Following reports of voter registration challenges, including malfunctioning cameras in the process, it is probable that the National Elections Commission (NEC) may extend the deadline beyond March 7.
Addressing journalists at a joint press conference in Monrovia yesterday, the NEC Chairman Cllr. Jerome Korkoyah said if eligible voters willing to register do not complete their VR process before the stipulated March 7 deadline, the NEC may consider extending the time so that eligible voters may go through their VR process.
“Let me make it clear that it will not be a violation if NEC considers extending the VR process time for all eligible voters who may not have gone through registering before the March 7 deadline,’’ Cllr. Korkoyah noted.
Although he did not tell how long the extension period might be after the stipulated deadline, it is believed that the objective of extending the time will center on reaching the targeted 2.5 million voters.
Challenges such as malfunctioned cameras, the hiring of some unqualified staff, as well as intermittent disruptions due to riots at some VR centers, may be responsible for NEC not accomplishing its target before March 7.
In another development, the NEC’s boss has assured Liberians and partners that measures have already been put in place to deter the violation of the country’s new elections laws and protect the VR process from losing its ultimate objective.
“The voter registration process is a start of citizens’ commitment to protecting democracy and it should therefore not be construed as a means to divide us or cause chaos,’’ Cllr. Korkoyah admonished.
Concerning the breakdown of the VR process at some centers, the NEC chair said other than the faulty cameras’ issue, some people who lacked patience to wait for their turn to register are responsible for the shutdown of some centers at some given time and they are asked to desist from doing that as the VR process continues.
‘’You have to listen to the NEC staff on the field and follow the instructions they give you so that the VR goes on peacefully,’’ he advised.
About NEC registrars not knowing how to spell certain names, the NEC boss said it should not be an issue to raise contention.
‘’If you have a valid passport, driver’s license, ID card or better still, bring someone who knows you and can help NEC staff about your residency information, it will be ok rather than attacking personalities,’’ he noted.
Cllr. Korkoyah also assured the general public that the NEC is in close collaboration with the Liberia National Police and the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) to deter all violations of the New Elections Laws of the country.
‘’The NEC is pleased to commend the LNP and all other security sections of our country for helping in dealing with malpractices allegedly carried out by people of whatever origin,’’ he said.
He said the LNP has arrested some people, all men, who were caught in the selling and buying of VR cards as well as those who attempted to register more than once.
Also addressing journalists at a joint press conference, the Inspector General of the LNP, Gregory Coleman said the LNP will not leave NEC alone in dealing with security related issues as the VR goes on across the country.
‘’Our office is closely working with the NEC to discourage and prevent election laws to be violated so that the VR process goes on smoothly,” Inspector Coleman noted.
He disclosed that two suspects who allegedly violated Section 25.1 of the New Elections Laws of Liberia are currently in Police custody.
Section 25.1 of the New Election Laws prohibits anyone from manipulating the elections process by selling or buying voters ID cards or attempting to register more than one.
He said immigration officers are currently posted at the VR centers near the borders of the country in order to deal with aliens who may be fooled to defraud the VR process.
“As of today’s date, the LNP will have police officers of the intelligence unit posted not necessarily at VR centers but at strategic locations from where they will be able to quickly respond to incidents coming from VR centers across the country,’’ Coleman assured.
The head of the Crime Services Division of the LNP, Commissioner Charles Blake giving the names of the suspects in police custody said there are three persons, all men, in police custody for violating the elections laws of the country.
‘’There are three names of which two used names that were confirmed to be not theirs and the other bought 16 voter cards,’’ he said.
One of the suspects identified as John Cooper used Stephen Cooper at a VR center; Raymond Gbartu used Amos Weah as his name to register while Shark Kanneh, who succeeded at registering at the Sophie VR center, went to the Susan Berry VR center to again register but was caught in the process,’’ Commissioner Blake said.