Law Reform Commission’s consultative dialogue recommends the Amendment of 28 Articles to bridge the gaps
Attorney Philip Wesseh, Publisher of the independent Inquirer newspaper has branded as ‘unprepared and toothless, and blamed the Legislature for the reported rampant abuse of power and the underdevelopment of the country.
Atty. Wesseh spoke yesterday, October 23 in Monrovia at programs marking the end of a two-day dialogue on plans to reengage the Constitution Review process.
The dialogue sponsored by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) was hosted by the Law Reform Commission (LRC) in an effort to solicit the views of representatives from a cross section of the country on the need to amend the 1986 Revised Constitution.
Atty. Wesseh who served as one of the principal discussants at the event, said Liberia is still millions of miles away from contemporary politics, which is said to be changing and improving the developmental strides of other countries around the world.
Wesseh said that many of those elected to both Houses of the first branch of government lacked the requisite education least to mention professional skills or careers upon which they are to rely instead of on public finances for their personal improvements.
“Granted that the Constitution may have its own flaws, but what we are not capturing is the fact that there are too many inexperienced, unprepared and unproductive individuals elected to our seats of law-making, oversight and representation, because the Constitution leaving out certain basic requirements for candidates of political offices is a serious challenge to our collective march ahead of our struggles as a people,” he said.
According to him, nowadays in many countries around the world, the Legislature and other government offices are not sources of wealth generation for individual members, but areas where accomplished personalities go and render service each to their country without wishing for benefits.
He said Liberia’s problems are deeply rooted in the population’s lack of understanding of how change comes and an inability to think critically.
“Under the doctrine of checks and balances in government, each of the branches is to keenly monitor what the other two do, but on the overall the Legislature, upon whose shoulder lie the issues of law-making, oversight and representation, has to consist of serious and prepared minds,” Wesseh said.
He added that until the Legislature can be strong and determined to escape the temptations of bribe collection for the passage of bogus concession agreements, no law, no matter how great or how it may be crafted, can change the ongoing quagmire.
About the impact of Constitutional review on the rule of law, former Justice Minister, Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, said there is a need for radical approaches to solve several of the country’s problems.
“I know that it is not possible for all the lawmakers to be lawyers as suggested by one of the discussants, but I agree with Atty. Wesseh that we need great and prepared minds at the Legislature,” he said.
“Everybody needs to be a loyal citizen, and therefore, we should (all) love our country with all our hearts, and commit to doing good so as not to paint and present our image out there as detestable (hateful),” Sannoh said.
Cllr. Moses Paegar said the Judicial Branch of Government has a special authority given it by the Constitution, but little is done about it due to the excess power granted the office of the President.
“The Judiciary knows that in the doctrine of checks and balance of power, the issue of judicial review is very important, but it is sad to note that there is too much influence from the Executive over the other two branches of government that should have equal and distinct power as compared to the other two,” Paegar said.
He added, “no nation flourishes when there is selective justice, and no nation’s development agenda is fast tracked when there is no constitutional governance.”
“Because there is too much power for the President in the 1986 Constitution, he/she is not compelled by the people to fulfill campaign promises. In fact, all government officials do not care about their responsibilities to the people, who employ them. Liberia has to be managed by a constitutional government under the rule of law,” Paegar said.
He said the allotment of the national budget to priority areas has to be enshrined in the law so as to not allow a particular administration to come with its own plan geared towards the neglect of certain sectors.
LRC chairperson, Cllr. Boakai N. Kanneh, said the dialogue has discovered that 28 of the 97 Articles of the Constitution need amendment, noting, “our discussions have generated the understanding that 28 of the 97 Articles need complete reform to include term limits, land ownership rights, mineral resource rights, children and parents rights as well as several other people’s rights,” Kanneh said
He said since the Constitution Review Committee (CRC) set up by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2012, did not take the signatures of 10,000 persons as enshrined in the constitution to make a petition legitimate for Legislative consideration, the LRC with support from the public will seek the two-thirds majority each of the both Houses to place the debate on the agenda for Constitution review or referendum.