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NEC boss seeks SLAJ support

- highlights challenges facing the commission

April 15, 2015 By Ibrahim Tarawallie

As part of his familiarization visits to relevant institutions since his appointment by President Koroma, Chairperson of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and other senior officials of the commission yesterday paid a courtesy call on the executive of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ).

The purpose of the visit, according to N’fa Alie Conteh, was to seek the cooperation of SLAJ as they carry out their duties as an electoral management body, and for the media to assure the general public on their behalf of a level playing field in the conduct of elections in the country.

He maintained that there was no way the commission could succeed in its work without the collaboration of the media, and emphasized the importance of SLAJ and NEC partnering in the electoral process.

“We consider SLAJ very important in our work. We want you to assist us in ensuring a level playing field in the conduct of elections,” said the national elections chief. “There is no way we can succeed without the media by our side. We cannot do it all by ourselves.”

He noted that elections are a cycle and a process of which the registration of voters and nomination process are key among others.

Mr. Conteh informed the SLAJ executive of meetings they had held with the various political parties to gauge their perception about the work of the commission, as well as the problems they are faced with.

He disclosed that during his engagement with representatives of political parties, the latter raised the issue of nomination fees, which according to them, were too high and thus a serious restriction to them participating in the elections process.

Meanwhile, the NEC Chairperson highlighted key issues, including the postponement of the national census which, according to him, will affect the timeline of the boundary delimitation and the update of the voters register “because the law says it should be updated after every three years”.

He hinted at plans to host a national stakeholders’ conference to highlight the issues which may hamper the conduct of the local council elections in 2016 and the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2017 or 2018.

Responding, SLAJ president Kelvin Lewis thanked the NEC boss and his delegation for the visit and for considering his organisation as partner in the work that the commission does.

“We appreciate your proactive moves and for coming in with a new style of leadership,” acknowledged the SLAJ prexy. “Focusing on consultations is very key and I know you will succeed if you go down that lane. Elections can be heated and people go into them in a fighting mood.”

Mr. Lewis assured the NEC boss that the media will do its best in educating the public with regards the issues highlighted.

He used the occasion to invite Mr. Conteh and his entire commission to join the SLAJ Yellow Ribbon campaign to end Ebola.

The NEC Chairperson was pinned with a yellow, which signifies commitment and steadfastness in getting to zero Ebola infection and finally defeating the deadly virus which has claimed the lives of thousands of Sierra Leoneans in an outbreak spanning over 10 months.