But uncertainty hangs over its approval by the People
The House of Representatives has begun reviewing four resolutions amending certain provisions of the Liberian Constitution, including citizenship and land ownership but uncertainty hovers over its passage into law by referendum.
The titles for the four resolutions are Citizenship Amendment, Property Amendment, Qualifications I Amendment, and Qualification II Amendment.
At the 8th day sitting yesterday, the first reading of the resolutions was done and sent to two separate Joint Committees for revision and report to the House Plenary in three weeks — by Thursday, March 1.
For the resolution on the Property Amendment, members of the Joint Committee are Judiciary, Claims and Petition; Lands, Mines and Energy; and Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning.
The Joint Committee for the remaining three resolutions, the Citizenship Amendment, Qualification I Amendment and Qualification II Amendment, includes Judiciary, Claims and Petition and Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning.
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 of the Liberian Constitution.
The purpose for the amendment of the Property Amendment is to allow non-citizens of Liberia to own property, with certain restrictions. The Amendment will affect Article 22, in which the entire Article 22 will be deleted and a new Article 22 will be written as “Every Liberian citizen shall have the right to own property, as well as in association with others.”
Also, “Non-Liberians may own property under the restrictions,” and 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 the restriction of only natural born citizens to be eligible to become members of the Legislature, Qualification II Amendment is also restricting the appointment of Supreme Court justices to natural born citizens. This amendment will be done in Article 68.
Sponsors and Co-sponsors
The Resolutions are sponsored by Representatives Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa (Grand Kru County District #2); Thomas P. Fallah (Montserrado County District #5); and Acarous M. Gray (Montserrado County District #8).
The co-sponsors of the resolution are Speaker Bhofal Chambers (Maryland District #2); Representatives Clarence Gahr (Margibi District #5); Marvin Cole (Bong District #3); Matthew Zarzar (Sinoe District #3); Alfred Koiwood (Gbarpolu District #1); J. Nagbe Sloh (Sinoe District #2); Saah Joseph (Montserrado District #13); Crayton Duncan (Sinoe District #1); Adolph Lawrence (Montserrado District #15); Solomon C. George (Montserrado District #7); A. Kanie Wesso (Gbarpolu District #2); and Joseph N. Somwarbi (Nimba District #3).
Others are Representatives Emerson Kamara (Grand Cape Mount District #3); Dixon W. Seboe (Montserrado District #16); Matthew Joe (Grand Bassa District #3); Isaac Roland (Maryland District #3); Munah Pelham-Youngblood (Montserrado District #9); Albert B. Hills, Jr. (Bong District #1); Tibelrosa S. Tarponweh (Margibi District #1); Bishop M. Johnson (Bomi District #2); and Alex C. Grant (Grand Gedeh District #3) — 24 representatives in all.
Passage and Referendum
The four Resolutions will be approved if two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives and the Senators affix their signatures. If their signatures are affixed, it means the Resolutions will be considered “items” for Referendum – Yes or No!
President Weah’s Proposals
It may be recalled that on Monday, January 22 during his first Annual Message, President George Weah called for the removal of what he called a “racist” clause in the constitution which restricts citizenship to Black people.
He said the clause was “unnecessary, racist and inappropriate,” and also pledged to scrap the law that prohibits foreigners owning land.
It can be recalled that President Weah’s State of the Nation’s address calling for the granting of land ownership and citizenship rights to foreigners including people of non-Negro descent, sparked huge controversy with many arguing against it. They expressed fears that ordinary Liberians would stand to lose if ever such a proposition is passed into law through a referendum.
They cited the cases of Zimbabwe and South Africa where most of the prized lands were taken over by whites. Unlike South Africa where the land issue is still unresolved, in the case of Zimbabwe, there was outright seizure of white owned lands by the Mugabe-led ZANU PF party.
It remains to be seen however whether Liberians are going to give this proposal a vote of approval in a referendum. But judging from past experience where similar proposals have been overwhelmingly rejected and given the current tide of sentiments against the proposals, it appears unlikely that President Weah’s proposal will be given the Yes vote in a referendum.