Some members of the Liberia National Association of the Deaf (LNAD) have expressed serious frustration and disappointment in authorities at the National Election Commission (NEC) for allegedly excluding the deaf community in the electoral process.
In an exclusive interview with this paper over the weekend in the Auditorium of the University of Liberia, the General Secretary of LNAD, Mr. Abdullah Tani Konateh, said the deaf community here desperately wants to fully participate in the development process of the country.
But he accuses the NEC of not putting measures in place to include the deaf in the elections process, describing such action as unfortunate. Mr. Konateh was interviewed at a program marking the official launch of the Youth and Elections Project by the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYS) in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
The the deaf group says the NEC’s alleged action of excluding them in the electoral process is a gross violation of their rights as citizens of this country. “It’s our right to participate in the rebuilding process of our country especially with the issue of electing our leaders. This process is not and must not be restricted to certain or particular group of people, we are all Liberians,” Mr. Konateh adds.
He suggests that the best way to include people with disabilities is for the government through the NEC to provide interpreters for for the deaf, emphasizing on someone who can adequately understand various signs used by the disable to communicate.
He argues that the disable community has qualified and educated people that have experience in civic and voter education. But according to Mr. Konateh, their major problem here has been interpreters who will guide them in the process. He believes that the interpreters can better relate to the deaf because they know what the disable want to say or do.
He therefore pleads with government to find people who can serve as interpreters and to have the deaf included in this October electoral process. Meanwhile commenting on the last week presidential debate held between the Unity Party, All Liberian Party, the Liberty Party, and the Alternative National Congress, Mr. Konateh expresses disappointment on grounds that there was no sign language interpreters at the presidential debate for the deaf community in Liberia.
He wonders how will the deaf community know or understand the various platforms from each presidential candidate when there was no interpreter to relate to the community.
He observes that other countries pay serious attention to deaf people by assigning interpreters that will help them understand what every candidate will be telling the people.
For his part, UNDP Country Director Dr. Lamin Beyai promises to work along with the disabled community, especially the deaf community, to participate in UNDP projects for the betterment of the country.
He explains that those living as deaf and mute are also great contributors to the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that Liberia hopes to achieve, including vision 2030. He says UNDP is working with other partners on projects like the Youth and Elections Project to include people with disabilities, because they are citizens and must be given equal rights despite their conditions.
By Lewis S. Teh–Edited by Winston W. Parley