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Take Dry Eye Cober Shame : Revisiting SLPPís Case against Dr. Christiana Thorpe
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May 24, 2010, 13:40
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We are today starting to run a series on the SLPPís still ongoing Court Case against Dr. Christiana Thorpe. The series will feature extracts from the 29 paged Legal Statement of Claim submitted in January 2008 against Dr. Christiana Thorpe and the National Elections Office by Lawyer Bubuakei Jabbi on behalf of the opposition Sierra Leone Peopleís Party (SLPP). The series intends to cast our minds back to where we came from so we will not make the mistake of going there again. Here goes:

D. SURREPTITIOUS STRATEGIES

In view of the clear emphasis on transparency, impartiality, procedural fairplay and the bona fide performance of duties under the Act, as enshrined in its key mandatory provisions itemised in Section C above, among others, it would be instructive to outline a few surreptitious strategies some of which seem to have been actually set in motion, perpetrated, orchestrated, endorsed and/or otherwise encouraged by the 1st and/or 2nd Defendants/Respondents herein or in others of which one or other or both of them may have got implicated even if merely by knowingly ignoring, condoning or enduring it.

Amending Section 66

The first surreptitious strategy, seemingly somewhat more remote than others to be mentioned herein, consists in the sequence of amendments to section 66 of the Electoral Laws Act since its first enactment in 2002. It would be best to set out the successive enactments here, each of the two amendments being by way of "repeal and replacement" of the whole section.
(a) As Originally Enacted on 6th February 2002
"66. Every ballot paper shall be attached to a counterfoil which shall have a number printed thereon, but there shall be no numbers printed on any ballot paper."
(b) As Amended on 21st March 2002

"66. Every ballot paper shall have a number printed thereon and shall be attached to a counterfoil bearing the same number as is printed on the ballot paper" (Emphasis added)
(c) As Amended on 23rd July 200
"66. Every ballot paper shall be attached to a counterfoil which shall have a number printed thereon, but there shall be no number printed on any ballot paper." (NB: Only gazetted on 6th September 2007 in Supplement to the Sierra Leone Gazette, vol. 138, No. 45).

37. It is clear that the amendment of 21st March 2002 was seeking to close a major loophole in the provision of materials for the 2002 parliamentary and presidential elections, to wit, the lack of an essential identity connection between the ballot paper that would be given out to a voter and the counterfoil thereof to be retained for possible verification purposes. For where every ballot paper has printed on it an identifying serial number that is also printed on its corresponding counterfoil, it becomes easy to control and record the genuine ballot papers assigned to a polling station and therefore to also detect any fake or additional ballot papers that are used in any particular polling station. Whereas if only the counterfoil carries an identifying serial number but the corresponding ballot paper does not bear that or any such number at all, ballot stuffing and other forms of vote rigging will have been assured of a field day on the day of voting. That is precisely what the belated amendment of 23rd July 2007 succeeded in doing for the 2007 elections slated for only three weeks thereafter. It is believed that this amendment was actually urged by some so-called technical advisers to the Electoral Commission, which in any case must have known of it and ought to have seen through it all as early as the bill stage of the legislative process before actual enactment. If they did not, then NEC and its Chairperson were somewhat remiss in their duty at this stage.

38.The insistent reports in the various NEC Statements to the Media as to "a higher number of votes cast than registered voters" at certain polling stations (Exh. JJS 4 of 11th September 2007) or "the unusual high levels of participation in some polling stations" (Exh. JJS 7 of 13th September 2007) or, worse still, "attempts at ballot stuffing and ballot-box swapping" and "polling station results with turn-outs of over 100%" (Exh. JJS 11 of 17th September 2007) could all have taken root or derived encouragement from the free-for-all situation inherent in the sort of amendment made on 23rd July 2007, which NEC and its Chairperson obviously knowingly encouraged, ignored, condoned or even merely endured from that date till the end of the elections.

