US$87M Needed for Referendum, Elections

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In the midst of limited budgetary support and indefinite support from donors for the holding of the referendum and the 2017 presidential and representatives elections, the House of Representatives has said it is facing an “uphill struggle” to conclude the agenda for Referendum.

The National Elections Commission (NEC) has announced that it needs US$30 million for the referendum and at least US$57 million for the presidential and legislative elections, totaling US$87 million.

House Speaker J. Alex Tyler said the US$20 million already allocated by the Executive in the budget for the Referendum and the Elections in the 2016/2017 National Budget requires US$67 million more, and it concerns the House of Representatives.

The Speaker said finding the outstanding funds to hold the Referendum and the Elections would encourage the House’s Joint Committee on Good Governance and Government, Elections and Inauguration and Judiciary to speedily submit their reports to Plenary for subsequent passage to set the agenda for the Referendum to be possibly held in 2017.

Speaker Tyler made the assertion yesterday, in a one-day Policy Dialogue on the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) process with national and international partners. Nimba County Representative, Larry Younquoi, is the chairman on the House’s Joint Committee on Good
Governance and Government, Elections and Inauguration and Judiciary.

Reports yet to be confirmed said the Committee has cut the 25 propositions to six to be tested through the Referendum. Those propositions include: 1) Reduction in the Tenures of the President, Vice President, Members of the House of Representatives and Senate; 2) Restricting

Citizens to only people of Negro Descent; 3) Rejecting Dual Citizenship; 4) Making Liberia a Christian Nation; 5) Enhancement of Women’s Participation and; 6) Traditional People owning their own land and being party to any negotiation with investors or concessionaires on said land.

Since August 2015, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has submitted 25 propositions from the Constitution Review Committee (CRC) to the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate, rejecting the one to “Christianize” Liberia by law. On the other hand, the president wants presidential and legislative tenures reduced.

It may be recalled that in August 2012, President Sirleaf constituted a six-member committee chaired by Counselor Gloria Musu Scott to, amongst other things, arrange public discourses to solicit views from Liberians across the country, and other parts of the world to make some changes in the 1986 Liberian Constitution.

In the one-day Policy Dialogue on Capitol Hill Wednesday, CRC Chair, Cllr. Scott told the lawmakers and partners that if the referendum isn’t held in 2017, posterity would judge the lawmakers, and warned that if the agenda isn’t passed by both Houses between now and July, it would not be feasible for the Referendum to be held in 2017.

She argued that the 1986 Constitution mandates that the education of a referendum should be at least 12 months.

Making remarks, the Program Manager of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Mr. Thomas Du, said the NDI does not have in its current budget for the support of referendum and elections but has expressed fear over the holding of the referendum as compared to the 2011 referendum in which none of the four amendments was been ratified by the necessary two-third voters.

The Executive Director for Sustainable Development Network Liberia Inc., Mr. Blamo Nimle, said Liberia should, however, take responsibility to fund the referendum and elections by adjusting the budget.

Dr. K. K. Kamaluddeen, UNDP Liberia Country Director, told the lawmakers to take critical steps, be able to face critical challenges and critical issues to make history to ensure that the referendum is held. His statement was buttressed by Dan Saryee, Civil Society Technical Advisor for USAID-DAI-LEGIT, who said the Legislature should have allocated the funding of the elections in years.

Mr. James M. Yarsiah Sr., of the Rights and Rice Foundation, urged the lawmakers to not rush in setting the agenda in the absence of money but should rush when there’s money to reach the timeline.

Commissioner Yarsuo Weh-Dorliar of the Governance Commission and Harold M. Adoo, Executive Director of the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD), in separate remarks, urged the lawmakers to exert efforts for the agenda to be possible in 2017.

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