As Liberia steadily approaches its crucial electoral process with an enormous need to harness its democratic gains, several concerned civil society groups including NAYMOTE, PMU, IREDD, LMDI and SAIL are calling on the Liberian senate to deliberate and reach a conclusion on the prepositions recommended for amendments by the House of Representatives.
Following discussions by the houses’ committee on governance, judiciary and elections, eight recommendations were submitted to the Liberian senate for concurrence in 2016. Speaking on behalf of the concerned Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Executive Director of the National Youth Movement for Transparent Elections (NAYMOTE), Eddie Jarwolo, said the recommendations are important to the sustenance of democracy, therefore the Liberian senate must see the need to concur. Jarwolo said the concerned CSOs want amongst others that the Liberian senate through a deliberate process makes its view heard on the eight recommendations submitted to it by the House of Representatives; and that the committee on internal affairs, good governance and reconciliation at the Liberian senate, chaired by Senator Thomas Grupee, takes leadership by introducing the recommendations on the floor for deliberations. “We want the senate to ensure that a joint working session be held to fully agree to take action on the eight recommendations approved by the House of Representatives by passing a bill of referendum. An amendment of the constitution through a referendum will contribute meaningfully in addressing some of the governance challenges facing the country including dual citizenship, reduction of tenure of elected public officials, decentralization, and the elections of local leaders”, he said. For his part, Davestus T. James, Programme Manager, PMU, said the recommendations are crucial to the forward march of the country. He stated: “We need to act on the process that we have embarked on in the last three to four years. You had a nationwide consultation with people airing their views about what they feel strongly about what needs to be changed in the constitution”. “It is imperative for the Senate to act because this is a crucial piece of legislation that will greatly impact in terms of where we go as a country from here because many of the things we are talking about in terms of tenure, and traditional land ownership are crucial to the development and wellbeing of the Liberian people”, he said. Also speaking John Kollie, Executive Director Liberia Media for Democratic Initiative (LMDI), said they (concerned CSOs) are taking the debate at the foot of the national legislature. “What you have done as a country is to spend millions of dollars of your own country money and other foreign tax payers on constitution review, so you cannot be the one to hold back the same process,” Kollie noted. “We are taking this advocacy to the very people who appear to be holding back the bill of referendum. We have agreed on a number of issues that would help to augment the constitution and we have had to grapple with three basic things: land, citizenship and power; and these had been and still are our real menace,” he added. The prepositions include reduction in the tenure of elected officials; Representatives (4 years) and Senators (6 years); opening or restricting citizenship to people of non negro descent; acceptance or rejection of dual citizenship in Liberia; enhancement of women participation in national affairs; that traditional Liberians own their own land and be parties to negotiations with investors or concessionaires on said land; that the date for elections be changed from the second week in October to the second week in March of election year; the election of local leaders including superintendents, and the reduction of political parties to four, amongst others.