840 of  the 4457 Polling Places nation-wide that have reported, nearly half of the voters have rejected Preposition 1 which requires a 2/3 majority for passage.
As it appears, the people of Liberia have debunked the effort to hastily change some major provisions of our constitution including the most important, 10 year presidential clause which in my view was the driving force behind this  hurry-hurry, so that those who have not stayed in Liberia for 10 years can be eligible to contest in 2011. What happens now to their candidacies in 2011 is in serious doubt as the Liberian people are on the verge of rejecting at least Preposition 1. But who knows what will be the next step in the quest for the Executive Mansion for 6 years, since the constitutional route now appears more unlikely.

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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