Former Chief Justice Warns that credibility of the outcome will be undermined
The former Chief Justice of Liberia, Cllr Gloria Musu Scott, has cautioned the National Elections Commission (NEC) to be bold to advise the government that if the referendum proceeds in the way it is currently being handled, it will undermine the credibility of the outcome. Her call is now inclusive of many calls with the latest by Liberian Diplomat Olunbanke King Akereie, who at the African Methodist Episcopal University’s 20th Commencement wondered why people are not advising the President rightly and he is not listening to the Liberian people.
“I expect NEC to be bold enough to say that if we proceed this way, it will undermine the credibility of the outcome of this process, and accordingly advise the government- it will be in the best interest of NEC, the President and the republic; as an old country, we need to do things rightly,” Cllr. Scott said.
The former Chief Justice’s statement comes days after the Supreme Court of Liberia ruled that it is unconstitutional to place eight resolutions prepared for a national referendum into five portions. Article 92 of the Constitution stipulates that each proposed amendment to the Constitution must be accompanied by a statement which states the reason for the amendment and must be published in the Government’s official gazette.
Speaking on a recent statement by the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel MgGill, who called for citizens to vote for all propositions for amendment, Cllr. Scott wondered why the Minister and other functionaries will drag the presidency to this level, saying it looks like a manipulation of the presidency, which is even a disservice to that office.
Cllr. Scott, who is also the former Chairperson of the Constitution Review Committee, emphasized that the Constitution stipulates that the amendment should not be voted on earlier than twelve months. She recalled that during the nationwide tour of the CRC, citizens agreed that the tenure of the presidency be reduced from six to four years; senators from nine to six; representatives from six to four.
“So, now that the Legislature has passed the resolution that is contained in the gazette changing the mandate of the citizens with respect to the CRC Report, it is incumbent upon those who have the responsibility, as per the Constitution, to go back to the people and explain to them reasons for the change and implications. But without doing that, you want to denigrate the work of the CRC and use it as a cloak…”?
Former Chief Justice Scott emphasized the need to thoroughly educate the citizens on what it means if they say yes or no; “That is the responsibility of those functionaries who are assigned to perform such functions, and they should not hide under the work that we did. Do you know what it means to stand up as Minister of Presidential Affairs and say vote yes; you are speaking for the Presidency. Is that what we want, without explaining to the people why they should vote yes? That is abusing the decision of those who repose their confidence in the presidency. If you really love the President and want him to go down in history and have a legacy, do it right — that’s the best you can do for him, and this republic which is finding a direction.”
She maintained that the country is still in transition and has continued to suffer from misrule since the 1820s when the first group of those she described as the “colonialists” landed here and declared independence. “We need to govern this country in a different fashion; we have got to bend the corner and begin to govern this country with some level of integrity, compassion for people, fairness and equality. It can’t be the same way always that you people will create the situation, especially for whoever is now in leadership, to salute him, ‘hail Caesar, hail Caesar’; it is not in the best interest of the person that is in power but those who are hailing and manipulating,” she noted.
The legal luminary lamented that people have not learned that, “When we accumulate all of this, if that thing that defines us as Liberians, if that common denominator is not stable, rooted in the rule of law, enforcement of law, equality, justice, fairness, we lose it all — we have seen it in our lifetime; so we have got to stop it.”
Former Chief Justice who claims to be press-shy, however, asserted that the situation is so grave that she has to speak out.
“We have got to learn to be bold; we have experienced so much in this country; we have looked at death in the face, seen our children die, the country reduced to nothing. So, from the experiences that we have had,” she added, “We’ve got to learn some boldness in terms of governing this country. I expect NEC to be bold enough to say that if we proceed this way, it will undermine the credibility of the outcome of this process, and accordingly advise the government — it will be in the best interest of NEC, the President and the republic,” she reiterated.
With NEC’s claim of carrying out notable changes in accordance with the Supreme Court rulings, former Chief Justice Scott wondered whether NEC has sufficient time to go out and educate the voters on the new format of the referendum, with the Constitution prescribing not less than twelve months.
With respect to calls by some Liberians for the rewriting of the Constitution, Cllr. Scott advises that citizens first follow what is in the Constitution, such as teaching it in schools, equal access to natural resources, among other things.