Sen. Dan Morias (National Patriotic Party, Maryland County - Liberia)
Monrovia – The Speaker of Liberia’s House of Representatives, Alex Tyler, has denied news reports that he manipulated elections workers to influence the outcome of the December 20 special senatorial election in President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s home province of Bomi County. Senator Lansanah was arrested by Police along with his wife following clashes between supporters of the two camps. A supporter of Lansanah told local media that the senator’s arrest was engineered by Speaker Tyler in an attempt to manipulate the outcome. Tyler said the allegations are farfetched and untrue.
In a VOA Daybreak Africa interview, Speaker Tyler said: “Like any other citizen, I went on Saturday, the 20th [of December] to my village where I had to vote. From there I went to my residence in Tubmanburg where I was until after the election before returning to Monrovia,” he said. Speaker Tyler said even though he endorsed one of the candidates in the election, he was never on the ballot and could not have carried out the alleged bribery. He said he’s being used as a scapegoat by people who are refusing to accept the will of the voters.
“The allegations could be coming from people who did not win the election. I’m not in this election, so why would I carry out bribery?” the Speaker said. Rep. Tyler said he does not have the authority as speaker of the House to order the arrest, any citizen as alleged by supporters of Senator Lansanah.
“I’m not head of the Executive Branch of government. I head the Legislative Branch that does not have Police power. And since I left Tubmanburg on Saturday evening, I haven’t been back there. So, how could I order the arrest of anyone when I wasn’t even there?” Tyler said. He said allegations of manipulation and bribery are being made by people who are not willing to accept defeat.
“Election is one of the elements of democracy. People need to accept results when they do not win and stop pointing fingers. When people do not an election they find scapegoats. And that’s what happened. They tried to scapegoat me. Even the Senate Pro Temp did not win, but he accepted the results and graciously walked away,” Tyler said. Tyler said no official from the National Elections Commission has approached him because they know the allegations are not true.
Last week, rival supporters of both candidates have been at loggerheads in the past few days since the votes were cast and initial results announced. But things got out of hand last Wednesday when Lansanah was arrested along with his wife and blamed for the disturbance in the county. The couple was arrested after their supporters on Tuesday threatened to set the local National Elections Commission office in Tubmanburg on fire.
FrontPageAfrica learnt that officers from the Police Support Unit (PSU) of the Liberia National Police (LNP) were deployed at the Bomi County National Elections Commission (NEC) Office to combat electoral violence. The officers, who eyewitnesses said slept on the grounds of the NEC office, were posted because some unsatisfied voters threatened to burn the NEC claimed cheating in the process. According to the eyewitness, some supporters of the incumbent Lansanah, are unsatisfied with the tallying result, and claimed that NEC was cheating their candidate.
Lansanah joined the NPP after defecting from the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) on whose platform he won the 2005 senatorial election, receiving the highest number of votes which made him the senior senator. On Wednesday, several Senators, including Dan Morias (National Patriotic Party, Maryland) and Jewel Howard Taylor(NPP, Bong County) marched at the headquarters of the Liberia National Police to demand their colleague’s release.
Senator Morias told FrontPageAfrica Wednesday while awaiting update on his colleague that the LNP’s action was unfair. “This is a sitting Senator of the Liberian senate. if you accused him of committing a crime it is still an allegation. Since this morning it has been absolutely no justification to hold him here but he is still being kept here and we feel hurt as a branch of Government that we will request in the coordination of government that one of our colleague is being arrested and brought to the Liberian Police not for killing anybody but for an allegation that is yet to be proven”.
Earlier Senator Sando Johnson (NPP, Bomi), a key supporter of Senator Lansanah told FrontPageAfrica that Speaker Alex Tyler was the mastermind behind the arrest. He accused the Speaker of trying to manipulate the outcome of the elections. Senator Johnson showed FrontPageAfrica a text message exchange between him and the speaker in which he cautioned the speaker against paying or bribing poll workers to influence the outcome of the Bomi elections, to which the speaker obliged and agreed to stop.
Article 42 of the Liberian constitution states that “Members shall be privileged from arrest while attending, going to or returning from sessions of the Legislature, except for treason, felony or breach of the peace. All official acts done or performed and all statement made in the Chambers of the Legislature shall be privileged, and no Legislator shall be held accountable or punished therefore.” Senator Johnson insists that Senator Lansanah and his wife were in their home at the time of their arrest and were not part of the disturbance on the streets of Tubmanburg.