The House of Representatives has endorsed a letter proposing the election of town, clan, and paramount chiefs to ensure that the Constitution of Liberia is fully adhered to.
At the Extraordinary Session of the 53rd Legislature yesterday, some of the lawmakers argued that the endorsement of the letter was cardinal to completing the country’s democratic process.
In a letter to the Legislature, Rep. Larry P. Younquoi of District #8, Nimba County, said the National Elections Commission (NEC) has downplayed the holding of the chieftaincy elections in Liberia since 1986.
Rep. Younquoi said such a glaring negligence runs contrary to Article 56 (B) of the 1986 Constitution, which states that “There shall be elections of Town Chiefs, Clan Chiefs, and Paramount Chiefs by the registered voters in their respective localities, to serve for the term of six years.” The Constitution also states that the legislature shall enact laws to provide for their qualification as may be required.
“Town Chiefs, Clan Chiefs, and Paramount Chiefs don’t feel obligated to their people, because they are not elected as the Constitution says. When they are elected, they will be fully obligated to the people and not the Executive or Superintendent like it is now done in many places around the country,” lawmakers argued.
According to some of the lawmakers, prior to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration, local officials were elected by the people in order to have proper representation.
“We have local officials who are appointed at the level of Town Chiefs, Clan Chiefs and Paramount Chiefs and who are residing in Monrovia and other places. Only the election of these chiefs by the people can help address this situation,” some lawmakers maintained.
They argued further that the election of these chiefs would serve as a direct enforcement of the Constitution’s mandate and relieve the Minister of Internal Affairs of the responsibility of controling local officials.
In his letter Rep. Younquoi observed that the current publication of the timetable for 2017 Legislative and Presidential elections does not include the elections of local officials, which is a classic example of an oversight by NEC.
He said since the Constitution came into force in 1986, elections of local officials have never claimed the attention of the commission.
“The government has been pre-occupied with the holding of Legislative and Presidential elections. To date, all the town chiefs, paramount chiefs and clan chiefs around the country are either appointed by the chief executive or placed in said positions by the local government officials through ascendency process, acting on behalf of the executive,” he said.
The Nimba Lawmaker said after the general elections of legislators and President, the issue of electing local officials is placed at the back of the commission, thereby keeping the country in a perpetual state of transition.
The chiefs, he said “Are exercising authority in the country for which they lack the Constitutional mandate, and Liberia needs to graduate from such level.”
In such a sad situation, he said, “The plenary needs to mandate the NEC now to include the chieftaincy elections into its timetable for 2017, while the Legislators in consultation with the Executive and its partners find additional means to support such a worthy venture for the people of Liberia.”