President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s proposed bill to create an autonomous agency that will handle all land-related matters, suffered a hitch yesterday when three sector ministries requested the Senate to send the Bill back to its authors for further consultations and deliberations.
The Liberia Land Authority (LLA) Bill is currently before the Senate, and according to President Sirleaf, when enacted into law it would undertake actions and implement programs in support of land governance including land administration and management.
The responsibility for land matters would be removed from the ministries of Lands, Mines and Energy, Internal Affairs, Public Works, the Center for National Documents and Records and other agencies of government and transferred to the LLA.
But during a hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Lands, Mines, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment yesterday, Morris Dukuly, Minister of Internal Affairs recommended that the bill be sent back to its authors so that further consultations can be held and that more experts be given the opportunity to weigh in on the many issues that are paramount.
Minister Dukuly called for more collaboration especially among the citizens, who consider the ownership of land as customary, while at the same time, suggesting the involvement of seasoned legal experts who are versed in such matters to do further scrutiny on both the Land Rights Policy and the proposed law to make them acceptable to Liberians.
Minister Dukuly reminded the gathering that the first conflict that was mediated in Liberia with the involvement of King Sao Bosso (Musa Kamara) was between the settlers and the indigenous people and it was over land.
He urged them to consider moving more judiciously on the matter.
He said his Ministry has in its employ many experts spread throughout the country, who constantly mediate in land disputes.
He asserted that there is an inseparable bond between land and the people and that in the new environment land is considered as wealth, power and sustainability, and everything that makes the citizens who they are. “So when you discuss land issues, it has to be done with care and based on consultations.
“I am not clear what mechanism the new Land Authority Law will provide,” Minister Dukuly declared. He noted that the law is more today than tomorrow, and as a former Legislator, “I learned that law should be future looking, flexible, elastic and accommodate the new challenges that may emerge. This draft bill as I have read it, I do not see that.”
Dukuly added that his basic proposition to the lawmakers “is to please do your wisdom and turn it back for us to collaborate more, consult and do more work to make a law that is not made for this administration, but that it has longevity.”
For his part, the Minister of Public Works, Gyude Moore, whose Ministry’s involvement with respect to land issues is in the area of zoning, also agreed with Minister Dukuly that there should be more consultations and deliberations among the ministries that have something to do with land issues and the Land Commission.
Deputy Minister of Justice for economic Affairs, Cllr. Emmanuel A. Tulay, who proxied for Minister Benedict Sannoh, informed the hearing that the proposed legislation needed the close scrutiny of the Ministry of Justice, which he said, has not had the opportunity to do so.
He said the bill cuts across many issues. “Besides land being an issue to look at, there are others such as economic and social which are attached to such legislation, and that whatsoever the legislation seeks to bring forth for the good of the Liberian people needs to take into consideration the impact it will have across all sectors of society.”
He said the proposed legislation seeks to remove and absolve authority already granted to several sector agencies that will ultimately suggest amendments and statutes from most of those institutions.
“The Ministry of Justice feels that the trend and speed at which the people of Liberia wish this passage should take may be counterproductive to our peace and happiness tomorrow.”
He recalled the existence of another land Act, the Community Land Act, which he said has not been passed, and now the LLA, which he said amounts to confusion.
Amid the surprising trend of the hearing, Chairman of the Lands, Mines, Energy Natural Resources and Environment committee, Senator Albert T. Chie, decided to end the hearing. He informed the invitees that his committee will take the issues back to committee room and subsequently inform Senate plenary about what had transpired.