Members of the Press Union of Liberia or PUL, on Saturday, went to the polls to elect a new leadership for the next three years. The elections formed part of the first national congress held at the Baptist Theological Seminary on the Monrovia-Robertsfield Highway. Judging from the entire process, we are of the conclusion that the outcome which favored the incumbent was a result of personalities/sentiments and not issues.
Of course, that’s the essence of democracy, especially so when you have people who consider themselves professional journalists debating personalities and sentiments despite being knowledgeable about the problems, and not debating the issues confronting and within that noble organization.
That was even manifested by the attack on RCI’s radio and TV Talk-show host, Patrick Honah by the media coordinator of the Democratic Alliance and Executive Director of CEMES, Malcolm Joseph, while the ballots were being counted. There were other negative situations which characterized Saturday’s PUL electoral process that we believe was very unhealthy.
The disqualification of a potential voter by the PUL Election Commission despite proving beyond all reasonable doubts (the presentation of previous full membership identities and registration receipts) and several interventions by other well-meaning journalists, as well as massive campaigning after the expiration of the November 9 deadline, including the display of souvenir t-shirts by one of the Presidential candidates and his supporters on the eve of the election were all irregularities which marred the process.
Despite a protest letter, accompanied by visible evidence (photos) and the acknowledgement of these irregularities by the Chairman of the Elections Commission during a local radio news interview last Friday night, the commission deliberately chose to sweep all under the rug without reference to the protestors, in total violation of the very elections laws/guidelines they produced.
The lack of awareness by both Congress committee and elections commission among the voters was even sufficient to prevent eighty voters from exercising the franchise, as out of the 273 qualified voters, 193 voted.
This is the very first time in the history of the Press Union of Liberia for elections to be marred by such irregularities without any concern by those who conduct such exercise. It was also good that some officials of the national Elections Commission or NEC were at the Baptist Theological Seminary to witness the electoral practices.
While we raise these concerns as an early warning to the 2011 Presidential and Legislative elections, we also congratulate Saturday’s winners of the PUL elections. We also expressed gratitude to the losers for accepting the results just to hold the Union together, even though its infiltration by enemies of progress for personal aggrandizement has kept most well-meaning journalists away.
Inspire of these observations, we believe that the Chairman and members of the PUL Elections Commission also did well by organizing the process. We hope that the irregularities which characterized the November 13 polls will be a lesson to be learnt for the next process.
We also congratulate registered and unregistered members of the Union for showing up as a way of motivating the entire exercise. But we must all learn to discuss and threat issues and not personalities/sentiments as a way of preparing for national undertakings.