The plenary of the Liberian Senate on its last day sitting before the Easter break, unanimously voted and passed into law the restructured Liberia National Police (LNP) Act and the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) Act of 2015, respectively.
The two Acts were among several bills submitted last October and November to the Upper House by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for enactment into law, on the first day of the six weeks extended sitting expected from the suspension of their annual agriculture break which she requested of members of that body through a proclamation.
In a letter accompanying the new Acts and read before plenary Thursday, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Defense, Intelligence, Security and Veteran Affairs Stephen Zargo, informed his colleagues that members of his committee reached their decision urging for passage after initiating several public hearings with the full participation of current and past national security actors, civil society groups and representatives of the country’s foreign partners.
“After various consultations and public hearings, I hereby present the final draft of the bill, the Liberia National Police Act and the Liberia Immigration Act, and therefore recommend to the honorable Senate the passage into law of these two most important national security bills,” Chairman Zargo noted in the brief letter.
Proffering the motion for passage from his Gbarpolu County seat (as Vice President Joseph Boakai, President of the Senate presided), Pro Tempore Armah Jallah urged his colleagues to give the two Acts the third reading category which is the last gate before passage. His plea was granted unanimously.
Members of the committee included Senators Morris Saytumah, Bomi; Jonathan Kaipay, Grand Bassa; Prince Y. Johnson, Nimba; Albert Chie, Grand Kru; Danile Naatehn, Gbarpolu; George Weah, Montserrado; H. Dan Morais, Maryland; Conmany Wesseh, River Gee; Francis Paye, Rivercess; Jewel Howard Taylor, Bong; J. Milton Teahjay, Sinoe, and Stephen A. Zargo, chairman.
It may be recalled that in a letter dated October 30, 2015 addressed to Senators sitting in extended session, President Sirleaf informed the Legislature that the Liberia National Police (LNP) Act of 2015 puts into place the necessary legal framework of the establishment of the LNP as a semi-autonomous agency under the Ministry of Justice to be headed by an Inspector General of police.
In keeping with the purpose of this new bill, President Sirleaf noted in her letter, “the LNP acting as an instrument of the state must provide an atmosphere of safety and security, protect lives and property and foster respect for human rights.” She asserted that it represents a significant milestone in the process leading to the UNMIL transition.
President Sirleaf reminded the lawmakers that when signed into law, the Act will fulfill the commitment of the government to the United Nations Security Council towards a new police act approved prior to the September 2015 review of the UN Mission mandate in Liberia.
With respect to the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) Act of 2015, President Sirleaf in her letter said passage of the Act into law replaces the Bureau of Immigration & Naturalization (BIN), which was established within the Ministry of Justice under Section 22.11, Sub-chapter (a), Chapter 22 of the Executive Laws; Chapter 12 of the Liberia Code of Law Revised; and Section 2.2 of the Alien Nationality Law of Liberia as amended is now repealed.
The LIS Act of 2015 by passage shall now enforce all laws and regulations relating to immigration, citizenship, naturalization and related matters.
In the Act submitted to the Senate, President Sirleaf emphasized that the LIS Act addresses policy issues that need to be in conformity with international standards.
The issue of providing a clear heretical structure, decentralization of Liberia Immigration Service, respect for law, disciplined immigration officers, immigration officers or civilian personnel being subjected to civilian authority of a civilian complaint review commission, among others, were all cardinal points considered in this act, President Sirleaf noted.
“Mr. Pro Tempore, in fulfillment of Liberia’s commitment to maintain a secure and stable country in the absence of UNMIL, and considering the improved governance and heretical structure outlined in the act, the LIS will iterate and transition into international surety standard in performance of its required immigration duties.”
The passage of the two acts comes at a time when there are calls for the capitalization of the national security apparatus to avert any terrorist attack within the territorial confines of Liberia after the recent terrorist attack on a resort in neighboring La Cote d’Ivoire which left over a dozen killed.