As voter registration enters into its second week, citizens in many parts of Montserrado and some other counties have expressed frustration with the slow pace of the exercise.
The Daily Observer visited some VR Centers in both urban and rural Montserrado over the weekend and came across dozens of complaints, including defective VR cameras.
“I am frustrated in our NEC for not being able to have tested all the cameras before bringing them on the field. I and others have been coming to the St. Francis VR Center from February 1 up to today (February 4) but we have not been registered simply because NEC’s staff here say that the camera is spoiled,”
AFL’s retired Major Beatrice Mitchell of Jacob Town, Montserrado District #2, said.
Free lunch for what?
Many people complained about defective VR cameras and an aspirant in the district identified as Mr. James Flomo Kellen constantly providing food for the NEC staff and bringing in people who are reportedly not residents of the district.
“Instead of retiring at 5pm as said by NEC, the NEC staff here sometime goes on with the registration as late as 7pm, with Mr. Kellen always being around,” Sarah Yarkpawolo told the Daily Observer.
The lunch gesture allegedly made by Kellen may not be an isolated case, as it leaves many quite suspicious about what the new aspirant or incumbent-aspirant would want in return.
A VR observer, representing the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) at the Calvary Temple Assembly of God Mission School VR Center, Mr. Solomon Dash, said Rep. Sekou Kanneh who is the incumbent legislator for the district, visited the NEC staff several times and provided them with water and lunch, a gesture that he said looked suspicious.
Mr. Dash said six persons who claimed to be citizens of Liberia failed to answer simple questions put to them by an NEC staff.
“I strongly believe that those guys are not Liberian citizens but with the entire process lacking the presence of immigration officers and police, they were never apprehended, even though I blew the alarm on the issue,” Dash noted.
Rep. Kanneh meanwhile failed to respond to the Daily Observer’s telephone calls but sent a message that he “was busy” and wanted the reporter to call back later; though he didn’t respond to subsequent phone calls.
Responding to the allegation of NEC staff being fed by Rep. Sekou Kanneh, the head of the Calvary Temple A. G. School VR center, Ms. Florence M. Davis, said the information was untrue and challenged their accusers to prove it.
Ms. Davis, however, said two unidentified men who attempted to register on February 1 and were confirmed to be Guineans were denied registration.
She said six others between the ages of 16 and 17 who also wanted to take advantage of the VR process, were also identified and denied and warned not to make any attempt to register at any center. The registration age is 18.
The National Christian Council of Liberia’s observer at the Muslim Solidarity School in Jacob Town, Paynesville, Mr. Kennedy Keller, told the Daily Observer that a man named Lusene Keita who is believed to be in his late 30s was arrested by police after it was proven that he was a Guinean national.
“This district needs strong security attention as this VR is ongoing. There are too many cases of people coming to register who cannot even provide any significant information about their residency. It is frustrating,” Mr. Keller said.
Other loose ends
In another development, NEC staff workers at the William Booth Salvation Army School in District #3, Red Light, Paynesville were on Friday evicted from the venue on grounds that neither the NEC nor the GOL sent the Salvation Army any communication requesting their facilities for the VR process.
Head Pastor Captain Esther Duwah told the Daily Observer that the NEC was asked to officially communicate to the head office of the Salvation Army Church but they did not.
“This is our country and we have interest in seeing everyone register to vote but we are a religious entity [and] NEC should officially communicate to us, as it probably did with other institutions,” Pastor Duwah said.
Responding to Pastor Duwah’s claim, the head of the evicted NEC staff, Ms. Amelia B. Garnette, said they were told to leave the place without being given sufficient time to engage the NEC headquarters, or even before she could reach the Salvation Army head office.
“We are now at the Living Water Victory Church doing the VR,” Ms. Garnette pointed out. The Living Water Victory Church is located behind the Salvation Army School’s fence.
When contacted, the Director of Communications at the NEC, Mr. Joseph T. Nyensuah, said NEC regrets the challenges experienced with the cameras, and promised to settle them as soon as possible.
Mr. Nyensuah noted that the Commission is working to deal with all the challenges but cautioned against anyone politicizing the VR process.