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Monday, June 17, 2024

SENATOR KARNGAR-LAWRENCE SAYS NATIONAL ELECTIONS COMMISSION IS NOT INDEPENDENT

Date:

By Moses D. Sandy, Contributor

NEW CASTLE, DELAWARE – The Political Leader of the opposition Liberty Party (LP), Senator Nyonblee Karngar-Lawrence, says the National Elections Commission (NEC) of Liberia is not independent; and has no integrity.

As a result, Senator Karngar-Lawrence says, the Liberty Party has no confidence in the Commission’s leadership. The Senator represents Grand Bassa County in the Liberian senate. She said the LP does not trust the Commission; and the Party’s leadership has resolved not to work with the Commission.

Liberty Party is the second biggest opposition political party in Liberia, but the Party is currently embroiled in an internal conflict that started in 2021 due to reported alternations of some provisions of its constitution by Chairman Musa Bility and some LP executives. Since then, the Party remains divided between two factions with each headed by Chairman Bility and the Political Leader.

The Grand Bassa County Senator said the current NEC headed by Chairperson Davidetta Browne-Lansanah is compromised; and it has lost its independence. She spoke recently when she granted an exclusive podcast interview to The Issues Room, a Liberian-owned social media platform based in the United States of America (USA). The LP Political Leader declared, “The NEC is an integrity institution; and its mandate is to ensure that elections conducted in Liberia are free, fair, transparent, and peaceful in upholding the fledgling Liberian democracy.” However, she said the Davidetta Browne- Lansanah led Commission has fallen short in meeting these expectations.

She said Liberia’s next general and presidential elections are scheduled for 2023; and the NEC is charged with the responsibility of conducting the elections, “but when you at this point already have an election commission that is showing that it is compromised, that’s worrisome.”

The Senator said the Commission’s Chairperson is conflicted and has integrity problems. She maintained, “The Chairperson is not independent.”

Touching on the LP internal crisis, the Grand Bassa County Senator said the crisis in the Liberty Party is being politicized; and she blamed the Chairperson and the NEC for exacerbating the conflict. The Senator said the conflict remains unresolved because of the failure of the NEC to respect rulings from the Supreme Court; and adhere to its own electoral laws and policies in dealing with the crisis. She accused the NEC Chairperson of being conflicted in the LP leadership crisis.

She accused Mrs. Browne-Lansanah of having a dual relationship with the Chairman of the Liberty Party, Musa Bility. She recalled that in December of 2021 when the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) was prosecuting the Chairperson for acts of malfeasance at the Commission, it was Mr. Bility, who helped her in securing a bond. “That’s a conflict of interest,” the LP Political Leader frowned.

Then the Chairperson was charged along with other accomplices of the NEC and forwarded to court for prosecution. She was indicted for conflict of interest after she admitted to presiding over an NEC’s bidding process that fraudulently awarded a contract to a Liberian business, Tuma Enterprise Incorporated. The monetary value of the contract is more than 182 thousand US dollars; and the company allegedly has a family tie to her.

According to the LACC, Chairperson Browne-Lansanah and the company’s Vice President for Operations, David Browne, are paternal half-siblings while Mr. Arnold Badio, owner, and incorporator of the company, is Mr. Browne’s maternal half-brother. Also, she was accused of violating Section 1.3.6 of the National Code of Conduct, which speaks against conflict of interest. However, in April of this year, the Judge of Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice dismissed the criminal charges.

Meanwhile, the LP Political Leader says she will this Friday, October 21, 2022, lead a protest match in Monrovia against the NEC and its Chairperson Browne-Lansanah for the conflicted role they continue to play in the Party’s internal conflict. She said, “We will match to the offices of the US Embassy, European Union (EU), United Nations Peace Building Mission, and other international partners to tell them that the Liberty Party can’t work with the NEC because the Commission is compromised”. She emphasized, “It is time that the conflict in Liberty Party comes to an end”.

In a related development, Senator Karngar-Lawrence has described the Liberian Legislature as the most compromised branch of the government. She said the legislature is not independent. She claimed, “About 90 % or even more of the lawmakers in the legislature does not make independent decisions. They follow decisions made by the executive branch headed by the President”.

She said the inefficiency of the Liberian legislature is not unique to the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) administration. She stressed, “This is an age-old problem.” She attributed the problem to what she called an over-powerful executive branch headed by the president.

She said the problem is further compounded by ignorance. The Grand Bassa County Senator declared, “Most Liberian lawmakers do not know the function of the legislature. They do not know their job duties and responsibilities.” She defined the fundamental roles of legislators as representation, oversight, and lawmaking. She said, “With effective oversight by lawmakers, we would help in making political changes in government, but unfortunately that’s not the case.”

She said there are people in the legislature, who are fixated only on championing the political agenda of the government or the ruling party. She furthered, “Those People are not interested in the wellbeing of the country or its people.” Senator Karngar-Lawrence is currently in the United States as a guest of the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA). She arrived in the country early this month; and she was one of several eminent Liberians that attended and participated in the Association’s post crisis eighth annual convention activities held from September 29th through October 2, 2022, in Worcester, Massachusetts.

On Saturday, October 1st, she spoke at the convention’s general assembly. She delivered a paper on the theme, Challenges Facing Women Political Participation in Liberia. ALJA was revived in 2014 following 10 years of dormancy. The Association crumbled in 2004 due to internal rift amongst its members and former leaders.

ALJA is a conglomeration of current and retired Liberian journalists residing in the Americas. It is a 501c (3) non-profit organization. It was founded in Washington, D.C. in 1998 with the objectives of advancing press freedom through media capacity building. The Association is also, dedicated to fostering the principles of good governance in Liberia through media advocacy.

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