Constitution ‘Humiliates’ People with Disabilities

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The President of the Christian Association of the Blind (CAB), Mr. Beyan Kota, says the 1986 Liberian Constitution is “repugnant and humiliating” to people with disabilities and has urged Legislators to remove an “anti-disability clause” from the Constitution.

Mr. Kota said Article 64 of the 1986 Constitution says besides death and resignation, the office of the President and Vice President can also be considered vacant because of “disability,” which is very offensive for persons with disabilities. He argued that persons with disabilities “differ in their ability to work and contribute their quota to the country.”

He made the remarks yesterday at the Capitol Building during a one-day public hearing on 25 propositions of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), which are under scrutiny by the House Joint Committee on Good Governance & Government Reform; Election and Inauguration and the Judiciary.
The CAB boss spoke specifically on the topic: “The incorporation of disability rights in the referendum.”

Article 64 of the Liberian Constitution states in part: “Whenever the office of the President and of the Vice President shall become vacant by reason of removal, death, resignation, inability or other disability of the President and Vice President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall be sworn in as Acting President until the holding of elections to fill the vacancies so created…”

Mr. Kota said the clause is against the human rights of persons with disabilities, and should not only be abolished, but there should be a referendum for the rights of persons with disabilities.

He said persons with disabilities make up 16% of the Liberian population, which is about 300,000 “but are marginalized, underprivileged and extremely poor.”

He urged the lawmakers to eliminate the discriminatory clause to be consistent with Article 8 of the Constitution.

Article 8 says: “The Republic shall direct its policy towards ensuring for all citizens, without discrimination, opportunities for employment and livelihood under just and humane conditions, and towards promoting safety, health and welfare facilities in employment.”

Meanwhile, the President of the National Union of Organizations of the Disabled (NUOD), Madam Naomi Harris, also urged lawmakers to adopt appropriate measures for the implementation of their rights, which are part of the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.

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