By Foday Moriba Conteh
Leader of the All People’s Congress (APC) Party Opposition in Parliament, Hon. Chernor Maju Bah, in a letter written to the Chief Electoral Commissioner, Mohamed K Konneh and captioned, “Persistence of Registration Challenges, Extension of the Registration Period and Publication of Disaggregated Figures” stated that on Saturday 10 September 2022, he released a public statement in which he acknowledged the efforts of the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) in the ongoing Voters Registration Process (VRP) and highlighted his engagements with the leadership of the Commission.
He continued that while he drew attention, particularly to the difficulties First Time Voters were confronted with in their attempt to exercise a very critical civic responsibility he also pointed out several logistical, human resource, and technical challenges derailing the process.
Hon. Chernor Maju Bah stated that he further noted the Chief Electoral Commissioner’s Press Statement of Wednesday 7 September 2022, in which he acknowledged the challenges and assured the public and political stakeholders that the said challenges would be immediately addressed.
The Parliamentary Leader said that as the Chief Electoral Commissioner may be well aware, the VRP is in its third week, yet some of the challenges still persist, particularly those relating to First Time Voters, who are currently not yet of the voting age but will turn 18 by June 2023.
“As I have previously indicated, it is highly imperative for ECSL to lay a solid basis for the June 2023 elections to be credible, inclusive and representative of the people’s will,” the APC strongman maintained adding that such should be done by ensuring that the VRP leaves no eligible citizen out in the process.
He said unfortunately while some of the initial challenges still persist, new ones are also emerging emphasizing that they include the Commission’s failure to publish by centres, the figures from the ongoing exercise; political interference with the process at various centres; and the intimidation of opposition representatives, community leaders and First Time Voters.
The Parliamentarian claimed that the latter is being done by declaring the identification documents of some of the First Time Voters as fake, seizure of such documents, and threatening the owners with police arrest.
He said while all of those initial and recent challenges have eaten up a considerable amount of the time stipulated for the process; ECSL’s insistence on publishing the registration figures by region rather than by centre makes the data unverifiable, undermines the integrity of the register and creates unnecessary suspicion of some wrongdoing.
According to Hon. Chernor Maju Bah that situation casts a dark cloud over the credibility of the critical electoral process and if not addressed decisively and comprehensively, the Voters Register, which would emerge from, what he termed as, this problematic VRP, would have far-reaching ramifications on the credibility, peacefulness and acceptability of the June 2023 elections.
He said, therefore, in the interest of the credibility of the Chief Electoral Commissioner and that of the Commission, he kindly request him to do the following: Break down the registration figures by centres and make them available to political parties and the public; to ensure that ALL eligible, including First Time Voters, are accorded their constitutional right to participate in the process as provided for by the Public Election Act; to decisively and satisfactorily address any political interference with the process and extend the registration process, to compensate for the time lost adequately.
Hon. Chernor Maju Bah concluded that while he looks forward to his prompt and satisfactory response let the Chief Electoral Commissioner please accept the assurances of his support to the successful completion of this and all electoral processes.
Copies of the letter were sent to The Speaker of Parliament, the Chairperson – Political Parties Registration Commission, H.E. Ambassador Musa Ruhle, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, the Head – of European Union Delegation, the British High Commissioner and the Ambassador – the United States of America.
(C) The Calabash Newspaper