-Speaks against Land Ownership Bill
Members of the House of Representatives of the 54th Legislature are giving contrary opinions since the submission of laws amending certain provisions of the Liberian Constitution, including the granting of Liberian citizenship to people of non-Negro descent, who will also be allowed to own land in Liberia.
The bills were submitted to the Lower House on February 6 of this year, following calls by President George Weah to revisit laws on citizenship and property ownership as contained in his first Annual Address on January 29.
Henceforth, Montserrado County District 1 Representative Lawrence Morris has vowed not to support the citizenship of non-Negro descent (White men), but to rather maintain the dual citizenship of Liberians or Negro as spelt out in Article 27 of the 1986 Constitution, which says: “All persons who, on the coming into force of this Constitution were lawfully citizens of Liberia shall continue to be Liberian citizens. In order to preserve, foster and maintain the positive Liberian culture, values and character, only persons who are Negroes or of Negro descent shall qualify by birth or by naturalization to be citizens of Liberia.”
Rep. Morris registered his protest against granting citizenship to people of non-Negro descent when he spoke in an interview with journalists yesterday in his Capitol Building office in Monrovia.
A former Mano River Union (MRU) Ambassador to Liberia, Morris has also promised to support laws that would enable Liberians who lost their citizenship by becoming citizens of another country, as well as their children (paternal) who were born in another country, to become citizens of Liberia.
Before his election last year to the legislature, Morris served as Mano River Union Ambassador to Liberia. He replaced Representative Josephine G. Francis, who lost the October 11, 2017 legislative election.
As for the Land Ownership bill, Rep. Morris expressed his absolute opposition to it, “because there are several unresolved land disputes across the country.
“There are land disputes in every part of the country, and even in my district, where currently we have land issues between the former Public Works Minister and some citizens. Our focus should be to solve all the land-related disputes before given lands to whosoever,” Rep. Morris warned.
However, some lawmakers, including Representative Fonati Koffa, is supporting the idea of making white people citizens of Liberia; but some of his colleagues, who were seen supporting a white person’s citizenship, disagreed with the proposal to give white people rights to own property (land).
It may be recalled that during the president’s first address, he stated that the great objective of forming these colonies was to provide a home for the dispersed and oppressed children of Africa; and to regenerate and enlighten this benighted continent, none but persons of color shall be admitted to citizenship in this Republic.
“I am of the view that these threats no longer exist, and that these conditions have changed,” President Weah declared in his address.
He added, “In these circumstances, it is my view that keeping such a clause in our constitution is unnecessary, racist, and inappropriate for the place that Liberia occupies today in the comity of nations.”
President Weah argued that the law contradicts the very definition of Liberia, which is derived from the Latin word “liber,” meaning “Liberty.”
He continued, “I believe that we should have nothing to fear from people of any other race becoming citizens of Liberia, once they conform to the requirements of our Immigration and Naturalization Laws as may be appropriately amended to address this new situation.
“In fact, we have everything to gain.
“If we look in our region among the other member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), especially our neighbors in La Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, it will soon be observed that permitting people of other races to become citizens has not marginalized their indigenous.
“I believe that this is an anomaly that should not have found its way into the 1986 Constitution [Chapter 4, Article 27]. I therefore strongly recommend and propose, respectfully, that consideration should be given to removing it by appropriate measures provided for in our laws for amending the Constitution,” the President declared.
However from the look of things, passage of the proposed change in the Constitution by way of a referendum appears more likely than not to fall on hard times and fail the test. It can be recalled that similar proposals to have the Constitution amended to grant citizenship to individuals of non Negro descent have been rejected in previous referenda.