Two executives of the National Elections Commission (NEC) over the weekend trashed allegations of fraud and irregularities against the commission in their respective testimonies, saying that the collaborating claims the Unity Party (UP) and Liberty Party (LP) made show their lack of appreciation for the endeavors the NEC made to conduct free, fair and transparent elections amid national challenges.
Giving testimony on behalf of the Commission, A. Lamin Lighe said what UP presented into evidence recently as another final registration roll (FRR) is fake and unfounded. “What I can say is that there is only one FRR, and it is the one from the NEC. Any other item depicting conflicting figures rather than the figures reported by this Commission is a made up item and we will not succumb to it, regardless of whomsoever is the producer of said instrument,” he said.
Lighe’s response came following cross witness examination by LP standard bearer Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine on whether he had any knowledge of the alleged discrepancy discovered between the first flash drive containing the FRR submitted to all participating political parties and another flash drive subpoenaed by the UP that also contained the same FRR.
It may be recalled that the co-chairman of the National Movement in Support of Boakai’s presidency (NAMBO), Jeff Bleebo, on Wednesday, November 15 testified, as an electronic and data collection and analysis expert, that the NEC subpoenaed flash drive contained more numbers of registered voters than the one given to political parties before the October 10 representative and presidential elections.
Bleebo, in his expert testimony, noted that over 35,000 names not found on the first flash drive received from the NEC were found on the recent flash drive presented by the Commission in an attempt to nullify the political parties’ allegations of fraud.
Lighe, however, said what UP brought forward into evidence as a huge discrepancy is a mere attempt to bring the Commission’s name into public disrepute and nullify its efforts in the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections.
“The names of many of the voters which were said to not have been found on the FRR were later discovered and can be traced. The challenge of not finding the names of those voters came due to the overwhelming challenges that engulfed some of our polling staff,” he said.
He recalled the late arrival of polling staff at their places of assignment on election day and the voters in the wrong queue as two of the challenges that led to the names of voters not being found on the FRR at polling places.
Reacting to UP lead lawyer Cllr. H. Varney G. Sherman’s accusation that he (Lighe) masterminded the fraud at the polls, he noted that it is unfortunate that Sherman spoke out of sentiment rather than established facts.
“I disagree with you, counsel, that I had anything doing with our electoral process which in any way could bring this Commission to public disrepute. There are no records of me cheating anyone at any given polls since I came to this Commission. I was part of the very 2005 elections in which you conceded after failing to win the admiration of the Liberian people so you could even get a chance to go for the runoff. I was also part of the team that conducted the 2011 elections to which your party, the Liberia Action Party, collaborated with the Unity Party, which became victorious. I know that I did not cheat you then. I also know that I did not cheat you in 2014 when you participated in the Senatorial election and won,” he said.
Dispelling claims that the October 10 elections are the first elections ever contested legally in the country, he said it is false as there were legal proceedings in other elections before.
“In 2014, Foday Kromah of Grand Cape Mount County and Dr. Henrique Tokpa of Bong County challenged the senatorial election’s results at the Supreme Court after hearings were conducted at the NEC. Others also took place far back that I cannot recall now. Therefore, let no one boast today that they are setting precedence,” he noted.
About the alleged discovered ballots in Grand Gedeh, Lighe said the Commission did not disagree with the claim until said ballots were transported via an UNMIL flight and thoroughly investigated.
“Our boss Cllr. Jerome George Korkoya clearly gave the position statement of the Commission on the alleged discovered ballots in Grand Gedeh. Our findings which were accumulated before all stakeholders through an investigation showed that the ballots were not official ballot papers but ‘Know your candidate ballots,’” he said. “The ballots found were only used for civic voter education purpose rather than being official voting ballots.”
The chief hearing officer of NEC, Cllr. Muana S. Ville, denied Brumskine’s query on why people voted in open containers in Grand Bassa County. He, meanwhile, allowed Lighe to respond to the question of why 4.1 million voter registration forms were procured by the Commission when it reported that only 2.1 million people registered to vote.
In response, Lighe said the NEC was not in error. He noted that it is a universal practice for all national elections commissions to procure more materials during elections so as to curtail the “embarrassment of missing out anything.” He said it is unfair that LP, UP and others are ignoring the educational deficit the country is currently experiencing.
“When we called on educated professional people to show up and help in the running of our elections at the polls, we got very few. Most of those that showed up and got training were not people of high education or professional backgrounds. And as you are aware, foreigners are not allowed to conduct our elections. Therefore we accepted the available who committed themselves to work for their country,” he clarified.
Brumskine, although denied again by the hearing office, subpoenaed all presiding officers’ worksheets as well as all the used and unused October 10 ballots.
NEC director of political affairs, Joseph Yarsiah, said UP, LP and their partners are not being fair to the country.
“Nothing about these elections have we done without the involvement of all major stakeholders, mainly the political parties qualified by this Commission to participate in our electoral processes,” Yarsiah said, adding that a meeting was held with all political parties on September 18, 2017 to let them know the measures the Commission had put in place to ensure that no legally registered voter who received a valid voting card is left out on elections day. “They accepted our suggestions and affixed their signatures to the agreement,” he said.
The liaison between the NEC and all the political parties said two other meetings were held with political parties on October 24 and 31 to discuss the challenges experienced on October 10 and find amicable solutions during the proposed November 7 runoff election between the UP and the CDC.
He, meanwhile, demonstrated in videos some of the difficult circumstances under which the NEC conducted the elections.