Cllr. Cephus: ‘Referendum to Go-Ahead’

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Solicitor General of the Republic of Liberia, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus

— Says Supreme Court did not cancel any referendum

Solicitor General Syrenius Cephus has rejected claims that the Supreme Court has canceled the upcoming referendum based on its ruling prohibiting the National Elections Commission (NEC) from printing the ballots for the referendum, contrary to the Legislature’s joint resolution and Article 92 of the Liberian Constitution.

Cllr. Cephus, argued that the Court ruling is being misinterpreted, since it did not cancel the referendum, rather prohibited the electoral body from conducting it under the three condensed propositions. He however said that the referendum will be held instead of canceled, since the Supreme Court clearly laid out the terms and conditions for its holding on December 8, 2020.

Cllr. Cephus, who is no stranger to controversy, recently challenged the authority of the ECOWAS Court of Justice which ruled in favor of former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Cllr. Kabineh Jan’neh, to be instated and paid a hefty sum of money for damages.

“The Supreme Court did not cancel any referendum. The ruling returns to the status quo and that provision is being respected. As a matter of fact, the National Elections Commission [on Sunday, November 22] announced that it has begun printing of ballots including the eight provisions of the proposed propositions,” he added.

Cllr. Cephus, despite being aware of the Executive error to print the referendum gazette last year with the condensed propositions, argued that there will be no gazette publication, even though the Court has ruled against conducting an election under the existing gazette, which, according to the Supreme Court, is a violation of the letters and intent of the Constitution and the citizens’ rights of choice.

“To the mind of this Court, this is a violation of the letters and intent of the Constitution and the citizens’ rights of choice. The court agrees with the petitioners that, should the 1st Respondent (NEC) be permitted to print the ballot papers based upon the published Official Gazette, then and in that case, that will constitute proceeding by the wrong rule,” said the Supreme Court ruled.

Based on this ruling, Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) and their collaborators and the majority of the public argued that the referendum had been canceled since a new gazette is needed to be printed with the eight propositions on it.  This by law, needs to take place one year prior to the conduct of a referendum, as the framers of the Constitution envisioned so that the citizens can be adequately informed of any proposed amendment to their Constitution, ahead of time before voting on the amendment.

But for Cllr. Cephus, the government is going ahead with the conduct of the referendum without the publication of the preposition in a new gazette, since doing so makes it confusing.

“Publication in the Gazette will not be followed because, to a large extent, it is confusing. Therefore, each of the amendments will go with a ballot paper for it to be amended,” Cllr. Cephus added.

It can be recalled that the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision on November 18, 2020, granted the CPP and its collaborators a request for a writ of prohibition mandating NEC to abandon the referendum, which was to be held alongside the Senatorial and Representative by-elections.

The Court decision comes following a writ of prohibition filed at the Supreme Court by the CPP and the Grassroots Rainbow Coalition, as well as numerous calls by various groups, including the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) and the Liberia Council of Churches, for the Elections Commission to leave the referendum out of the upcoming December 8 senatorial mid-term election.

It added that the Executive was deviating from the clear language of the Resolution of the Legislature by combining and condensing the eight propositions into three categories, quite contrary to the provision of Article 92 of the Constitution, which specifically mandates that each of the eight propositions be stated separately on the ballots to afford voters the opportunity to exercise their right of choice.

Consistent with Article 91 of the Liberian Constitution, the Legislature adopted a Joint Resolution, proposing a constitutional referendum to amend eight articles of the 1986 Constitution. Contrary to the resolution, the Executive Branch of the Government, in an official Gazette published on October 8, 2019, in “Volume XIX, No. 52”, condensed the eight proposed amendments into three Ballot measures, on which the electorate would have been required to vote “Yes” or “No”.

As a result, the Court said: “WHEREFORE AND IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the alternative writ is sustained and the preemptive writ prayed for by the petitioners is granted. The NEC is hereby prohibited from printing ballot for referendum contrary to the joint resolution LEG-002-2019 of the Legislature and Article 92 of the Liberian Constitution.”

The CPP argued that, “If, for instance, a voter votes “YES” to ballot Measure Number 3, his or her “YES” vote automatically translates into the approval of all the proposed amendments that have been collapsed under ballot Measure Number 3.”

The three propositions include Dual Citizenship, Change of tenures of elected officials, and change of election date. These are the three on the surface with five others hidden thereunder that the electorate would have voted for in a lump-sum.

Also in defense of Cllr. Cephus, Liberia’s Minister of State for Presidential Affairs has called on all Liberians to vote “yes” to all the propositions in during the Referendum.

Min. Nathaniel F. McGill who, along with Cephus spoke at a press conference Monday in Monrovia, emphasized the importance of reducing the tenure of elected officials, including the Presidency.

“People who will not vote Yes to the various propositions do not mean well for our beloved country. Reducing the tenures of elected officials will make them serious to work instead of playing with the Liberian people’s work,” Min. McGill argued.

According to the Minister of State, it is unfortunate that some Liberians and people in the opposition are misleading the public that the Supreme Court has thrashed or canceled the Referendum. Rather, he said that the Supreme Court has asked the electoral body to ensure that each of the propositions is printed on its own ballot paper instead of condensing it as was done earlier.

“President Weah wants to set the record of reducing the tenure of the Presidency and other elected officials. Many people will want for the tenure to increase and not reduce,” he said. “I will be speaking to some of our friends in the opposition that, if you love our country, you need to vote Yes and reduce the tenure of elected officials. One of the reasons we always have conflicts is because people want to stay longer in office. The President believes that the people should always go to the ballot box and decide their leaders.”

Meanwhile, Legal experts have been skeptical about the change of the presidential tenure at this time, noting that if this is done, the certainty would exist that the current President would use this first tenure as a reason to contend that he is eligible to contest for additional two terms in the new tenure that may be agreed upon for the presidency.

