LAMA, Awake from Hibernation: The Story of the Recent General Elections
By Siahyonkron Nyanseor
When Mr. Bawn left office, the lack of interest exhibited by majority of the membership was inherited by his successor, Mr. Robert G. Garguah. The condition continued until Mrs. Williams took over in 2006. From 2006 to the present, there seems to be renewed interest in community activities. And for those who are not familiar with the contributions LAMA has made to the larger Liberian community in the Diaspora and Liberia, let me cite few examples here.
The Liberian Community Association of Metropolitan Atlanta (LAMA), Inc., was previously known as the Liberian Community Association of Georgia. The organization has been in existence since 1976. From its inception, the organization has been an important chapter of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), Inc. ULAA is the umbrella organization for Liberians and their various organizations in the Americas. ULAA was established July 4, 1974 in the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America. As a voluntary, nonprofit and non-governmental organization, and has had as its objectives (mission):
• to promote and encourage national reconciliation,
• integration and unification;
• preserve and protect Liberian culture, history and traditions;
• uphold and defend fundamental rights, including human rights and civil liberties of Liberians everywhere;
• cultivate and harness the energies and resources of Liberians to improve the quality of life of all Liberians at home and abroad, and
• to advocate, advance the cause of constitutional democracy and sustainable national development in the Republic of Liberia.
Based on the above, LAMA has played significant role in having these objectives realized. For example, LAMA helped raise the consciousness about the plight of Liberians during the civil wars with American policy makers; led a campaign to expose the tyranny of the Taylor regime, and assisted some Liberians with immigration matters. In addition, LAMA has produced two national presidents and chairman of the National Board of Directors of ULAA; Presidents Bobby W. Sandimanie, Sr., 1982 1982; Siahyonkron Nyanseor, 1986 1988, and Chairman J. Nicholas Reffell, 1997 1997. In addition, June 1996, Abraham M. Williams, George H. Nubo and Siahyonkron Nyanseor, all of whom are members of LAMA, established a newsmagazine and an Internet website that not only revolutionized the Internet for Liberians, but went as far to make Georgia the media hub of the Liberian Diaspora. Today, the Liberian Community in Georgia can boast of having The Perspective, The Liberian Dialogue, Running Africa and the Sahara Village Internet websites in their state. These websites have continued to make significant contributions in disseminating relevant information, commentaries and news analysis to Liberians at home and in the Diaspora.
LAMA's elections success was marked by a high degree of participation of Liberians residing in Georgia, something unprecedented in recent history of the Liberian community. Liberians did not only demonstrate remarkable patience, but were respectful of one another and the candidacies of those vying for office. The elections Commission must also be singled out for ensuring that established rules and procedures were followed, and that the process was made smooth.
Overall, the elections results were transparent! Notwithstanding, some community watchers and observers have pointed to a major constitutional lapse, which thankfully, did not derail the process, but could sow the seeds of future problems if not addressed. The constitutional lapse had to do with the following:
LAMA ELECTIONS COMMISSION’S PROCEDURES
II C. VOTERS QUALIFICATION: THE Commission shall use the attendance and dues records to qualify voters and nominees. A qualifier will be appointed by the Commission. The record will be used qualify the voters to receive a ballot.
D. BALLOTS: The voting will be done by secret ballot in accordance with ARTICLE 1 Section 2 of the LAMA BY-LAWS. One ballot per member!
Furthermore, the membership eligibility requirements proposed by the Elections Commission by which the elections were conducted are the other concerns:
I D. MEMBERS QUALIFICATIONS/VOTING: In accordance with ARTICLE IV (Section 1) …be registered ($10 fees), be active, pay dues ($10 per meeting)
Active members will pay October dues ($10) and November dues ($10) to vote.
If a new or unregistered Liberian desires to take part in the election, they will have to register and pay their dues ($10) and registration fees ($10).
Note: Article IV …Section 1b (Good Standing is 50% attendance and dues)
(LAMA ELECTION COMMISSION Qualifications & Procedure Oct. 21, 07 V 02)
Clearly, the eligibility requirement for voting not only ignored, but overstepped the key issue of the payment of membership dues and attendance. The key issue and emphasis for qualifying a member was the payment of $20.00. An observer noted, "This was clearly a breach of the constitution; just attending meeting for the first time, paying your $20.00 and casting your vote for your candidate, is a very bad precedence. I have been in this community for a very long time, and this has never happened before. Anyone from the street could have come in and voted"
However, LAMA's elections and those in other Liberian communities across the US, could well portend a rebirth of a new community spirit. The winds of change in Liberia could be given a new sense of optimism to Liberians in the Diaspora. This revival can only be sustained by the active participation and support of community programs by all Liberians residing in Georgia.
After the elections results were announced and Mr. Skinner declared the winner, Mrs. Williams conceded honorably, and pledged to support the new administration; while Mr. Skinner also pledged to unite and move the community forward. With this new spirit of cooperation, I hope the community will finally awake from hibernation. And as of November 17, 2007, President Williams submitted the names of individuals that will consist of her transition team. The names put submitted are: Mr. Siahyonkron J. Nyanseor, Chairperson, Rev. William B.G.K. Harris, and Rev. Molley S. Cooper as members. The President-Elect Skinner’s team consists of the following persons: Mr. L. Wellington VanPelt, Chairperson, Ms. Mariana Flowers and Mr. Melvin Crawford as members. President Williams’ communication regarding the transition reads, “With respect to procedures, I would suggest that both chairpersons work out the details, of course, in consultation with their respective leaderships, since the Elections Commission has completed its charged responsibilities”, the letter concluded.
Also, on Thursday, November 15, 2007, the President-Elect and this writer (Nyanseor) separately paid a courtesy visit to the home of Mr. & Mrs. Richard Saydee in Austell, Georgia to meet with the National President of ULAA, Mr. Emmanuel S. Wettee, who was here on a work related training in Atlanta. Both presidents had a “heart-to-heart” discussion, and they promised to establish good working relationship with each other in other to promote the interests of Liberians in the Diaspora and at home.
Finally, I hope the elections that brought together approximately two hundred and fifty individuals will inject a new spirit of cooperation and respect for each other despite our differences. And that the new administration will set up a committee to resolve the pressing issues that were raised during the elections. By doing so, I believe, the community will be headed in the right direction.
Find below the Official Results of the Elections:
FINAL RESULTS FROM LAMA ELECTIONS
The LAMA ELECTIONS COMMISSION is pleased to announce the Final Results from the Elections held on Sunday, November, 11, 2007
1. Mrs. Sue Yancy Williams …………………..61 VOTES
2. Mr. Walter B. Skinner ………………………144 VOTES - ELECTED
VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
1. Rev. Molley Cooper …………………………68 VOTES
2. Mr. Yancy Sieh ………………………………144 VOTES - ELECTED
1. Mrs. Ammie Barry ……………………………43 VOTES
2. Mrs. Ellen Pratt-Byrdsell …………………. .144 VOTES - ELECTED
1. Mrs. Ruby Johnson-Morris ………………82 VOTES
2. Mrs. Cecelia Elliott-Sungbeh …………….118 VOTES - ELECTED
1. Mr. Simeon Sepha ………………………..178 VOTES - ELECTED
1. Mr. Paul Muah …………………………….149 VOTES - ELECTED
2. Mr. Abraham Mellish ……………………..121 VOTES