Africa-Press – Liberia. By now, some of you, if not all, may have heard my colleagues in the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) accusing me of “nefariously altering provisions” of the Framework Agreement that we filed over a year ago with the National Elections Commission to duly register and certificate the CPP, during my tenure as Chair. This is false, and it is misleading.
I and the ANC DID NOT alter the provisions of the Framework Document. The Framework Document amended by the legal advisors and approved by all Parties is materially, substantially and provisionally the same as the Framework Document filed with the National Elections Commission to register the CPP. Then and now, the Framework Document filed at the National Elections Commission offers me no advantage over anyone in the CPP. Then and now, it offers the ANC no advantage over any other member-party in the CPP. And then and now, the Framework Document contains all of our agreements as amended by our legal advisors and approved by all the parties, and was the same instrument used to register and certificate the CPP as well as enable us to successfully field CPP candidates in various by-elections and the Midterm Elections of 2020. This was true then, is true now, and will be true forever – because it is the simple truth.
Over five years ago, I started this journey of asking the Liberian people to entrust me to help change our country. For many years during my career, I travelled to and lived in several countries around Africa and the world, and comparing what I saw to the state of our nation made me sad and angry. Sad that as a people, we are amongst the best and brightest, but our potential has not been fully utilized to develop our country. Angry that some of the leaders we have entrusted our country with, have used the trust of the people to acquire illegal wealth for the benefit of themselves and their children while the vast majority of Liberians suffer. I believed then and now that the one singular path to changing this country and the system from the top-down is through the Presidency. That is why I made the decision to join politics after my extensive and successful career in business and the private sector. When we got in the 2017 race about 18 months to elections, the Liberian people across this country voted for and placed us in the top 5 nationally and top 3 in 6 out of the 15 counties, including Montserrado, Bong, Maryland, River Gee, Bomi and Sinoe. This informed my resolve that our people were clamoring for real change and I committed to staying in this process to present that in 2023.
This is why when a group of young people from the UP, LP and ANC visited my office in 2018 to discuss the possibilities of an opposition collaboration to work together to hold the Weah administration accountable and to present a unified opposition in 2023, I endorsed the idea. The idea of the CPP was never about one person; not about Alexander Cummings or Joseph Boakai, nor about Benoni Urey or Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence or at the time, Cllr. Charles Brumskine – may his soul Rest In Peace. It was about the people of this country. It was about giving our people the opportunity to have real change in their lives and our country and not just another chance to do the same. It was about ensuring that accountability and good governance were the standards to which we held Weah and ourselves. We made that commitment to each other and to the people, or so I thought. Unfortunately for some, those standards do not apply to us in the CPP. For me, that is deceptive, not just to ourselves but to the Liberian people. We must be the change we seek and that is why I have continuously spoken against the ills in our society, whether done by the Weah government, or by CPP leaders, the Legislature, or the Judiciary. It has cost me friends and key allies. What is important to me is doing the right thing, even if it costs me the opportunity to be your President.
I am not here to claim perfection, for no man is perfect, but I am not a fraud, a liar, a thief, a murderer or criminal; I am not corrupt – never have been and never will be. We did not make our money by stealing from the Liberian people. We have not taken funds intended for our people for personal use. For my many years of working in a competitive private sector, where we had no relatives, it was my work which spoke for me; from the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), to the Pillsbury Company, to the Coca Cola Company, I have never been fired, not even for administrative reasons, or fallen under any cloud of accusation of corruption or dishonorable conduct. I have been thoroughly audited every single year during my career with not a single report of improprieties or suspicions of wrongdoing. All that I am, and have today, was acquired through honesty, hard work, integrity, and commitment to do the right and ethical things. I would never risk that for anything in this world, not even for the Liberian Presidency.
So, this false accusation of nefariously altering the CPP framework document to benefit me in this race for the CPP nomination is an assault on my character only intended to tarnish my hard-earned reputation and try to present me to the Liberian people as being the same as the accusers. This may be politics to them, but it is evil and malicious. They may have succeeded temporarily as no matter what we say today, there are some people who will not believe us, but I promise you, they will fail. Today, I want to confirm and assure you that I, Alexander Benedict Cummings, did not alter the Framework Document as Amended by the lawyers and approved by the Parties. That is the singular fact, and Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence knows that, Joseph Boakai knows that, Benoni Urey knows that. The Committee’s report in its “Observations” stated that. In this report, from Page 13 to Page 22, the Committee observed that except for slight structural rearrangements, all provisions including Definitions, Headquarter, Party Membership, Withdrawal Clause, National Executive Committee, Leadership of Advisory Council, Communication, Eligibility, Nomination, Dispute Resolution, Timeframe/Duration are all the SAME in the Copy filed with the NEC as it is in the Amendment Copy from the Lawyers.
