-Petition Senate on Land Rights Acts
Traditional chiefs have threatened to campaign against the re-election of members of the Senate if they should concur with the House of Representatives to pass the same version of the Land Rights Act (LRA) recently passed by members of the Lower House.
The Plenary of the House of Representatives in August this year, voted and endorsed the Land Rights Act, and submitted it to the Senate for concurrence.
However, many chiefs from towns in Grand Cape Mount, River Cess, Margibi and Bomi counties say the version of the Act passed by the House of Representatives differs completely from what was earlier agreed to by chiefs, traditional leaders, civil society, government representatives, law makers and the cabinet at a national conference convened by President Sirleaf in 2013, called to validate the Land Rights Policy, which was translated into a draft law and presented to the legislature in 2014.
The chiefs maintain that “since politicians can easily change any policy in the country, the draft Land Rights Act submitted to the Legislature in 2014, for passage into law was basically converted from the 2013 Land Rights Policy.
The traditional chiefs made the statement when they petitioned the Senate recently. They converged at the Legislature with placards protesting what they claim was alteration of the document to which they had all previously agreed.
The National Traditional Council of Liberia (NTCL), under whose auspices the statement was presented declared “We are aware that policy is not as strong as the law. Politicians can easily change policy or refuse to implement it. For this reason, we all agreed to make the Land Rights Policy strong by turning it into n law.”
The chiefs disclosed that during a 2013 meeting at the Centennial Pavilion on Ashmun Street in Monrovia, the Land Rights Policy was endorsed by traditional leaders, representatives of non governmental organizations (NGOs), company representatives, government officials, legislators, commissioners and superintendents from the 15 counties. The meeting was attended by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and other government officials they claim.
They told Senate Pro-temp Jallah, who received the Petition on behalf of the Senate, that the Plenary of the House of Representatives, without consulting anyone, hurriedly passed the law last August almost after three years since it was submitted to the Legislature. The chiefs explained that, disappointingly, the lawmakers removed significant portions of the Land Rights Policy which provided protection for rural and poor communities.
The traditional leaders, through their Speaker, chief Bob Kofi Zar, expressed disappointment over the lawmakers’ removal of significant portions of the Land Rights Policy which provides protection for rural and poor communities. He said some members of the House of Representatives will not be returning to the Capitol because “we told our people not to vote for them.”
He said the chiefs’ appeal for the Senate to vote on and pass the original 2014 version of the Land Rights Act was in the interest of every Liberian including individual senators, whom he considered their children. “The 2014 Act is good for every Liberian. You are also included because we consider you to be our children”. He reiterated that the Land Rights Act was tampered with by the House of Representatives and he pleaded with the Senate not to concur with the lower House.
Accepting the Chiefs’ petition, Senate Pro Tempore Jallah lauded them for the manner in which they conducted themselves and promised that their concerns would be adequately addressed.