Speaker Wants Delayed Bills Fast tracked

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House Speaker J. Emmanuel Nuquay and Rep. Josephine Francis, Chairman on Executive

House Speaker J. Emmanuel Nuquay wants fellow lawmakers to address the growing impatience of Liberians and the international community over delays of some landmark bills that continue to linger on the shelves at the Legislature.

In the House’s 44th day sitting yesterday the speaker told chairs of committees to fast-track their reports, without attaching a deadline for legislative action by plenary.

Speaker Nuquay spoke on the issue when deputy chief clerk Sayfur Geeplay read the list of bills which are in committees’ rooms, including the Land Rights Act – since December 8, 2014; the Uniform Code of Military Justice; the Amendment of the Alien and Nationality Law on Resident Permits; and New Firestone Agreement.

Land Rights Bill

According to some local civil society and international organizations, the passage of the Land Rights Act will be a landmark achievement of the current administration.

They argued that the bill will serve as a tool to expand the rights and economic power of Liberians as well as correcting the historical isolation and political marginalization of citizens in poor and rural communities.

According to the Land Rights Bill, customary land is equal to private land.
Customary Land, owned by communities, and used and managed in accordance with customary practices, is protected just as privately held land.

Article 32, Section 2 says: “Customary ownership is automatically formalized. With or without a deed, the moment that the land rights Act passes into law, customary land rights will be legally protected. The existence and ownership of customary land shall become enforceable as of the effective date of this Act.”

Also, Article 9, Section 4 says: “There are no written requirements to prove customary land ownership. The community must simply demonstrate a longstanding relationship or ties to the customary land being claimed. This can be done through oral testimony.”

Uniform Code of Military Justice

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) aims to reform the military as it rebuilds its forces with an emphasis on human rights and professionalization, including ensuring continued progress and that members act according to the rule of law.

The law will also discuss pretrial, trial, and post-trial procedures, including modes of proof, for courts-martial, military commissions and other military tribunals, and procedures for courts of inquiry, among others.

New Firestone Agreement

This bill seeks to amend certain provisions of the 2008 Firestone Concession Agreement.

The bill titled “Amendment to the Amended and Restated Concession Agreement between the Republic of Liberia and Firestone Liberia Inc.,” when ratified will enable the rubber company to consider and begin the process of engaging into other agricultural productions.

The controversial 99-year Firestone agreement was originally signed in 1926, much to the disadvantage of the country, and subjected her finances and labor force to the company – making it very difficult for good labor practices to be discussed.

Under the Amended Agreement, which runs through 2041, Firestone is committed to continue its replanting efforts, to complete a rubber wood factory that will directly add a minimum of 500 new jobs, to grow its support to small Liberian rubber farmers and to undertake additional social and educational projects.

The 2008 Agreement permits an increase in the income tax rate payable by Firestone from 25 percent to 30 percent, establishes new transfer pricing provisions for dry rubber and latex based on international indices, and makes a number of other changes that allow the government to exercise more flexibility in applying its revenue laws.

Alien and Nationality Law on Resident Permits

This law definitely deals with amendment of the resident permit of aliens in short or long terms.

For instance, foreigners who are entitled to possess the legal status of a short-term residency in the country would be granted a resident permit and shall last longer than a few months, while foreigners entitled to long-term residency are those who hold a resident permit bearing the designation “permanent resident,” or “permanent residence” for certain considerations, among others.

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