Yet in its “Findings”, the Committee contradicted their own observations by only comparing the May 19 Framework Document to the Framework Document filed at the National Elections Commission, without regard for the lawyers’ amendment, knowing that the focus would be on the findings and not the observations. This is why the ANC contested the findings for its inconsistencies with the observations and submitted its dissent to the National Advisory Council. At the NAC meeting on last Wednesday, it was agreed that the Report along with ANC’s objections to the findings would be submitted to the lawyers for verification. This important validation of the lawyers was a safeguard against an investigation by partisans who were under pressure from their principals who happened to be my accusers. It was also agreed that we would call on our supporters to calm down and fall back until the lawyers had responded to the Report. We agreed that a statement by the NAC would be issued, informing the public of the outcome of the NAC meeting. After the meeting, as agreed, I called on all of my supporters to stand down. Understandably, all Parties were clamoring on social media with the ANC feeling vindicated by the observations in spite of the inconsistent findings and calling on Mr. Urey to apologize for his accusations, while other partisans believed the findings and became upset about the lawyers being asked to verify. That night, I was contacted by Sen. Lawrence and the Chairman of Unity Party asking me to call on my people to stand down as they were under pressure to respond. Amb. Boakai also contacted me to tell my supporters to stop asking Benoni Urey to apologize. In good faith, I issued a statement the next day ,again calling on my supporters to stand down.
The same day, Sen Karnga-Lawrence unilaterally hosted a press conference under the auspices of the CPP when she had no authority to do so given the end of her tenure, and worse off, without sharing the release with the ANC for review or input as is consistent with CPP statements. She intentionally and maliciously, with intent to deceive, read selective parts of the contested findings as the basis for claiming that I should take responsibility for alterations of the Framework Document, thus unleashing the public onslaught.
Fellow Liberians, I have been silent to enable the Committee to work and for the lawyers to respond. Unfortunately, I can no longer remain silent while my name is being dragged in the mud and my hard-earned reputation tarnished by individuals who feel entitled to state power. The Framework Document signed on Zoom on May 19, 2020 was under the leadership of Mr. Benoni Urey during the heat of the COVID crisis. He turned over to me after the Zoom ceremony with no turnover notes, documents, resolutions or signed copies of the Framework Document. At no point did all of us sit in one room during the Zoom ceremony and sign one Framework Document signature page. We all signed our individual copies at our respective locations on Zoom on May 19 and kept it with us. There was no one signature page from that signing ceremony with all of our signatures. That is why, upon approval of the lawyers’ amendment, Mo Ali, who was instructed to collect the signatures of all persons on one page, went around to have each PL and Chairman sign. He submitted the signature page to the ANC for filing. That my colleagues cannot be honest to the public and admit that the signature page they signed was taken to them long after May 19, and that they backdated their signatures, speaks to the level of deceit and the underlining intent.
Additionally, all parties submitted their resolutions to the ANC on July 6 & 7 after my message to them on June 25th, reminding them about the need to submit their parties’ resolutions to enable us file the approved Framework Document as Amended by the lawyers. Today they claim that the resolutions they submitted was for the May 19 Zoom ceremony, yet Sen. Lawrence signed the Liberty Party’s resolution on July 1, 2020. It is also important to note that it is impossible for us to have used the signature page from the original document on the filed copy because the order of the signature page on the document we signed on Zoom is completely different from the order of the signature page filed at NEC. The original document starts with Unity Party signatures while the Filed copy starts with ALP signatures.
The facts are clear my people. My colleagues know these facts. The document from the Zoom ceremony was submitted for review and amendment to the lawyers. The Lawyers submitted their work and key issues arising and I submitted it to all Parties. A meeting was held with the lawyers to discuss and agree on the changes they made. We also agreed on the timeline for submission of each party’s resolution by July 3rd. Each party submitted their resolution to the ANC on July 6 & 7th. The signatures for the document were collected by Mr. Ali and submitted to Aloysius Toe. The document was filed at the National Elections Commission on July 14th. The CPP was accredited on August 14, 2020. If a party chose to complete and submit their old resolution for the Amended Framework, it is their fault. We filed what we received from the Parties.
