Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor has called on the Law Reform Commission (LRC) to consider the rights of people, including the rights of children and parents, as well as the equality of men and women, among others, as the Commission dialogues on reengaging the process of reviewing and identifying the need to return to the process of reviewing the Constitution of Liberia.
In her keynote address yesterday at programs marking dialogue on constitutional review, national healing and development, the Liberian VP said people are the ones affected by laws and, if laws put place sometime back can no longer address the realities of present day, there is a need to revisit them and make the needed changes.
“This is why establishment of the Law Reform Commission was done by mandate from government, as a result of flawed, outdated, inconsistent and underdeveloped laws which seem to impede the good governance process of this country,” she said. The onus is now on the shoulder of the LRC, she added, to listen to the population at all levels when they go out there at any time deemed fit by the Executive, in consultation with the other two branches of government, to do anything about following up on what the Constitution Review Committee (CRC) did around the country.
“The law gives the LRC the authority to undertake the reform and development of the laws of Liberia in order to generate harmony and consistency in the laws and to propose a direction and the framework geared towards the good governance of the country through good laws,” VP Taylor said.
She added that the mandate to the Commission also includes providing advice, information and opinion on any legislation proposed by any branch of the government or any group of people with regards to reform or amendment of the law.
In her own remarks, Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott, former Chief Justice of Liberia and Chairperson of the CRC, said when the Committee went out to seek the opinions of citizens on the review of the constitution, there were several suspicions raised by the people.
“Let us be clear in informing the LRC that when we went out there to solicit the opinions of our fellow citizens on the need to review our constitution, they raised several concerns. A number of the people told us that the review of the constitution was a waste of time since, in their belief, it [was] intended to protect those in power at the time,” said Cllr. Scott (meaning during President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s second and last tenure).
According to her most of the people in the rural parts of Liberia feel that people in Monrovia have all the best of the country’s benefits while they are ignored.
“Trust and confidence in the governance system of the country were noticed to have been gone, more so with a belief that the proposition on reducing the tenures of all the elected officials, including President, Legislators was intended to allow former President Sirleaf run for a third and if possible, fourth time,” she said.
Another set of issues Cllr. Scott pointed out are the conflict of interest between the Executive and the Legislative branches of government, whose responsibility it is to carry out law reformation to address the extreme poverty that continues to threaten majority of the population of the country.
She said the alleged lack of equitable distribution of the benefits coming from the country’s natural resources’ among the political sub-divisions also struck debate among several groups across the country when the CRC went out to seek the opinions of the people.
“Many even think, up to this day that the very constitution has no impact on their lives, since it is not taught in schools and discussed as a great national instrument.
Providing the overview of the occasion, LRC Chairperson, Cllr. Boakai N. Kanneh said the history of Liberia spans as far back as over a century and seven decades but with lots of impediments.
“Liberia became independent when most of Africa was not even colonized. By that status, Liberia attained the privileged role of midwife in the independence of almost all of Africa. The long history of Liberia did not come without the challenges and the need to reform the country through changes in governance, our constitution and other laws,” Cllr. Kanneh said.
He said laws, like society, are transitory. He added that laws are transitory because society changes with the behaviors of its people.
“There is always a compelling need to review and change the laws as necessitated by the requirements of that society and we believe that the constitution of Liberia has not evaded this reality,” he said. The two-day dialogue (October 22-23) centers on peace-building, national healing, reconciliation and development.