In an eight-page letter to House Speaker, J. Alex Tyler, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has concurred with 18 out of the 25 suggestions from the Constitution Review Committee (CRC) and now seeks an endorsement from the Legislature for a referendum on the proposals to change the Constitution.
The proposed amendments to the constitution were compiled after consultations throughout the country’s 73 electoral districts as well as in selected foreign countries where large numbers of Liberians reside.
President Sirleaf agreed with the first three recommendations of the CRC, which called for the reduction of the presidential term of office from six to four years; reduction of the senatorial term from nine to six years; and the reduction of representatives from six to four years.
The President also concurred on the suggestions that private owners on whose land mineral or natural resources are found should share the benefits accrued by the government and be part of the negotiation; that the Chief Justice should not be elected; superintendents, commissioners, mayors and chiefs be elected and election commissioners be appointed by the president.
Other proposals that the President agreed with include: respect and recognition for persons with disabilities, which should be enshrined in the constitution and education and job opportunities accorded them; prioritize the participation of Liberians in economic activities, and that traditional people should own their own lands and be party to any negotiation.
The President further concurred that the constitution should ensure women’s participation in governance and national affairs; the constitution and all legal documents should carry the pronouns he/she; and the age of marriage for girls should be at least 18 years.
The remaining concurrences by the President are that women have access to equal economic and social opportunities; the constitution should guarantee inheritance rights for traditional women; and people in pro-longed co-habitation should enjoy marital rights.
Among the CRC proposals not meeting the President’s concurrence is the controversial citizenship issue. The President believes Liberian citizenship should not be limited to persons of negro descent. She argued that as a nation, Liberia must move forward with the times, and honor international obligations, conduct ourselves appropriately in the community of nations and reciprocate the level of acceptance our nationals receive in foreign lands.
“I, therefore, cannot support the continual race-based discriminatory provision of this constitution,” the President wrote. “I urge you to reject such racial discrimination and adopt changes consistent with advancement in the global community.”
The President expressed her disapproval of abolishing dual currency in Liberia and said Liberian dollars should not be rejected as ‘tear-tear’ (mutilated) arguing that it is a proper subject for the statutes rather than for the constitution.
The President also frowned on the suggestion that Liberia should be a Christian Nation – arguing that the constitution has always allowed freedom of religion and of worship without seeking to describe or prescribe one religion as the State’s official religion.
Among other suggestions that the President did not concur with are Dual Citizenship which she stated should not be accepted in Liberia; and that private property ownership should include mineral resources.
The President agreed that Customary laws should be made constitutional and that children’s rights should be revisited so that they do not interfere with parental duty to discipline children. She concurred that concessional negotiations should include local authorities and citizens of the locality in which the natural resources or mineral resource is situated.
The President also urged the Legislators to ensure that they harmonize with the relevant provisions of the constitution relative to the resolution of election disputes, in the event of a challenge to election results, and the time set for inauguration of the President and Vice President.
“Mr. Speaker, as a referendum can be held no sooner than one year after the date of Legislative action, I respectively request timely action by the Legislature to allow submission of proposals to the registered voters during the year 2016,” the President wrote.
Meanwhile, the communication has been referred to the House leadership for review before placing it in the agenda for debate among its members.