Former Chief Justice of Liberia, Cllr. Frances Johnson Allison, yesterday called on electorates to speak with logic that has value during campaign period rather than dignifying a candidate of their choice at the detriment of the country’s peace.
Cllr. Allison spoke when she delivered a keynote address at the non-violent election campaign organized by the Friends Of Our Time (FOOT) in the Borough of Kru Town, Bushrod Island. She said the time is now for all eligible voters to think of the right things to do during the campaign period that will lead to the peaceful conduct of the October polls.
According to the timetable of the National Elections (NEC), campaigning will officially kick off on July 31 and will end on October 8, two days to the election.
“Political campaign is like a beauty pageant,” she said, “but unlike a beauty pageant which calls for physical beauty, ideal weight, height and other important factors of a contestant, political campaigns present us challenging questions such as the loyalty of a candidate to lead as called for by the constitution, his or her knowledge on domestic and foreign issues, his or her commitment to truthfully discharge duty as should be, among many others,” Cllr. Allison said.
Cllr. Allison’s remarks come from her unique and enviable professional background and personal perspective. She is a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, former chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC), and former Minister of Justice.
“Focus on issues and distance yourselves from hate speeches, insults and unnecessary denigration of other contestants. Ask people: ‘what are you capable of doing to change situations for the better should you win and most importantly how do you stand to achieve your goals in carrying our country forward?’” she admonished.
She also called on aspirants participating in the ensuing elections to be responsible and capable of directing the affairs of their supporters. “If you lack the ability to manage the affairs of your own party then how will we believe that you could possibly handle national issues as they show up, particularly in a challenging economy as ours? Let us maintain the peace by accepting the results, particularly so when no one has any reliable fact that there is any cheating,” she said.
Cllr. Allison called on the NEC to avoid doing anything that might cause trouble. “NEC has to rebuild its confidence in the voters so that their appetite to happily partake in the election processes can be assured and exercised without a need to beg them. Be neutral and conduct a transparent electoral process,” she said.
She reemphasized that her position on the Code of Conduct remains that it is not ok for the country now but, since the Supreme Court has ruled that it is legal, “let it hold.”
For his part, the executive director of the National Youth Movement for Transparent Elections (NAYMOTE), Mr. Eddie Jarwolo, said Liberia’s peace remains fragile until the right options in the interest of the state are considered by the ruling establishment and the opposition block.
“I believe that it is in 2006 we began experiencing the tenets of democracy, not long since as it is portrayed in debates and political arguments,” Mr. Jarwolo said.
He termed President Sirleaf’s leadership as an interim leadership rather than a fully established body intended to truly jumpstart the country’s real developmental agenda.
“I think President Sirleaf was elected to set the stage for real future national governance. Her administration in twelve years will be leaving more scars such as high unemployment rate, high exchange rate between the US dollar and our currency, dominance in government of imported ministers and other officials as well as poor health and other structures thought to have been revamped in twelve years,” he pointed out.
“My advice to the young people is to be moderate in their activities and farsighted. Many politicians have used them to accomplish their aims in this country and it is still possible that they can be used today if care is not taken,” he said, adding that alcohol, money and other things are used by politicians to easily sway youth into doing things that harm the country.
He called on all voters to be reminded of the over 14-year civil crises in Liberia as well as the post elections violence in Gambia, Ivory Coast and Kenya.
He also showed a video depicting post elections violence in Kenya in 2007, where over 1000 innocent citizens there died, others raped and victimized in many other ways, with the country suffering a great setback.
Also speaking, the NEC director of Civic Voter Education (CVE), Mr. Senesee G. Freeman, said NEC is not and will not be intimidated by anyone, including the ruling establishment, as it carries out its functions.
“We are carrying out vigorous civic voter education so as to help our people understand how NEC is working and what its limitations are,” Mr. Freeman said. He added that NEC is working closely with the security sector in order to keep the peace during and after the October polls.
The vice governor of Kru Town, Mr. S. Tugee Worloh, who represented his boss, said the traditional people of the Borough of Kru Town will closely work with all political parties in making sure there is peace in the country.
He welcomed the idea of inter-party and community dialogue that will enhance peaceful coexistence.
Press Union of Liberia president Charles Coffey said if citizens allow the country to be torn apart again, politicians will escape to foreign lands and be in safe environments while those back home suffer the consequences of destabilizing the peace. “We only have here as our home. If we attempt destroying it, who will we blamed? Of course no one else but ourselves,” he said.
The president of the Friends of Our Time (FOOT), George Kermue Barpeen, said he is disappointed in political parties for not honoring invitations to put forward initiatives that seek to provide sufficient education on maintaining peace in the country.
“Not too many of them care about what we are doing but our concern is that we look forward to a peaceful election process,” said Barpeen, who himself is a former president of the Press Union of Liberia. He thanked the participants for attending the peace campaign dialogue and called on all to support the country’s peace, “no matter how hard the feelings may be.”