Legislature to Scrutinize Referendum in Ganta

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The agenda for the referendum on the crucial change in the 1986 Liberian Constitution will be finalized by the House of Representatives at the end of an upcoming five-day Constitutional Proposed Amendment Retreat sponsored by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), House Speaker J. Alex Tyler has said.

Speaker Tyler and 34 other Representatives of the 15 sub-division of the country are expected to meet in the commercial city of Ganta, Nimba County, from Tuesday, November 17 to Saturday, November 21, 2015 to make the crucial decision.

The Chairman of the Joint Committee on Good Governance, Election and Inauguration, Nimba County Electoral District #8 Rep. Larry Younquoi, said in a major press conference yesterday that the five-day retreat would allow the lawmakers to dissect the 25 proposals from the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), which were compiled after consultations throughout the country’s 73 Electoral Districts as well as in selected foreign countries where large numbers of Liberians reside.

He said the House will also put the President’s proposals under spotlight.

The Acting Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Nimba County Electoral District #7 Rep. Worlea Sayway Dunah, said the Lawmakers’ decision to set the agenda for the Referendum would be done based on the opinions of experts.

According to him, former Solicitor General and Labor Minister of Liberia, Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, and Law Professor Nevada Ricks will give their respective expert opinions.

Land and Environmental Advocate, Cllr. Alfred Brownell, the President of the Liberia Business Association (LIBA), Dee-Maxwell Kemayan, as well as former Senator and former Chief Justice, Cllr. Gloria Scott, who is also Chairman of the Constitution Review Commission (CRC), will also give their opinions.

Cllr. Scott told journalists at yesterday’s press conference that the Referendum can be held no sooner than one year after Lawmakers endorsed the holding of the Referendum.

She also said there would be special designs for the ballot, which will be understandable to people who can and cannot read and write, “but all will have ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ columns in accordance with Article 92 of the Constitution.”

According to Article 92, “Proposed constitutional amendments shall be accompanied by statements setting forth the reasons therefore and shall be published in the Official Gazette and made known to the people through the information services of the Republic. If more than one proposed amendment is to be voted upon in a referendum they shall be submitted in such manner that the people may vote for or against them separately.”

Cllr. Scott also said the change in the Constitution would serve as reparation for those who suffered from the country’s 14 years civil crisis.

It may be recalled that in an eight-page letter to House Speaker Tyler, President Sirleaf concurred with 18 out of the 25 suggestions from the CRC and seeks an endorsement from the Legislature for a referendum on the proposals to change the Constitution.

President Sirleaf agreed with the first three recommendations of the CRC, which called for the reduction of the presidential tenure from six to four years; 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 prolonged cohabitation should enjoy marital rights, among others.

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