U.S. Ambassador Differs with Pres. Sirleaf’s Request More Power

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United States Ambassador to Liberia, Deborah Malac, has constitutionally differed with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s request to the Legislature to give her the power to suspend some portions of the Liberian Constitution as part of the emergency measures.

Ambassador Malac made it clear that the United States has no position in this ongoing political debate. 

The U.S. diplomat who was, however, apparently expressing her personal view on this matter, emphasized that although she is not a lawyer, she believes that the President, while declaring the state of emergency two months ago, should have made it very clear which rights should be suspended.

“I am not a lawyer, but I believe the request for additional powers at this time should have come together with the declaration of the state of emergency in August,” the American Ambassador stated.

Article 88 of the Liberian Constitution of 1986 states, “The President shall, immediately upon the declaration of a state of emergency, but not later than seven days thereafter, lay before the Legislature at its regular session or at a specially convened session, the facts and circumstances leading to such declaration. The Legislature shall within seventy-two hours, by joint resolution voted by two-thirds of the membership of each house, decide whether the proclamation of a state of emergency is justified or whether the measures taken there under are appropriate. If the two-thirds vote is not obtained, the emergency automatically shall be revoked. Where the Legislature shall deem it necessary to revoke the state of emergency or to modify the measures taken there under, the President shall act accordingly and immediately carry out the decisions of the Legislature.”

The U.S. Ambassador said there may not be any significant changes in what had happened over the last two months should additional powers be granted the President.

However, Ambassador Malac stressed that everyone should wait on the Legislature to come out with its decision on the request.

This view of the U.S. Ambassador is identical to that of the constitutional and human rights lawyer, Counselor Tiawan Gongloe, who in an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer newspaper last week, described the President’s new request to the Legislature for more powers as “belated and unconstitutional.”

Counselor Gongloe made the identical point being made by Ambassador Malac, that the Liberian Constitution requires that within seven days of the granting of emergency powers, the President should have returned to the Legislature and laid out before them exactly which rights of the people were to be restrained.  The Legislature would within 72 hours return with their decision on whether to approve or disapprove the President’s request.    

When asked about the status of Liberia’s democracy amidst the debate, U.S. Ambassador Malac maintained that the issue relates to the body politic of Liberia (the Liberian electorate).  It is not, she insisted, for the U.S. to determine what happens to Liberia’s democracy.

Ambassador Malac made the assertions last Thursday at the Roberts International Airport where she had gone to receive additional troops and supplies the U.S. Government was bringing in for the fight against the Ebola virus.

Commenting on progress being made so far in Liberia, she indicated that she was very excited to see progress in the 25-bed field hospital for healthcare providers and the arrival of additional materials and troops from the USA. 

She recalled that the operation in Liberia would cost the U.S. Government about $350 million in kind, with an additional $5 million given to the Liberian Government on a  reimbursement basis to help pay healthcare workers.

She said she was pleased that Liberians are beginning to respond to the fight by following the Ministry of Health’s Ebola messages and taking all precautionary measures against the deadly virus.

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