An Open Letter To The President
I present compliments, and respectfully request your consideration to withdraw the nominations to the National Elections Commission (NEC), for the following reasons:
- The timing of the nominations, coming as it did almost at the same time as terrifying news of the country’s third confirmed Coronavirus case was released to the public, projected a worrying sense of “business as usual” at the time when the government is urging ordinary Liberians to make hard life-style and other difficult adjustments necessitated by the magnitude of the health threat. This pervasive sense of “business as usual” is continuing to fertilize seeds of doubts in the population, a danger on which the Pandemic is likely to thrive.
- While the letter of the law may not require it of you, Mr. President, the spirit of the law, and importantly, the history of electoral contests and conflicts, as well as the need to ensure fairness, credibility, and integrity about our elections, require a broadened level of consultation, especially with political parties, previous to the nominations of commissioners.
- These nominations run afoul of the recent precedent of consultations with political parties and civil society organizations, which are all possessed of direct and or vested interests in the composition of the NEC. Even worse, these nominations pervade an affront to the need for balance and inclusion, by which political parties that are constitutionally authorized to represent the people in the electoral process, are reasonably assured, and ideally guaranteed, that the NEC will be fair not only in its needed interactions with political parties, but also in the execution of its foundational responsibility to conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections. Nominees must be seen as likely to be even-handed and judicious in the execution of all of the laws appertaining to elections, in keeping with the overwhelming aspirations of the Liberian people.
- At least on its face, the nominations appear to be seriously imbalanced in favor of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC). The immediate previous membership included Mr. Sam Joe, who affiliated with the Liberty Party (LP) prior to his nomination as Commissioner; Mr. Jonathan Weedor, with prior political affiliation with the Liberian National Union (LINU); Ms. Davidetta Brown, said to be linked to the CDC and/or nominated on its recommendation; and Cllr. Jerome Korkoya, who was at various times linked to the Unity Party, National Patriotic Party, and the Liberty Party. The other members were appointed to reflect other important considerations including gender, religious and geographic balances. Though coming from diverse political, religious, geographic and other backgrounds, the commissioners were nominated primarily on the strength of their competence and character. This balance and diversity of backgrounds, while it may not have been agreeable to all, offered the confidence needed for the continued peaceful consolidation of healthy multiparty democracy, in our country.
- The current nominations offset the precedence political parties, civil society organizations, and many Liberians have come to accept as necessary and contributory to the health of our emerging democracy. This precedence of consultations with the political parties and civil society organizations enlists the important inclusion of other parties’ nominees into the membership of the Commission. This has the important effect of guaranteeing balance, which ultimately promotes the perception of fairness in the important works of the Commission. I cannot emphasize enough that a public sense of fairness is inherently vital to the NEC fulfilling its important responsibilities to our country.
- The special place and crucial value of the NEC to our continued democratic governance, peace, security and stability are not only harsh lessons from our history, but also are gleaned from the fact that the Elections Commission is one of only three commissions established by Article 89 of the Liberian Constitution of 1986. The Commission’s expansive powers and responsibilities are both tangential and consequential in the determination of citizenship, national leadership, the exercise of rights and freedoms, as well as sustaining political expressions and associations. It should be expected that nominations to that body would accordingly garner public interests and concerns. Even where all may not agree, nominations to the NEC ought to still inspire the sense of a deeper reflection and consideration of the premium valuation of the NEC, in the democratic life and wellbeing of our nation.
- Much has been said about the nationality and dual allegiance of the nominated chair. Indeed, consistent with our proud heritage to be a land opened to the freedom of all men and women of negroid descent, we have continued to keep that promise as the history of our country is enduringly enriched by our continuous offer of citizenship, in assistance and support to our African brothers and sisters. We must continue to open Liberia to all who seek freedom and opportunity. We are a better country for doing so.
However, it is instructive to observe that even during our difficult conflict, when we likely attained the peak of our distrust of each other, and anchored ourselves onto humiliating dependence and virtual trusteeship, even then, no non-natural born Liberian ever presided over Liberia’s National Elections Commission – and none ever has. Even when our elections were conducted under less than full constitutional authority, the elections commission was headed by a natural-born Liberian.
Every country on the face of the earth, and especially in our geographic neighborhood, have positions that are too dear to their country – too meaningful to their history and destiny – that they will not surrender it to foreigners or naturalized citizens, when so many of their natural born citizens can perform such duties honorably and competently.
The country is informed that both you and the National Legislature have approved three propositions to be placed before the people in a national referendum sometime this year. One of the propositions provides for dual citizenship for all natural-born Liberians who acquire the citizenship of another country provided however, that such persons would not be allowed to hold certain positions, including serving as Commissioners of NEC. Hence, the nomination of a naturalized Liberian to chair the NEC not only defeats the proposition even before it goes for referendum but also projects a queer and paradoxical reality where it appears you are prepared to grant a naturalized Liberian more rights upon acquiring Liberian citizenship, than you are prepared to grant to a natural-born Liberian who acquires the citizenship of another country.
What is also concerning is that in a little over two years, this is the third high profile tenured position to which the nominated chair of the NEC is being asked to head. The roving nature of his appointments/nomination not only means that there is scarcely any solid track record of previous achievements in government to which he can point but also exudes the perception of very close affinity to your Excellency, for which he enjoys such exceptional favors, and thereby undermines public trust in his ability to protect the national interest, as the head of the NEC, which is required first and foremost.
I admit that I am in no position to doubt that the nominated chair loves Liberia. However, it would seem to me that the sufficiency of his love for Liberia would instruct him to seek a dutiful withdrawal of his nomination as opposed to waging a campaign in support of it, especially because of the unnecessary distractions and unwarranted perception, including of your Excellency, his nomination has already engendered.
Without prejudice to the nominated chair, I respectfully request his withdrawal, Mr. President, because it is simply the right thing to do. It is right to continue to inspire Liberians with a sense of national pride and identity – to remind that being born a Liberian, rich or poor, in cities or in villages, with all of our many differences and overwhelming challenges – being born a Liberian must still confer and guarantee an intrinsic value that is to be found nowhere else, not even in the taking of another citizenship.
- As we are already in an election year, the overall democratic aspirations of the country will be better served if a new composition of the NEC is spared reasonable public challenges to its constitution and composition. It would be best for our country which has made so much progress in its democratic aspirations that the new composition of the NEC is not haunted by unresolved questions of mistrust, fairness, integrity and credibility.
Please, Mr. President, accept the assurances of my esteemed regard, and favorably consider withdrawing these nominations.
Ambassador Lewis G. Brown, II
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