Despite his insistence that he is ‘a Liberian’, a U.S. state of New Jersey elections website revealed that a Jerome George Korkoya registered to vote on January 28, 2008, in Willingboro Township, Willington, and voted in the American elections.
The Jerome George Korkoya who voted in the American elections is believed to be the same Jerome George Korkoya, who now heads the National Elections Commission, (NEC), a position which, according to the Liberian Constitution, he is ineligible to hold.
The Daily Observer has gathered that while a few American municipalities, including Boston, Massachusetts allow non-citizens to register to vote in local elections, New Jersey is not one of them; the state requires that only American citizens can register to vote there. Since the allegation surfaced that the NEC chairman holds a U.S. passport, he has not explicitly denied holding American citizenship.
A press release published last week by the NEC, and not from Cllr. Korkoya, failed to address the issue of whether or not he is an American citizen, but merely affirmed his Liberianness.
The release also claimed that the reports about his alleged dual citizenship are smear campaigns, false and misleading and are attempts to distract the Commission from carrying out its constitutional mandate of conducting free, fair and transparent elections.
Cllr. Korkoya’s sidestepping the question of whether he is an American citizen or not has increased speculations that he may indeed be an American citizen; and the issue is not going away, until he addresses it satisfactorily. There are fears that with the increasing political tussle in the wake of the Code of Conduct, some politicians may see the Korkoya issue as a case to take up at the Supreme Court, after the October elections.
Additionally, while Korkoya could have renounced his American citizenship during the time period after he had registered to vote in New Jersey, his name was never published in the federal register of individuals who had lost their U.S. citizenship, according to information reaching the Daily Observer.
Although it is being reviewed as one of the propositions for a referendum, the current Liberian law does not allow dual citizenship. Chapter 22 of the Liberia Alien and Nationality Act provides that a person loses his or her citizenship upon naturalization in a foreign country.
The New Elections Law also provides that NEC Commissioners must be Liberian citizens, at least 35 years of age, and of good moral character.
When contacted, NEC’s director of communications, Joseph Nyesuah, said he could not comment on the issue, “because it is a personal matter.”
Meanwhile, Sam P. Jackson, the former economic adviser during the Charles Taylor administration, has said that until Cllr. Korkoya can exonerate himself from the allegation, he cannot be trusted with the October elections.
Speaking via phone from the United States, Jackson told the ELBC Bumper Show that the allegation about the NEC chairman’s US passport should not be overlooked because his loyalty is involved.
According to Jackson, Korkoya succeeded in persuading the President and the lawmakers to get him the NEC position and that, since Cllr. Korkoya is tightlipped on whether or not he holds a US passport, “under Liberian Law, Korkoya has committed perjury.”
“Cllr. Korkoya, who has vowed to uphold the Supreme Court’s decision on the controversial Code of Conduct, must himself come with clean hands,” Jackson said.
However, Simeon Freeman, political leader of the Movement for Progressive Change, said there is no need to create a problem with the Korkoya issue in relation to the upcoming elections.
“These elections are critical and the time is too short for us to demand the resignation of the chairman of the NEC,” Mr. Freeman said.
He added: “Whoever has valid evidence indicating that the NEC chairman holds a US passport should take the matter to court and stop causing trouble for the country’s democracy.”
On yesterday’s Bumper Show, Cllr. Korkoya phoned in to challenge anyone who has valid evidence that he holds a US passport to take him to court. “One thing the detractors need to understand is that social media is not the court or any legal instrument to declare me guilty of any wrong doing. I am a Liberian citizen and that is all I have to say,” he declared.
“We are focused at the NEC on doing all the right things to conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections. No amount of pressure outside of the legal framework will deter me from doing my job.”
In a related development, a civil society group, Concerned Eligible Voters for Transparency and Accountability, (CEVTA) has said that it will mount pressure on Cllr. Korkoya to get him out of office.
The group’s chairman, Jefferson K. D. Buwah, said in a release that CEVTA will petition the Legislature to render a vote of no confidence in Cllr. Korkoya and will stage a peaceful sit-in action at the NEC to demand Korkoya’s unconditional resignation.