By Lincoln G. Peters
Liberian lawyer Cllr. T. Negbalee Warner says voters trucking is a threat to Liberia’s constitutional democracy and elections, demanding urgent judicial attention to prevent future electoral violence.
Cllr. Warner suggested that lawyers, the Supreme Court bench, and Liberia National Bar Association have a critical role to play in supporting other stakeholders in promoting the integrity, and legality of the upcoming elections.
Delivering the keynote speech during celebration of Law Day by the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) Friday, 5 May 2023, Cllr. Warner suggested that “trucking of voters is nothing but a trafficking of voters which is part of human trafficking.”
“It’s also a form of modern day slavery which is prohibited by Article 12 of the Liberian Constitution,” continued the former Dean of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia (UL).
Warner contended that voter trucking, illegal campaign financing, and the failure to uphold the principle of one man, one voter undermine electoral integrity and promote violence which are against constitutional democracy.
He proposed that lawyers and the Supreme Court bench should support other stakeholders in ways that prevent electoral violence and enhance constitutional democracy.
Warner further suggested the need to combat voter trucking because it decreases votes.
He argued that Article 12 of the Liberian Constitution provides that no person must be held in slavery.
Cllr. Warner described the mass trucking of citizens across the country as a form of modern day slavery, and human trafficking.
“The sooner we stop and see trucking of voters as an act of human trafficking, and modern day slavery, the sooner we will appreciate the need to deal with it urgently,” he explained.
He also called for action against illegal campaign financing, and the need to uphold the principles of one man, one vote.
To mitigate voter trucking, the Commercial Law specialist recommended that the Government of Liberia strengthen the law in a way that voter trucking becomes less profitable.
He wants mobile phones and other electronic devices prohibited in voting places because trucked voters likely use them to photograph their votes to collect balance payments from their transporters.
In the same vein, Cllr. Warner recommended that Liberia should establish a criminal procedure for change of constituencies.
“The right [to] change of constituencies is supposed to [be] dealt with by the Constitution of Liberia.”
“Article 80 (c) of the Constitution provides that a citizen shall have the right to change his voting constituencies as may be prescribed by the Legislature,” he noted.
He stressed that the normalization of voter trucking is an affront to constitutional principles of a free, and fair process.
Cllr. Warner observed that while Liberians have accepted voters’ trucking, it should be noted that it is unlawful, unfair and has the propensity to cause election violence.
According to him, by its nature, trucking of voters is at the request of and for the benefit of the transporter, and it’s not much different from human trafficking.
“Voter trucking is not much different from human trafficking,” he said.
Cllr. Warner explained that human trafficking is defined as the illegal transfer, transporting and hiring of a person with the intent to hold the person captive, or to exploit them.
“The key elements to human trafficking are three, transportation, exploiting or holding the person and for the purpose of the person’s service or value,” he said.
He argued that each of the elements of human trafficking are present in the current mass trucking and transportation of persons for obtaining their services.
“This is intended to have them registered and later return to vote for their candidate that transported them,” Cllr. Warner said.
Over the weekend, the LNBA observed Law Day under the theme “Episode of electoral violence and prospects for constitutional democracy in Liberia.”
Liberia’s Chief Justice Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh and members of the diplomatic corps, and several lawyers, graced the program.
The celebration of Law Daw is meant to reflect on the achievements of the legal sector and the challenges that need to be addressed.