Dual Citizenship, Land Ownership Bills Delayed before Committees

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Grand Kru County District #2 Representative Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa and Montserrado County District #8 Representative Moses Acarous Gray are leading the campaign the convince other members of the Lower House to endorse the President's request to authorize the printing of new currency. (File photo)

-House Solicits Signature to Discharge Bill for Passage

A permissible campaign to recall the Citizenship and Land Ownership Resolutions from committees’ room has intensified in the Legislature with a credible political will of the Resolutions at the edge of passage. Besides the heat-up in the Legislature, the controversy has also deepened among the student populace in the form of ‘intellectual debates.’

The resolutions are among four that have been in committees’ room for over 30 days, since February 8, 2018 — the 8th day sitting — and the proposition has sparked intense debates across the country.

The Resolution on the Property Amendment was forwarded to the House’s Joint Committee on Judiciary, Claims & Petition; Lands, Mines & Energy; and  Ways, Means, Finance & Development Planning; while the Resolutions on Citizenship Amendment, Qualification I Amendment and Qualification II Amendment were sent to the Joint Committee on Judiciary, Claims & Petitions and Ways, Means, Finance & Development Planning . They were to report after two weeks but the resolutions are delayed.

The House’s Rules and Procedures provides  for bills which spend over 30 days in committee room to be recalled or discharged for discussion and subsequent passage, if a simple majority of Members of the House of Representatives affixed their signatures to a ‘Discharge Petition.’

“If a bill has been before a Standing Committee for thirty (30) days, any member of the House may issue a notification to discharge it,” Rule 39.1 of the House’s Rules and Procedures say.

39.2 continues: “Having issued said notification; the Chief Clerk should prepare a discharge petition for members to sign. On the second session day after the issuance of the notification, the Chief Clerk shall read the list of all members who signed the petition. If  a  simple  majority is obtained in favor of the discharge petition, the Speaker shall assign the bill on the next session day following reading of the list. Discharge petition may cover only a single introduced measure and not multiple bills.”

The sponsor of the four Resolutions, Grand Kru County District # 2 Representative Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa, told journalists over the weekend that one of the co-sponsors, Montserrado County District # 8 Representative is gathering the signatures for the bill to be discharged and subsequently discussed and passed. Reports said at least 21 signatures are gathered, with 17 remaining.

Serving as the Keynote Speaker and Chief Launcher at the 1st Inter-University Debate of the Youth and Development Department of the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) Cllr. Koffa told the students dual citizenship doesn’t only help to contribute to rapid development in Liberia, it also eradicates racism in the constitution.

Pressure on the Legislature

Unconfirmed reports said hopefully next week, the House will again debate, scrutinize, and vote on the four resolutions as to whether they can be items for Referendum to amend certain provisions in the constitution, but opposition say contrary.

Opposition says the offer demonstrated by the Coalition for Democratic Change and other supporting parties to pass the resolutions amid the country’s crawling economy are “a sham.”

Some members of the Unity Party, including Montserrado County District # 11 Rep. Richard N. Koon and others are willing to vote against the resolutions to stymie the bill, which Rep. Koffa and CDC lawmakers maintain is required to sever ties with other blocs and caucuses.

Some see the proposed change as long overdue, but others do not see it as a priority and want to see critical intervention on bringing the cost of living down.

If the resolutions are approved by both Houses of the Legislature, the Legislature would then set the date for Referendum to be conducted by the National Elections Commission (NEC). Liberians will vote ‘Yes or No’ as to whether the constitution should be amended or not.

What is happening?

Most opposition members against the law are arguing that they want to take the draft law to their districts to get their views before participating in its passage. Sinoe County District #2 Rep. Jay Nagbe Sloh told the Daily Observer recently that about 19 of them have agreed to that decision. This means, if the opposition members standoff to their respective consultations, the resolutions will remain in limbo until after the Easter Break.

The Four Resolutions

The Citizen Amendment is aimed to remove the discriminatory negro clause and open citizenship to any race, while at the same time defining natural born Liberians and allowing them to have dual citizenship. The amendment will upset Articles 27 and 28.

The purpose of the amendment of the Property Amendment is to allow non citizens of Liberia to own property with certain restrictions. The Amendment will effect Article 22, in which the entire Articile 22 will be deleted and new Article 22 will be written as “Every Liberian citizen shall have the right to own property alone, as well as in association with others” and “Non-Liberians may own property under (the following) restrictions…”

The Qualification I Amendment is intended to restrict certain elected offices to natural born Liberian citizens as the term may be defined in the constitution. The amendment will be done in Article 30 and is rewritten: “Natural born citizens of Liberia who meet the following qualifications are eligible to become members of the Legislature.”

In addition to restriction of only Natural born citizens to be eligible to become members of the Legislature, Qualification II Amendment is also restricting the appointment of the Supreme Court justices to natural born citizens. This amendment will be done in Article 68. 

President Weah’s Proposals

It may be recalled, on Monday, January 22, during his first Annual Message to the Joint Session of the Legislature, President George M. Weah called for the removal of a “racist” clause in the constitution which restricts citizenship to black people.

