The Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA), the body clothed with the authority to regulate lawyers in the country, says the government will be proceeding wrongly if it tries to hold the planned National Referendum on December 8, 2020.
Instead, the LNBA Authority is suggesting October 2021 as a preferred date to hold the exercise.
The LNBA maintained that to hold the referendum without any massive public education and awareness by December 8 2020 means that the Government would be proceeding in total violation of the 1986 Constitution.
“The LNBA, therefore, respectfully calls for the postponement of the Referendum to October 2020 to allow a full scale participation consistent with the law,” said the LNBA release.
Article 92 states that “The proposed constitutional amendments shall be accompanied by statements setting forth the reasons 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.”
Also, Article 91 provides that “This Constitution may be amended whenever a proposal by either (1) two-thirds of the membership of both Houses of the Legislature or (2) a petition submitted to the Legislature, by not fewer than 10,000 citizens which receives the concurrence of two-thirds of the membership of both Houses of the Legislature, is ratified by two-thirds of the registered voters, voting in a referendum conducted by the Elections Commission not sooner than one year after the action of the Legislature.”
The Bar in a press conference said the 1986 Constitution provides that the National Election Commission (NEC) should conduct a referendum not sooner than one year after the action of the Legislature, which the Government has failed to adequately to inform the people.
“The framers of the Constitution intended for the people to be informed of any proposed amendment to their Constitution and one year prior to the day of voting on the proposed amendment in order to adequately inform before voting yes or no on that proposal,” the Bar noted.
The LNBA further said it has observed that the majority of the people are confused about the reason provided for each of the proposed amendments, stressing, “Even members of the LNBA don’t have a clear understanding of the reason for each of the proposed amendments. Yet Liberian lawyers are expected by the rest of the Liberian people to advise them on the importance and relevance of the proposed amendments.”
According to the LNBA, it also observes that the attention of every Liberian is nearly exclusively focused on the mid-term Senatorial election to be held on December 8, 2020.
Justifying their desire for the postponement of the referendum, the LNBA noticed that under the current atmosphere where the ruling and opposition candidates are concerning themselves with what they describe as “Fierce competition” referencing to the mid-term Senatorial election, to amend the Constitution requires vigorous public education and debate on each proposition, which has not happened to the December 8 date set for the conduct of the referendum.
The legally oriented body is one of the many groups and institutions register its dissenting view on the conduct of the referendum contained in the pending December senatorial election. In recent times, the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC) came out with a statement registering its opposition to the conduct of the referendum on grounds that citizens do not have much education and public awareness on the propositions to be voted for changes.
The Election Coordinating Committee (ECC) months ago came out with a statement speaking against the referendum because there is no publicity about it to inform citizens adequately what they are going to vote for. Moreover, the ECC said the senatorial election combined with two representative by-elections is just too heavy in citizens’ decision-making to add an unpublicized referendum that has compacted propositions to it.
People in Margibi County had registered their disdain earlier for holding a referendum that they do not know what they are going to vote for.