The Press Union of Liberia has been treading troubled waters lately, escalated by the conduct of elections in wake of a court injunction.
At the 5th Congress of the Union, Daniel Nyakonah was elected as President; Bettie Johnson-Mbayo, Vice President; Akoi M. Baysay, Secretary General; and Julius M. Konton, Assistant Secretary for the Union.
The PUL was founded in Monrovia on September 30, 1964, to defend press freedom and free speech. Prior to the holding of the controversial elections in Gbarnga Saturday, the presidential campaign team of another contender, Julius Kullie Kanubah, had demanded a clean-up of the Union’s membership listing.
The team had raised concerns about the qualifications of some members on the membership listing and requested a review; and because Kanubah was convinced that the listing remained inadequate, he called for a boycott of the proceedings in Gbarnga until his team’s demands were met.
In spite of Kanubah’s demands, the PUL congress committee and the sub-committee on elections insisted to proceed with the congress and subsequent elections. Meanwhile, Kanubah's team prayed to the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court for a writ of injunction which was served on the current leadership of the PUL.
Journalists who attended the congress said Daniel Nyakonah’s team had tried to overturn the injunction by filing an alternative writ in a magisterial court, which it allegedly used to conduct the elections.
Announcing the controversial elections result on November 20, in Gbarnga, the chairperson of the congress sub-committee on elections and inauguration, Ade Wede Kerkulah, said the total number of votes obtained for the president was 350 and, of that number, Daniel Nyakonah received 333 votes. Julius Kullie Kanubah, who boycotted the elections, obtained 15 votes, with only 2 invalid votes.
Lawyers representing the Kanubah’s Team said the congress and elections in Gbarbga were “kangaroo processes” and vowed to take advantage of the law for redress.
They said the Press Union believed in the rule of law and therefore will not legitimize any process marred by fraud and illegality. The Press Union has a total membership of over 1,400. With the boycott of the Kanubah team, less than 25 percent of its members participated in the controversial congress and elections.
According to those in attendance at the congress, balloting for the elections started after 7 pm on November 20, and ended by 2 am Sunday morning.