The clause was “unnecessary, racist and inappropriate”, the President said, and pledged to also scrap the law that prohibits foreigners owning land.

Accordingly, Liberia was founded by former US slaves in 1847 as “a refuge and a haven for freed men of color”.

The Liberian Constitution defines black people in the language of the time, as “persons who are Negroes or of Negro descent”. Other communities, like the estimated 4,000 Lebanese people who have lived in Liberia for generations, are barred from citizenship and, by extension, land ownership.

“The restrictions introduced at the time are no longer necessary” the President said, adding that he also wanted a ban on dual citizenship to be abolished.

“It contradicts the very definition of Liberia, which is derived from the Latin word ‘liber’, meaning ‘liberty’,” he said.

Author

  • I am a Liberian journalist, born November 7 and hailed from the Southeast and of the kru tribe. I began contributing to the Daily Observer 2008 and was fully employed in 2012. I am the 3rd of eight children and named after my great grandfather. Am happily married with three children (girls). I am a full member of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and also the Sports Writers Association of Liberia (SWAL) and the Legislative Press Pool (LEGISPOL). I can be contacted through email: [email protected] or cell number/WhatsApp: (+231) 0886585875 or Facebook.

8 COMMENTS

  1. There are two maxims that I read aloud from time to time. They are:
    1. Every disappointment is a blessing and
    2. Everything works out for the best.

    I read these maxims not because I am sick, but because the maxims make sense in real life situations. In this particular case, the lawmakers continue to deliberate, if at all on the burning issues of land ownership and dual citizenship. No living soul in and out of the country of Liberia knows how the debate goes in the Lower House or what the nobleman and their female counterparts are up to. In most developed countries, TV cameras are allowed in the wells of the lawmakers. For some strange reasons, it aint so in Liberia. Is it because the lawmakers are unfledged? The college students are engaged in similar debate as well; they are right because there is a great deal of uncertainty. All in all, I hope that “everything will work out fot the best. Furthermore, as disappointed as we are with delays or probably a waste of time by the lawmakers, it’s a blessing. We certainly want the best of decisions!

  2. Of the four amendments listed above, the only one needed right now is that which allows Liberians who, during our deadly 14-year civil crisis, found it necessary to acquire citizenship in America and elsewhere, to retain their Liberian nationality in full, including all rights, privileges, and obligations appertaining thereto. The other three proposed amendments are neither urgent nor necessary at this time. And for God’s sake, let us Liberians now resolve to stand on our own two feet in pursuing the growth and development of our beloved country.

  3. the bible said love your neighbour as your self so let us understand how we talk about citizenship and landownership if the government want foreigners to own the land if that is the case then as I see it Liberia should join the union of the usa and be a state of America and so the life spin of the people will move to another level

  4. Man of God, Apostle Saide,
    How wa you? Okay Apostle, I got a question for you to answer please. Do you like a neighbor who won to break your family down? I have a white couple who live in my block. They don speak to me every time I say hello to them. Wha I must do? I should continue to like them?

    Okay, this citizenship business wha we talkin about here is differen. The lawmakers don’t want to talk about it. We who in the diaspora want to vote, but the people back there not saying nothing. They not our good neighbors. We should love them?
    Please reply to this, Apostle. I will glad to hear from you.

    • well the answer to the question is I am not in Liberia I am only talking about what I see on the news paper so I don’t know what going on but as I see if the government say the white people should stay there then they have rights to live there if they don’t speak to you don’t speak to them myself here I am in a big problems in the same way that why is wrong to vote because voting bring all those problems is best to cast lot then to vote

  5. First deal with the dual citizen aspects and see how that will work out and then deal with the granting of citizenship to other race . The prime objective of the citizenship whether dual or naturalization of other race is the need for “development” . But major developments in certain areas of concerned are usually done by government . If the governments of that country were really sincere , do mean really sincere that country would have been developed . Lets take a look at the recent national budget , big payoff of the budget goes to the national Legislature and the Executive , Judiciary and the security sectors. A portion of the budget also goes to the civil administration . There is no sacrifice coming from the three main political institutions of the to carry out development . Nothing is in the budget for pro-poor people way out in the country side . Granting citizenship will help in demanding that government spend more of its capital or revenues on development. The only positive effect is a new educated middle-class citizens being developed voted into law . As we all are aware, the more educated the population are and the more they are exposed to other developments the better the results . As previous governments have been slow to pay attention to education. Past governments have been running two universities in the country over fifty decades . The granting of citizenship for development purposes by building a middle-class through the law is a double edge sword . Pressure will build on government to meet the demands of this new but educated middle-class for development in better roads, health and education and better standard of living. Don’t know a country like Liberia that love corruption can handle such political pressure from its new middle-class citizens engaged in political competition for development . Either way , there will be a change .

  6. It’s so sad to listen to most people complain about racism and equal rights for all when they are abroad but reject the same in our country. Remember Liberian treat others as you want to be treated. You might reject dual citizenship, land ownership or foreigners becoming citizens in Liberia now but there will eventually be a time when going to travel to other countries and try to obtain the same benefits that we are currently denying others of having.

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