Following hours of debate, over 12 Senators yesterday voted unanimously to insert into the Elections Law a clause stipulating that lawmakers desirous of contesting for an open seat must first resign their position.
The Senate also agreed that the Judiciary Committee goes back into committee room and re-frame the document before sending it to the House of Representatives.
The Lawmakers’ decision was as a result of a Bill submitted to the Senate by Senator Varney Sherman, under the title, “Restriction on Eligibility of a Sitting Member of the House of Representatives and a Sitting Member of the Senate to Canvas for Vacancy in the Senate or the House of Representatives During his/her Term.”
According to the proposed Act, dated May 29, and read before the Senate at its 34th Day Sitting, “A sitting member of the House of Representatives or member of the Senate, who is serving his/her first term in the House of Representatives or the Senate, shall not be eligible to canvass for a vacancy in the august body before he/she has completed that first term of office for which the person (s) was first elected.”
In their much awaited debate, the Senators agreed that the document was necessary, but some suggested that instead of creating a mushroom of statutes, the Eligibility Act must be sent to both the National Elections Commission (NEC) to form part of its laws and the Code of Conduct.
“The proposed Bill is timely and will help the country regulate its resources properly, and also save funds that could be utilized for things that are really necessary, and on behalf of the people of Grand Kru County, I will endorse this draft proposal,” the Grand Kru County Senator Peter Coleman said.
Bomi County Senator Morris Saytumah, who welcomed the Bill, warned his colleagues that, “The frequency of by-elections will disrupt the country’s development agenda, because the issue now is governance and the economy; the eligibility should hold.”
Senator Conmany B. Wesseh, who also supports the Bill, said that there was no violation of the Constitution or fundamental rights violated in the submission of the Bill. When enacted, he added, the Bill will economically save the country from huge financial constraints.
Senator Francis Paye of River Cess County announced his disagreement with the Bill and voted against it. He said voting in favor of the Bill will amount to failing his kinsmen and denying them their Constitutional and fundamental rights to decide who to elect.
Sen. Paye served in the Legislature as far back as the period of the erstwhile National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA), which folded in 2006 as the 52nd Legislature took office. In 2011 he won the Rivercess County District #2 seat in the House of Representatives, but soon had his eye on the county’s Senatorial seat, which he ran for the 2014 Special Senatorial Election and won.
Though there is mounting speculation that he is contemplating in running in the 2020 Senatorial Elections, he has said: “No, it is not true that I want to contest.” Yet, there may be many sitting lawmakers in the House of Representatives with Senatorial ambitions for the 2020 race. Thus, the Eligibility Bill aims to close the loophole of revolving by-elections in both houses, which could put serious financial strains on the government.
Meanwhile, the lawmakers have agreed that whatever decision is taken, it will not affect the ensuing by-election.