ULAA Abuses Her Own Constitution

(Commentory - Liberian Democratic Future)

We, Liberians, are noted for our indecorous use of our constitution as well as other laws which are derivatives of that organic document. In 1927 we found ourselves in the GUINESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS for our notorious disregard for the law when Liberia conducted one of the most crooked elections in history. In the presidential election of that year, President Charles D. B. King was re-elected with an officially announced majority 234,000 over his opponent, Thomas J. R. Faulkner of the People's party. President King thus claimed a "majority" more than 151/2 time greater than the entire electorate. This fraudulent practice continued throughout our history. Elections during the reign of the late President William V.S.Tubman were nothing more than a sham. And the late President Samuel K. Doe also decided to emulate his predecessors by his gross abuse of election laws.

This brings us to the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), an umbrella organization of all Liberian communities across the United States. ULAA has joined this flagrant violation and contempt for the concept of this important charter. The executive officers and members

of the board of directors of ULAA have violated the Union's constitution and bylaws. This is troubling since many Liberians are hoping that a democratic, law-abiding society will emerge from the ashes of the civil strife in Liberia. Most people believe Liberians, particularly those in the

United States, should set an example of respecting the laws of any organizations to which they belong. But this has not been the case.

Burdened by inertia and the lack of clear leadership direction to advance any realistic solutions which would provide incentives for Liberians to support the Union, the board of directors had opted to violate that association's constitution. And they had done so with cavalier attitude and contempt as they sought ways to attract and maintain membership.

However, this breach is so serious that it undermines the basic essence of the organization, and in a telling way, it says something very disturbing about ourselves as Liberians. This action, for whatever reason it was taken, manifests the way in which Liberians through the ages had shown disregard for our laws. Over the years, some Liberians believed they were above the law; that the law was meant to restrain the actions of citizens at the lower base of the social structure. Unfortunately, that same attitude has been ingrained in us to the extent that some of us seem surprised when cautioned that our action could contravene some legal constraint. We've got to relieve ourselves from this pervasive antipathy to constitutional requirements.

On September 8, 1996, Mr. Ben Matalda, president of the Liberian Community Association of Georgia(LCAG), stated that during a ten-way conference call, which included some ULAA executives and chapter presidents, a decision was made to postpone the elections of Union officers. The elections which were slated to take place on Sept.14, 1996 were mandated by the general conference that convened on July 5-6, 1996 in Newark, New Jersey. Mr. Matalda further indicated that the decision was taken in order to give Liberian organizations a chance to register, so they would be able to participate in the elections as stipulated by what he called a "Restructuring Plan". However, copies of the plan were not available nor could the president articulate any of its provisions to the membership. But this arbitrary decision clearly violated the constitutional provision which vested decision-making power regarding elections in the General Conference of the Union.

After several futile attempts to gather accurate information about the "Restructuring Plan", THE PERSPECTIVE was able to reach Union President Edward McCauley in a much smaller conference call. The magazine wanted to know why ULAA's officials had deliberately abused the constitution of the Union, and to obtain first-hand information of how the "restructuring plan" came into being and what were its stipulations. Mr. McCauley promised to mail us a copy of the document along with the proposed amendments to the constitution, but we have not received those documents.

Here is a brief outline of recent developments within the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA): Sometime in 1994, the board of directors of the Union decided to amend the constitution.

In February 1995 or thereabout, the board of directors submitted the amendments to the component chapters for ratification, with a note admonishing chapter leaders: "Please remind your constituent(s) of the need to ratify the constitution within ninety days. (By May 11, 1995). Failure to do so will place this responsibility in the hand of the board of directors."

In October 1995, the general elections of officers which were scheduled to take place at the Philadelphia, PA conference were canceled. An interim administration was established; a search committee selected and a restructuring commission empaneled.

On July 5-6, 1996, a general conference was convened in Newark, NJ to receive, review and adopt the restructuring plan. According to President McCauley, one of the provisions of the plan is to incorporate more organizations other than just community chapters. Several of these organizations were invited and voted to adopt the plan. That conference voted to have the elections on Sept 14, 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia.

During the first week of September 1996, ULAA executives and the host chapter president in a conference call decided to postpone the elections to October 19, 1996, for the reasons already stated.

According to Mr. McCauley, copies of the constitution were to be distributed beginning Sept. 15, 1996 for review and possible adoption at the October 19 meeting in Atlanta. President McCauley also stated that the restructuring plan will take effect that same day.

After careful review of the above actions and the Union constitution and, in consultation with our counsel, we have determined the listed violations to the constitution. These violations render both the restructuring plan and the ratification illegal. And based on these findings, THE PERSPECTIVE wishes to call upon responsible ULAA leadership for immediate adherence to the constitution, otherwise the magazine will have no other alternative but to seek a court order to enjoin the Union:

(1) The action of the board of directors to ratify the proposed amendments to the constitution is a usurpation of power, which violates Article X Sec. 1 of the constitution;

(2) Allowing organizations other than Union component chapters to vote on the "Restructuring Plan" violates Article III of the constitution; and,

(3) Arbitrary cancellation of the Sept.14, 1996 meeting by the board eadership also violates Article IV section (d) of the constitution.

Our interest in this matter is not to add to the Union's problems which are already taxing and insurmountable, but rather to set the Union in the right direction; and to remind all Liberians to respect and abide by the laws and social compacts which govern our behavior. Accordingly, adhering to ULAA constitution will be the beginning of that process. What happens next depends on Union officials; however, we are prepared to seek legal action for the public interest.

Copyright © 1996 The Perspective

Material may be downloaded, copied, redistributed, or used for broadcast as long as credit is given to The Perspective and the author(s) of the article(s)