‘Our Present Age Demands Constitutional Change’

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf yesterday reminded delegates at the ongoing National  

Constitution Conference in Gbarnga, Bong County that the 1986 constitution was designed on what she described as the “traditional approach,” with certain portions now needing to be changed to include the participation of every Liberian citizen.

She said the past and the present constitution were made to only suit those that were holding leadership positions, making specific reference to the presidency.

According to her, the constitution change should embrace a participatory approach to prevent any notion of any presidential manipulation for their selfish reason that did not happen with the past constitution.

She made the assertion when she addressed the opening of a four-day National Constitution Review Conference.

 “This old traditional approach no doubt served the purpose of our past era, but our present age demands the participatory approach, which is tied with our infant democracy,” Madam Sirleaf noted.

She said the new constitutionalism is transparent and a collaborative forum that provides a task to educate and inform people on proposed changes, and also gather and process their feedback to be incorporated into the final draft for amendment.  

The process, which she said, was the first time in the country, would enable all Liberians to discuss about how to change some of the powers of the Executive, Legislative and the Judiciary and other rights like the 50 percent women’s participation.

“This review process clearly shows that Liberians have spoken their minds and feelings about how they want to be governed and what they are saying requires legislative approval,” President Sirleaf stated.

She was quick to point out that they would be considering only those views that would require constitutional amendment.

“We want to assure you people here today that the Executive will submit whatsoever you will say during this forum in a timely manner to the Legislature – a document that reflects your concerns and aspirations,” she assured the conference.

“Then, it would be left with the Legislative disposition, and submission of the set of proposals for referendum.”

President Sirleaf said, “I feel that all state actors should play their roles in the interest of the people and the end product should ensure a revived constitution that the Liberian people can truly call their own, because they made it responsive to their depth of  liberty and justice.”

She also told the assembly that “One of the measures in the implementation of our national vision, is our governance decentralization policy we have already started but can’t achieve the desired objective without appropriate constitutional amendment.”

The program which was intended to validate over 50,000 views made during the nationwide constitutional forum, was organized by the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC).

It has brought together heads of the three branches of government, the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary.

Others include, women, youth and student groups, as well as civil society, political parties disabled community, diplomats and development partners, among others.

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