Independent Legislative Caucus differs with President Weah’s Annual Message
Minutes after President George M. Weah delivered his 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA), in which he expressed confidence that there would be a Referendum this year to amend the 1986 Constitution, the Co-chairman of the Independent Legislative Caucus (ILC), River Gee County District 3 Representative Francis Dopoh, has sternly differed with the President, saying that “It’s not possible.”
President Weah, in his Annual Message delivered on Monday, January 27, urged Liberians to favorably consider a simple ‘yes vote’ on the three propositions which seek to amend the Constitution in the pending Referendum of 2020. The President announced that during the Presidential-Legislative Retreat, which was held August 16–17, 2019, views were exchanged, during which, solutions were proffered to address some constitutional issues that resulted in a signed resolution comprising three propositions.
“These three propositions for constitutional amendment will be voted on in a constitutional referendum to be held later this year,” the President said.
But the ILC Vice Chairman said the House of Representatives has voted to recall the previously approved ‘Agenda’ for Referendum for the possibility of change in the proposition. “One of the many things said by the President, which I want to object to and won’t be possible in 2020, is the holding of referendum,” Rep. Dopoh said.
According to reports, the Propositions include: the Dual Citizenship Clause (Article 28) – as Proposition 1; Reduction of Tenure of the President, Vice President, and members of the Legislature (Articles 46, 47, 48, 49 & 50), Proposition 2, and the Date of Election (Article 83 (a) & (c)), Proposition 3.
It may be recalled that the motion for the reassessment and subsequent addition to three prepositions was proffered by Lofa County District #3 Representative Clarence Massaquoi, and seconded by River Gee County District #3 Francis Dopoh. The carried motion said that the Leadership of the House of Representatives will coordinate and collaborate with the Leadership of the Senate to have a special conference committee to ratify the probably reset propositions.
Speaking to journalists yesterday, Rep. Dopoh said the recalled Resolution to set the Referendum Agenda is yet to be placed on the Regular session’s agenda for legislative action. “As far as we know, the Referendum Agenda was recalled and we have to re-discuss and act on it again,” the ILC co-chairman said.
Howbeit, probably to the unawareness of the President, he told the Legislature that Proposition One of the expected 2020 Referendum will be on dual citizenship, which underscores the message that the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will always be Liberians. With this, the President said there will be an All Liberian Conference to be held this year, and he looks forward to the participation of the lawmakers along with civil society.
“In the same vein, let me take this time to give a special salute to the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia for the recent landmark ruling that speaks to this truth: that once a Liberian, always a Liberian,” President Weah said.
The second proposition, according to the President, is the outcome of concerns raised by many citizens that the Presidential and Legislative tenures are too long.
“We have heard the cries of our people and in response, we have proposed a reduction in the number of years for these terms, going forward,” the President explained. “Proposition three seeks to address our concern about holding elections during the rainy season in October. Ad adjustment has been proposed to hold elections now in November of each election year.”
Meanwhile, it may be recalled, the House of Representatives unanimously concurred with the Senate to set agenda for a ‘Popular’ 2020 Referendum. The three approved Senate propositions were forwarded to the House of Representatives on September 24, 2019 under the signature of the Secretary of the Senate, J. Nanborlor F. Singbeh, Sr., But the House’s withdrawal of the ‘Recall Referendum Agenda’ means that there would be a Conference Committee instead of the Resolution being sent to the President for approval and printing into handbills.