Monday, 4 April 2011

Even WEAH Has A Relative

Under-fire Chairman Fromayan maintains that with a uniquely transparent system in place, chances of cheating are by far impossible. But apparently more convincing is that some of his very accusers, including Weah have relatives on the Commission which in no way still guarantees turning voting results in their favor.   

Nat Bayjay, (231-77-402737)

Consistently coming under what are becoming sustained attacks and condemnations mainly from opposition figures and some civil actors, the man sitting in the hot seat of the electoral body is not deterred by them. In fact, James Fromayan seems more propelled by the criticisms and condemnations over his alleged credibility issues.

More revealing is that one of his critics, Ambassador George Weah of the Congress of Democratic Change (CDC), has a relation to one of the Commissioners which the Chairman says can in no way guarantee voting results being turned in his favor unless merited.

Says Fromayan: “Let’s ignore that. Mr Weah who is one of those always accusing me, my deputy is a blood relative of his. They’re cousins. He himself came here and when we were taking him around to other commissioners’ offices and in David Menyongai’s office and my deputy was there. She [Commissioner Elizabeth Nelson] asked him, ‘Do you know that we are related, I mean cousins?’ And he said ‘Yes’.”

Since he assumed the Chairmanship of the electoral body in 2006 following the exit of former Chairman Frances Johnson-Morris, Fromayan continues to be accused of having a close tie with the incumbent. His appointment to the Chairmanship came two years following his appointment as a co-chairman where he supervised the general administration of the Commission and assumed leadership role in the absence of the then Chairman.

Weah and Charles Brumskine’s Liberty Party have been in the forefront of calling for the Chairman’s resignation something that has seen the former issuing more calls and sometimes threatening remarks that “We will not accept any more cheating from the Elections Commission under Fromayan”.
Weah had earlier categorized the 2005 presidential election which eluded him as fraudulent amidst international observers’ thumbs-up to the process.

In an FPA exclusive, the 61 years-old head of the National Elections Commission (NEC) spoke of how it is practically impossible for commissioners sitting on the Commission to cheat based on a transparent voting system in place at the NEC: “The point to underscore here is that there is no way anybody here can help another person here out there who’s in the race.”

Fromayan argues that with a unique system in place, Weah’s fear that a Fromayan led NEC will result into cheating for the incumbent. “The argument is always that we will cheat for the incumbent. How? We have a system in place where commissioners don’t check ballots. If we were checking ballots exclusively and sealed up from the public and journalists and come with the results of who wins this legislative seat or presidential slot, then that would make sense to any reasonable person,” said Fromayan.

Fromayan maintains any close tie he may have had with now President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was strictly political when faced with the choice of choosing a political merger or alliance in the aftermath of the late President Samuel Doe’s banning of the Liberian People’s Party (LPP).

Maintaining that he never worked for Sirleaf personally but only “collaborated back in 1985 prior to the elections” as a founding member of the Liberian People Party, he said: “I never worked with Ellen. I worked with an association in D.C. headed by Sawyer where Sirleaf was a board member. When our party was banned by Mr. Doe prior to the elections, we had options to support other parties that had similar idea that we had. So, we gave our support to the Liberia Action Party at that time. Madam Sirleaf was member of that party and so was Jackson Doe who was the presidential candidate.”

With no regrets and no apology, Fromayan believes that there is no credibility problem hanging over him: “I got no regrets for that.  I owe no apology for that because I don’t see how this has anything to do with credibility problem. So, how will that now translate to my chairmanship after I have shown you how the system works? Even if you brought President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s brother or son as chairman, as soon as he ascribes to the procedure laid down there is nothing [he can do to cheat].”

He stated in clear tones that no relation serving on the Commission can result into cheating in favor of a candidate who does merit it: “Or better still, Senator [Blamo] Nelson will be running again. Does that mean that his wife [Commissioner Nelson] who is here should leave because the Senator will be contesting again? She was here before the man ran and won on his own merit. What needs to go in these people’s heads is that they must look at the system.”

Challenging his critics who he said need to bring their credentials to match his, he added: “I want them to bring credentials in the past and in the present. Let’s match credentials and see who is credible from the past up to now. My records are known for what I stood for. The very people who are calling people by names now…some were in their closets when we confronted dictators in this country. It is today easy to criticize somebody because there is nothing that will come after you. If some of them-like I was thrown behind bars at Belle Yellah where I spent 10 months-were having a regime of that type like Doe or Charles Taylor then. Some of them were men enough at the time. I have performed to the best of my ability. So, if people are talking let them bring their own track record of what they have done in the past.”

Addressing himself to the issue of conducting the pending National Referendum which has become Fromayan and his Commission’s latest criticism, he thinks on the contrary that there are constitutional violations: “It came from them as lawmakers to the President. They took the action for this to be acted upon for a referendum to take place. They took the action in August of 2010 for the referendum to be held. Up to August of this year is one year. If you read the Constitution, that is what it clearly says and this is different from other laws. Other laws will wait for the printing of them into handbills but this other one has a special time constraint and the Constitution makes mention of it.”

National Referendum has been slated for August 23, 2011, two to three months to the holding of national elections depending on the outcome of the referendum’s portion that calls for the change of election date from October to November.

The NEC had originally sounded the impossibility of conducting any national referendum few months to national elections. Brushing aside that it was a suddenly overturned-decision, he explained: “But we were faced with a problem which has to do with the very outcome of the elections because our partners as well as the government said there was no money for massive run-off if the law stands as it is. They would not be able to make the money available for run-off for the 64 seats in the House-actually it will be 73-as well as the 15 senatorial seats. So, it will be too much money spending. It was against that backdrop that they told us this was not possible. They wanted us to re-think our decision in view of the fact that money will not be available for the conduct of a run-off involving all of those legislative seats and a presidential run-off. The bitter pills we had to swallow were that it would make no sense to conduct an election if we will not be able to conduct a run-off. Then it will be incomplete because if you conduct an election and no run-off if it arises, then it will make no sense.”

While all eyes are fixed on seeing how a Fromayan-led NEC would handle the two huge tasks of conducting both the National Referendum and the general elections in between two to three months, he insists: “But as commissioners, we have dedicated ourselves to this. We have to over work. So, we are working simultaneously to ensure that the presidential and legislative elections and the referendum are possible. The work is going hand in hand. If you go in there [various departments of the Commission] now, we will see our staffs doing the work. The procurement aspect of the materials needed for the Referendum will be just about the same time- to make sure that materials like ballot boxes, voting screens, ballot papers and just name them will all be here on time to conduct these elections. Once we are done with the Referendum which is another election, the same materials will be used for the conduct of the elections. So, we are prepared to undertake these tasks which require time.”