All of the substantial content changes made to the original/Zoom document was made by the lawyers in their Amendments. My colleagues know this. They have a copy of the lawyers’ amendment and they know that the lawyers will confirm the changes they made. I therefore wonder if this is why Sen. Karnga-Lawrence is yet to send the Committee report to the lawyers for verification. I want to challenge Sen. Karnga-Lawrence to act in good faith for once and submit the Committee Report and the ANC’s dissent to the lawyers as agreed in our NAC meeting on last Tuesday. If the lawyers confirm that the provisions of the Framework document submitted by the ANC to NEC is materially and substantially different from the amendments made by the lawyers and approved by the parties, then I will apologize to the Liberian people and take full responsibility. However, if the lawyers find that what is filed at NEC is materially and substantially the same as the provisions in their Amendments, Benoni Urey and Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence must apologize, not only to me but also to the Liberian people for intentionally misleading them and threatening to destroy the CPP.
Fellow Liberians, I did not expect this journey to be easy. All of this is part of the battle we must fight to make our country better. Character assassination is the #1 tool of ruthless and devious individuals when they feel challenged. I have recognized that I am up against a system that is deeply rooted in our society; a system that is intent on keeping things as they are because it benefits a few of them. A system that is intent on keeping our people uneducated so they can easily manipulate them with falsehoods and propaganda. A system that will take funds intended for the people and put in the pockets of a few leaders. A system that would not create jobs for our people because the leaders want the people to depend on them personally for crumbs. A system that has continuously said, I am not one of them – that I am a stranger, that I am unknown, that I am cutting the line and not waiting for my time; that I should give chance to Amb. Boakai, go as his Vice and take over after his first term. Because I have refused to abide by the system, which has not worked for you the people, and I continue to work to earn the trust of the people, the system is fighting back. This is why our country is where it is because we cannot change Liberia, if we do not change the system. This is how whoever tries to change the way things are done, is destroyed and buried. But I will not be buried. I may not convince everyone that they are lying, but the vast majority of Liberians have come to know me and they know that I am no criminal; that I am not corrupt. Most importantly, my wife, Teresa, my family, friends and supporters know that and I can live with my truth.
Today, I want to tell you all that I will not stop fighting for you and for the right things to be done. This is only a bump in the road and we will overcome it. It is such an irony to be called a criminal just because I am threatening some people’s last chance to power. The fact is, the CPP was not formed to make any one person President or Vice President, that is why we have laid out a democratic process to select our candidate. All I have consistently asked is that we go through this process and if I do not win, I will respect and support the outcome. Yet the fear that I will win through that process is what is fueling this malicious reputation damage. This is intended to have me leave the process so they avoid the primary which they know they will lose. You can only assume what they would try to do next. This is why most good and well-meaning people who want to help change our country stay out of politics and sit on the sidelines. That Sen. Lawrence will intentionally try to tarnish my reputation by giving her stamp of approval to falsehoods, says a lot about her. But I will not reciprocate in the same manner, because that is not my kind of politics. Maybe I should learn to play the dirty politics, but how has that changed our county? How has doing the same things over and over given us a different and better result?
The road ahead will be long and difficult. Our journey of change will not be easy. I have always known that real change will be resisted even by some of our friends. Too many have only known the old and discredited ways, and do not believe change in our country is possible. In fact, some have told me that change will not work because Liberians will not change. But I disagree and believe my friends are wrong. The history of our nation, however imperfect, is the tale of a quest for change. When Liberians elected a woman, the first on the African Continent, it was out of the desire for change. When, after two terms, they elected a celebrity football icon from outside of establishment politics, it was out of our nation’s desire for change. Let there be no doubt that Liberians do not like where our country is, and know we should be doing better and we must do better to reward their risk-taking with real change.
Politics does not have to be dirty, malicious, conniving and evil, but that is what the traditional politicians know. That is how they thrive and survive. That is how they have lived off the poverty, illiteracy and pain of our people. This will end under a Cummings administration. They know it and they fear it. It is left with you my people, to say no more. To say to these kinds of politicians, enough. To stand up for the people standing up for you and not for themselves and their families. To own your destiny and decide who your leaders would be and not who others choose for you. To challenge this system that has not worked for you and support those who are trying to change it for your benefit. To question falsehoods about people who have no record of devious behavior and to shame those who do. It is on you to accept the truth regardless of what you are told and by whom. It is on you fellow Liberians. It is on you as we will not relent, waver or stop fighting because we know we will win!
If I should fail in this political quest because of my honesty and integrity – by the way, I do not believe, we will fail – then I will be consoled that at least I tried to offer our country a different and better way, but did not succeed. But as I try, I do not need to be crooked, wicked, dishonorable or corrupt just to be President. As difficult as it seems today – as even more challenging as the road ahead may be – my faith remains strong; my hope is unwavering; and my belief in the Liberian people remains unfaltering. Thank you and God Bless you, and God Bless Liberia.