But his colleagues disagree
Nimba County Senator Prince Johnson has out-rightly rejected his colleagues’ argument in defense of Dual Citizenship, adding that priority now is not about dual citizenship, “but road construction, health, education and job creation.” Senator Johnson’s remark struck a raw note drawing into perspective, once again, the real issues confronting the Liberian people according to a prominent civil society activist (name with-held) who maintains the debate about dual citizenship amounts to nothing more than a distraction.
But Senator Varney G. Sherman, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions yesterday kicked off the debate on the Act called for Amendment in the Alien and Nationality Law, and Dual Citizenship, by describing those laws as “inhumane, cruel and is contrary to the new terms of nationality concepts and practices.”
Senator Sherman’s comments however left many wondering whether his (Senator Sherman’s) stance was meant to ingratiate himself into the good favor of President Weah as a way of staving off the resumption of prosecutorial action against him and others charged for bribery in the Sable Mining case. It can be recalled that President Weah has, since assuming the presidency, pledged to go after those involved in shortchanging the country.
However, Senator Varney Sherman (Grand Cape Mount County), in his almost one hour opening statement, clarified and defended that most Liberians who have taken United States citizenship, did not do so out of hatred for their motherland, Liberia, but due to circumstances that were beyond the reach of some.
For instance, Sen. Sherman explained that due to the country’s civil war, many people, including youth migrated to other countries in search of peace, security, economic opportunities, “and some had to obtain the citizenship of these countries in order to fully enjoy the peace, security and economic opportunities for which they fled Liberia.”
Sherman pointed out that in the United States, one is not allowed to hold a job in the Federal Government unless you are a United States citizen.
“For example, if you are a citizen of the United States and you are a resident of a state, to enter a university, especially a university of that State, the fee is 75 percent to 80 percent less than the person who is not an official resident or citizen. So some of these young people assumed dual citizenship, because that was the only way to go to school since they could not afford the high fees as non-citizen,”Sen. Sherman said.
“Why should we punish them by the law of the Liberian citizenship, which I submit is inhumane, cruel and is contrary to the new terms and nationality concepts and practices, because our Constitution says that no law should be made which is inhumane, which is cruel. I don’t think we are treating these people, our fellow citizens some of whom are our children fairly,” Sen. Sherman argued.
He emphasized that dual citizenship is today, “the generally accepted practice, which is done in almost all of West African countries, except Liberia. Research has shown that dual citizenship enhances social harmony, and stimulates economic development through the participation of the dual citizen in the economy of the lesser developed country whose citizenship he or she holds.”
“There are many other reasons,” Sen. Sherman declared, “why Liberia should nullify these laws against dual citizenship and assume the modern term by giving dual citizenship to Liberians.”
According to him, dual citizenship right for Liberians are necessary due to the fact that hundreds of thousands of Liberians fled the country as the result of the country’s prolonged civil conflict, and because of the huge downturn of the economy, which made job opportunities unavailable for qualified Liberians, and even made it impossible for people who want to enter university.”
He however, in spite of his call in support of dual citizenship, Sherman said there was a caveat and or limitations when the Act is passed, that no dual citizen will be eligible to hold the office of the President, Vice President, Chief Justice, Speaker, Pro Tempore, ministers of Justice, Finance and Development Planning, among others.
Before adjournment of the debate until next Thursday due to power outage, Senator Daniel Naatehn (Gbarpolu County), welcomed his colleague’s comprehensive research and work, and expressed the hope that his colleagues will now make the necessary input during upcoming debates and public hearings.
Senator Oscar Cooper (Margibi County), called for the need to include experts and traditional leaders during the public hearings, while Nimba County Senator Prince Johnson, out-rightly rejected the call, adding that priority now is not about dual citizenship, “but road construction, health, education and job creation.”
In the absence of Pro Tempore Albert Chie, Sen. Sherman initially presided, but recused himself because all of yesterday’s agenda items came from his committee. He was replaced by the chair on Health and Gender, Senator Peter Coleman (Grand Kru).
Meanwhile passage of the Decent Work Bill, the Land Rights Act among others, continue to remain in abeyance at the Senate and, although those bills, long since debated, do not require a referendum for passage into law, they are being down played in favor of proposed bill which require a national referendum as a prerequisite for passage into law.