3 COMMENTS

  1. “…Meanwhile, Legal experts have been skeptical about the change of the presidential tenure at this time, noting that if this is done, the certainty would exist that the current President would use this first tenure as a reason to contend that he is eligible to contest for additional two terms in the new tenure that may be agreed upon for the presidency.”-Daily Observer

    Comment:

    Legitimate apprehension. And that is precisely the reason why those rascals are anxious to reduce the presidential term of office, so as to argue later that president Weah is qualified under the new ternue law to begin a brand new set of terms? Only in Guinea or Ivory Coast could that crap be tolerated and perhaps because tenure and term may mean the same in French but surely not in English.

    Simply put, “tenure” constitutionally has to do with the duration of occupancy, how long an occupant may serve/hold/occupy an office. Whereas “term” in that same context implies the sequence or order in which the occupant may serve/occupy/hold an office.

    So once the constitution calls for two terms and you are out, in English it does not matter whether one term was 6 or 8 years and the other term is reduced to 5 or 4 years. A change in tenure does not negate the term(s) served or to be served. Once you have served your two terms, you are out or will be outted, period!

    Meanwhile, one way to preempt or forestall that threasbare scheme is very easy. We could simply amend or modify the referendum having to do with reducing the presidential term of office with a restrictive clause. A caveat prohibiting any and all incumbents from contesting their incumbent offices as a new term.

    Imagine Nathaniel McGill who knows nothing about anything questioning anyone’s patriorism who opposes this referendum, it means something sinister and beneficial must be inside. That’s the deviousness behind this scheme being weaved by McGill, Tweah, Acarus Gray and Weah. After all, only fools wouldn’t want to be in power for 14 or more years like these leeches. And given the social ostriches they are, they have their heads burried in the sand believing we don’t see their pilferings at all, or we are not paying attention to those criminal acquisitions. But TWT!

  2. This Solicitor General has developed the unserious habit, of misleading our president, and causing anger amongst the citizenry. How can a trained lawyer, interpret a Supreme Court verdict, in a counter productive manner? Is he the new interpreter of court’s verdicts? Cllr. Cyrenius Cephas, please abandon your sympathy for your CDC Party, and do our job, as the good lawyer, we know you to be. This is a candid plea, from somebody, that you know.

  3. To legally and properly amend the Constitution of Liberia, Articles 91 and 92 of our Constitution clearly and unequivocally set forth the foregoing mandatory and controlling grounds:

    i. Two thirds of the membership of the both Houses of the Legislature must vote and set forth a proposal to amend the Constitution;

    ii. Not fewer than 10, 000 citizens of the Republic must set forth and present a petition to the Legislature a requesting the amendment (s) to the Constitution;

    iii. The proposal or petition cannot be presented to the people of Liberia no sooner than 1 year after two thirds of the membership of both Houses of the Legislature have acted on the proposal or petition;

    iv. The proposed amendment (s) to the Constitution of the Republic must be accompanied by statements setting forth the reasons for the proposed amendments;

    v. The statements setting forth the reason (s) for the amendment of the Constitution must be published in an official gazette by the Government;

    vi. The Government must show compelling proof that the people have been sufficiently informed and educated; and,

    vii. The amendments must be presented to the people of Liberia in separate and distinct counts and published in an official gazette.

    What on earth did the Manneh Weah-led Government expect to achieve by hastily and defiantly presenting their proposed amendments to the Constitution to the people of Liberia in total indifference to the spirit and letter of the Constitution and noticeably in violation of Articles 91 and 92 of the Constitution?

    Should the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia stand by and faintly license the Manneh Weah-led Government to discount and disrespect the judgment of the Supreme Court, come 2029, Mr. Weah and his Government could certainly step forth and ardently argue and contend that as compared to all other Liberians, he and his CDC-led Government under all circumstances, have the right to:

    1) Set forth and contest the December 2029, Representative and Senatorial Elections because though George Manneh Weah-led Government had been in office and power for 12 years, the amendment of Articles 50 and 51 of the Constitution of Liberia on December 8, 2020, by law and consistent with our Constitution, grants and empowers him and is Government the right to contest the Representative and Senatorial Elections scheduled by the National Elections Commission of Liberia (NEC).

    2) The George Manneh Weah-led Government, like all form of Government is constitutionally and absolutely permitted to remain in power and maintain hold on the Presidency of the Republic of Liberia, up to and including the third Monday in January 2039. In essence, Mr. George Manneh Weah and his Government could opt to and argue to continue to rule Liberia and residents for a total of 22 years, if not challenged;

    3) Should the Supreme Court of the Republic overtly stand by and permit the Manneh Weah-led Government to proceed and hastily amend Articles 50, 51 under the pretense of amending Articles 28, 45, 46, 48, and 93 for the common good of Liberia and residents without been timely challenged before our courts, Mr. Weah and his Government will remain in power and continue to run the Republic of Liberia until January, 2039.

    4) Like the Late President William V.S. Tubman, Mr. Manneh Weah and his Government by and through their false and pretentious amendments, come what may and if permitted, they are certainly paving their way to step forth and contest the Representative and Senatorial Elections slated for December 2029.

    Consistent with the above, we are calling on every Liberian and opposition political party to swift come together and return to the Supreme Court by way of petition for a writ of prohibition to timely restrict and restrain Manneh Weah-led Government and the National Elections Commission of Liberia (NEC) from holding the Referendum in clear and total violation (i)-(vii) of Articles 91 and 92 of the Constitution of Liberia and in absolute violation of the judgment of the Supreme Court of the Republic.

    A hint to the wise is compelling and sufficient. Absolutely, Liberia and residents deserve better!

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