The group which comprises the National Youth Movement for Transparent Elections (NAYMOTE), PMU, LDMI, IREDD and SAIL believe that passage of the Bill would help address challenges of governance and sustained development.
In a statement issued on behalf of the group, NAYMOTE Executive Director Eddie D. Jarwolo said 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.
Mr. Jarwolo said that based on the assertion of key stakeholders including Justice Philip Banks and Law Reform Commission Chairperson Cllr. Boakai N. Kanneh, the group is optimistic that senators will take needed responsible leadership role in formulating propositions for the national constitution referendum based on the current reality and would manage with the procedural errors that were done realizing that since 1847, Liberians have never participated in any constitutional reform process.
“This is therefore an opportunity that should not be missed,” he said.
“We are hopeful that the Law Reform Commission and Civil Society Organizations continue working with the House of Senate and House of Representatives to pass a Bill of Referendum prior to their annual agriculture break in 2017,” he said.
Mr. Jarwolo said it is important that the Law Reform Commission timely expedites to give all legal support to the House of Senate and the necessary documentation that will assist in reviewing, discussing and making decision for a National referendum Bill leading to referendum.
“We hope that the Committee on Internal Affairs, Good Governance and Reconciliation as well as the Committee on Judiciary at the Liberian Senate, take leadership actions in reviewing, discussing, reporting to the plenary for onward introduction on the floor for deliberations based on the presentations and lessons learnt from Constitutional lawyers including Justice Philip Banks and Cllr. Boakai N. Kanneh, Chairperson, Law Reform Commission during a recent dialogue,” he said.
However, he said, in an attempt to encourage an accelerated action on a joint resolution leading to the referendum Bill by the National Legislature, he applauds the Law Reform Commission and a cross section of Liberian Senate for their participation in the one-day “multi-stakeholders dialogue” held June 2, 2017 in Buchanan City, Grand Bassa County.
The Multi-Stakeholders Dialogue was climaxed by critical review and procedural discussions on the propositions pending before the House of Senate and propounding possible steps for a Constitutional referendum Bill within 2017 by the National Legislature.
The stakeholder’s dialogue brought together 15 Senators, two Supreme Court Justices (Cllr. Philip A.Z. Banks and Cllr. Kabineh M. Ja’neh), the leadership of the Law Reform Commission, the Grand Bassa County Superintendent, the Leadership of Civil Society Organizations on the Constitutional Reform, and local authorities of Grand Bassa County.
During the dialogue, Justice Philip A. Z. Banks made a presentation on the topic: “Towards a Constitutional Amendment”.
Justice Banks’ presentation inspired and motivated the senators who promised to take timely action toward reviewing, discussing and working to get a Referendum Bill considering that they have better clarity to work towards amending the Liberia Constitution.
Cllr. Boakai N. Kanneh, Chairman of the Law Reform Commission, presented on the proposals for Amendment. His presentation laid out the entire 24 recommendations from the Constitution Review Committee report with statistics on what were voted for and against during the national conference to assist the senators deepen their understanding of what were the issues discussed around the country.
Some senators who gave reasons for the delay in discussing the constitutional propositions indicated that the delays were due to procedural errors earlier observed from the Executive Branch, but based on the precision from the presentations made by constitution lawyers including Justice Banks and Cllr. Kanneh, that has provided the technical basis to precede discussions to amend the Liberian Constitution.
Following the presentations, the discussion session prompted series of questions and answers, which provided many senators the opportunity to engage Justice Banks for clarity noting “we are now fully being prepared and equipped to move ahead in reviewing, discussing and presenting a referendum Bill for the Liberian voters to decide,” one senator said.
Grand Bassa County first female Senator, Yornblee Karngar-Lawrence, assured that a joint committee meeting with both the Houses of Senate and Representatives could be possible to review and discuss the propositions in which a report will be provided to the Plenary for action.
Moreover, Sen. Thomas S. Grupee, Chairman on the Internal Affairs, Good Governance and Reconciliation said the Liberian Senate will review and discuss all 24 recommendations which derived from the Gbarnga National Conference and make a decision through a report to plenary to resolve on a possible Referendum Bill, indicating that the senate could probably add new issues that will improve governance in Liberia.
Additionally, Sen. Geraldine Doe-Sherif, Chairperson on the Committee on Executive, pledged to work with her colleagues to promote the process that will lead to a national constitution referendum that is overdue since 2015. “This will ensure that the Liberian citizens have their voices heard through voting for or against final propositions,” she concluded.
Other senators who attended and spoke at the dialogue included: Sen. Marshall A. Dennis, Sen. George T. Tengbeh, Sen. Stephen J.H. Zargo, Sen. Morris Saytumah, Sen. Oscar Cooper, Sen. Jim W. Tornonlah, Sen. Dallas A. V. Gueh, Sen. Francis Paye, Sen. Matthew N. Jaye, Sen. Geraldine Doe-Sherif, Sen. Nyonbee K. Lawrence, Sen. Jonathan L. Kaipay, Sen. Joseph N. Nagbe, Sen. J. Milton Teahjay and Sen. Dan H. Morais,