Easter break extended by one week
Members of the House of Representatives have agreed to unprecedentedly add one week to their traditionally two-week’s Easter Break to have a face-to-face with their respective constituents about the ‘controversial’ Dual Citizenship and Landownership Bills.
The constituents’ meeting is intended to help lawmakers make an informed decision on a growing controversial issue currently the subject of intense public debates. Some legislators have already raised questions about the granting of citizenship to non Negros and have openly expressed opposition to it.
On the other hand, some legislators share President Weah’s opinion that the Constitutional clause restricting citizenship to individuals of Negro descent is racist and needs to be scrapped.
Whatever the case, in the final analysis the matter must be decided by the sovereign will of the people expressed through a national referendum. Similar past attempts to rescind this Constitutional provision have ended in failure, the most recent being the referendum of 2011 in which the proposal to amend the Constitution in favor of citizenship for individuals of non Negro descent was trashed at the polls.
At this stage, it is not known whether costs associated with the extra week of consultations are being underwritten by Government funding as had been in the past, or whether Legislators themselves are shouldering the costs of the consultations, given the current economic downturn.
However on Thursday, March 22, 2018, during the 19th day sitting, House’s Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers formally adjourned session for three weeks, comprising the two-week Easter Break and one-week Constituency Meeting.
The Easter Break is in consonance with the timetable of the House Rules and Procedures, which states that the Legislature is entitled to two breaks, Easter and Annual Breaks.
The House Rules and Procedure specifically indicates that the Annual Break begins September 1 of every year, while according to Article 32 of the Constitution, the Legislature shall assemble in regular session once a year on the second working Monday in January.
Yesterday’s adjournment marked the first formal break in observance of Easter for the House of Representatives of the 54th Legislature, the most important and oldest festival of the Christian church, to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The House will resume work on Thursday, April 12, 2018 and discussions on the proposed amendments are expected to resume in earnest.
The titles for the four resolutions for discussions and passage are Citizenship Amendment, Property Amendment, Qualifications I Amendment, and Qualification II Amendment.
The Four Resolutions
The Citizen Amendment is aimed at removing 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.