Jubilation, dancing and singing of gospel songs filled the Gbarnga Administrative Building yesterday after proposition 24, the proposed amendment to declare Liberia a ‘Christian Nation’ was overwhelmingly endorsed by delegates attending the National Constitution Conference (NCC). The vote was 416 in favor and 18 against the proposed amendment to the Liberian constitution.
The proposed amendment on the nation’s religious stance is now among 19 that were endorsed out of the 25 amendments brought to the floor to be voted on by conference delegates during four days of intense deliberations.
The controversial proposition 24 was intensely protested against by Liberians of the Islamic faith when it was placed on the conference agenda.
Delegates of the National Muslim Council of Liberia yesterday abstained from the voting process that many people including Vice President Joseph N. Boakai described as “free, fair and transparent and signified the voice of the Liberian people.”
In their petition presented to the conference organizer, the Constitution Review Commission (CRC), the NMCL’s National Secretary General, Shiekh Sheriff said the proposal to make Liberia a secular nation did not appear among the 25 views that were initially collected during the nationwide consultation.
Sheriff also described as a “conspiracy,” the decision by the CRC to remove that view from being voted upon.
However, out of the 73 Electoral Districts, it was only the people of Suehn- Mecca, Electoral District #3, in Bomi County that expressed the view that Liberia be declared a secular nation, which the CRC noted, did not form part of the summary of recurring views collected during their nationwide consultation.
On two other contentious issues, the conference agreed that dual citizenship and dual currency should not be accepted in Liberia.
Delegates agreed that the constitution should ensure women’s participation in governance and social affairs and women should have equal economic and social opportunities (empowerment and education.)
The delegates further voted for the presidential term of office to be reduced from six to four years. They likewise voted to reduce the senatorial term from nine to six years and the term of office of representatives from six to four years.
The conference, however, rejected the proposed amendment seeking marital rights for people in prolonged co-habitation.
Also coming under scrutiny was the office of Vice President which the delegates agreed should not preside over the House of Senate because of the principle of separation of powers. Delegates voted for the office of Chief Justice to be an elected position.
All the propositions agreed upon will now be compiled by the CRC and subsequently submitted to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for onward submission to the National Legislature for their concurrence.
If the proposed amendments obtain a two third majority vote of both the Senate and House of Representatives, they will then be forwarded to the National Elections Commission for a referendum.
If they are endorsed by Liberians in a referendum, the propositions will then be printed as an amendment to the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
During yesterday’s deliberations, security forces patrolled the conference hall and prevented large gatherings outside of the hall.
Protesting Muslims were driven about 100 feet from where the voting was taking place.