BALLOT MATERIALS INTRIGUES

Various allegations of intrigue in relation to ballot materials were openly made at various stages of the election process, sometimes directed even against United Nations personnel assisting the National Electoral Commission and personnel of the Commission itself, and some of which received police attention. The main ballot materials intrigue allegations were in relation to the so-called "indelible ink" for marking the finger of a person who has voted, the Ballot Validating Stamp (BVS) and printing of excess ballot papers.

(1) Indelible Ink

There were strong allegations right from the first round presidential election that the Commission had resorted to a weak strength of "indelible ink" for actual voting at the elections, whereas a high strength genuine "indelible ink" had been used during the voter registration exercise. This matter was actually raised by journalists during a NEC press briefing on Thursday 6th September 2007, according to report in Awareness Times of 11 September 2007 (at p.3).

"Awareness Times investigations had clearly shown that within 30 seconds of dipping oneís inked finger in a bottle of Whitex (local bleach), all the Ďindelible inkí washed off the finger, thus allowing anyone to vote multiple times if they had access to do so.

"It was pointed out that the genuine indelible ink used during the registration exercise had lasted for weeks on votersí fingers whilst this one used on Elections Day simply washed off within a day or two.

"Dr. Thorpe in responding to the concern raised expressed that there were Ďdifferent strengthsí of indelible ink in the world, ranging from Weak Strength to long Lasting Strength. According to Dr. Thorpe, the one used for the registration exercise was of a stronger strength than the one used one used on Electionís Day because the registration exercise lasted for 40 days whilst (that for) elections was just for one day.

"Dr. Thorpe also made an intriguing statement when she remarked that even she did not know what kind of strength of indelible ink will be used in last Saturdayís elections in Sierra Leone. She informed that she would only know when she went to vote in the morning."

(2) BVS

The BVS was a device intended to ensure that only genuine ballots were cast by voters, as this stamp was to be impressed upon the back of a ballot paper at the polling station before giving it to a voter to cast it. However, a serious abuse of it was discovered in places, e.g. when a large number of pre-stamped ballot papers already thumb-printed for one of the presidential candidates were caught with no less than a NEC appointed Presiding Officer at Masiaka and the culprit taken to the Makeni police station. Abuses like this led to NEC deciding to order another special set of BVS which, on arrival, were however discovered to have 52 extras more than had been ordered; and there was no explanation how the extras had got into the packs.

(3) Excess Ballot Papers

Although in principle there was need for more ballot papers being printed so as to take care of any wastage, there were allegations that about 80% of such excess were printed and that this was more than was necessary and was prone to abuse; indeed, that the very NEC authorities who procured it might secretly allow large numbers to be dished out for use in the interest of a favoured candidate. This was especially likely where ballot papers were printed in accordance with the 23rd July amendment of section 66 mentioned in paragraph 36 above, whereby a ballot paper was not serially numbered the same as the counterfoil. Ballot stuffing on a massive scale would be an easy way of abuse in such cases.

Such allegations were freely bandied against NEC officials at the elections.

SKEWED Tallying Selectivity

From as far back as 11th September 2007, the second day of run-off results declarations, NEC was openly accused of a strategy of over-selectively tallying more results from polling stations with high scores for the APC presidential candidate whilst tallying results from only low score stations for the SLPP candidate at the run-off presidential election. In its issue of 12th September 2007 (at p. 11), referring to the results declared for the previous two days, the Awareness Times newspaper noted the following:

"The results read out by the National Electoral Commission so far have been misleading in that they are skewed. For example, the results read out that gave the APC those high votes so far in Kailahun were mostly from polling stations where the APC or the PMDC had done extremely well in the first rounds on August 11th 2007."

The newspaper was even more specific and detailed in its next issue on 13th September 2007 (at p. 7) about the systematic way in which, according to it, NEC was executing this skewed selectivity in tallying the results, viz:

TO BE CONTINUED... STAY TUNED!!


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