The crafter of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, has clarified that after drafting the new Liberian Constitution and submitting it to President Samuel Kanyon Doe, the President adjusted some parts for reasons not disclosed.
Dr. Sawyer has over time been accused by some Liberians for crafting a constitution that made Liberia a secular state and gave lengthy tenures to legislators and the president.
Based on this concept, the Constitution Review Committee, now headed by Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott, has solicited the views of citizens on the tenures of the president, senators and representatives, which will form a part of the referendum expected to be held next year.
Making clarifications in an exclusive interview with this newspaper last weekend at his Governance Commission office, Dr. Sawyer indicated that he and his 25-member National Constitutional Commission structured the tenures of president, senators and representative as six years for senators and four years each for the president and representatives.
Contrary to this structure, said Dr. Sawyer, President Doe recommended 9 years for Senators and 6 for the President and Representatives.
Dr. Sawyer also told this newspaper that the appointment of Superintendents was structured to be done by the President in consultation with local leaders who would recommend three persons from among whom the President would choose one for each county.
He also said the drafted constitution demanded the setting up of a judicial service committee to evaluate the Chief Justice and other justices of the Supreme Court and the judges, but that was left out by President Doe when he reviewed it.
On the issue of making Liberia a secular state as enshrined in the 1986 Constitution, Dr. Sawyer said that in order to not create the feeling of discrimination and exclusion by any group, they agreed to make Liberia a secular state with everyone practicing his/her religion without harm to the other.
He also argued that the 1847 Constitution did not make Liberia a state of one religion, but clearly stipulated that Liberia is a country wherein everyone is free to practice his/her religion without harming or offending others.
The Constitution of 1847 Article 1 Section 3 states: “All men have a natural and unalienable right to worship God, according to the dictates of their own consciences, without obstruction or molestation from others: all persons demeaning themselves peaceably, and not obstructing others in their religious worship, are entitled to the protection of law, in the free exercise of their own religion; and no sect of Christians shall have exclusive privileges or preference,
over any other sect; but all shall be alike tolerated: and no religious test whatever shall be required as a qualification for civil office, or the exercise of any civil right.”
Arguing on this provision and the need to enjoy peaceful coexistence in the country, Dr. Sawyer said he stands opposed to the call for making Liberia a
“Christian state” and that it will not mean well for the country if such a decision is made.
He said the National Constitution Commission that drafted the 1986 Constitution did better work and reached all Liberians with the message than the current Constitution Review Committee (CRC).