The urgent need to amend article 37 during the upcoming national Referendum in October 2020
By John Kolleh, DEN- L (0770-621-401/0886-170-447)
In my personal view or opinion Liberia’s democracy under our 1986 constitution is still at its embryonic stage. We have suffered and experienced a lot of military interferences with our democracy since the Samuel Doe’s ten years tenure as head of state and president of Liberia under whose watch and executive power our constitution was written, approved and accepted by all Liberians.
Following this period under Samuel Doe was the bloody civil war led by Charles Taylor and other warlords. Considering this military situation in Liberia since then, Samuel Doe and Charles Taylor first six years tenure under our 1986 and current constitution failed to end democratically with the holding of election for a second tenure. From 2006 to now our constitution has been under test, observing how its provisions are working for us or against us through our elected authorities.
Article 37 of our constitution says:
“In the event of a vacancy in the Legislature caused by death, resignation and expulsion or otherwise, the presiding officer shall within 30 days notify the Election Commission thereof. The Election Commission shall not later than 90 day thereafter cause a by- election to be held;…”
There are records of vacancies in the Legislature caused by death. On the other hand there is not a single record of a vacancy in the Legislature caused by resignation and expulsion. However, because of the word otherwise as written and can be seen and read in article 37, law makers desirous of leaving the Legislature to perform other functions in government and some wishing to enter the senate or upper house from the lower house are not adhering to resignation as written in Article 37 to be one of the only three main causes of any vacancy in the Legislature
Instead, they are blatantly using the wrong, self- interest and self- imposed otherwise causes to blatantly violate article 2 of our constitution at the gross disadvantage of the poor electorates’ ignorance of our constitution.
According to the meaning of the word otherwise in a good dictionary lying before me, it reads, otherwise: used for saying that if one thing does not happen, something will happen, usually something bad. I hope the weather improves; otherwise we’ll have to cancel the game. The program has saved thousands of children who would otherwise have died.
Considering this good and smart meaning of the good word otherwise used in article 37 by either or both of the then National Constitution Commission headed by Dr. Amos Sawyer and the then constitutional Advisory Assembly headed by Dr. Edward Binyah Kesselly, where are the additional or otherwise causes written by the two big constitutional bodies. Nothing can be seen nor read in Article 37.
Can we say and conclude that the two constitutional groups had the intention of diverting the would be ambitious Legislators’ mind from resignation as a cause of creating vacancy in the Legislature and thereby not remaining consistent with what they wrote in article 2? The good answer is no! Can we also say that article 2 of our constitution can be used as a reliance to challenge the word otherwise used in Article 37 whose dictionary meaning has been misunderstood and misapplied by those ambitious legislators? The best and sufficient answer is yes?
However, article 2 of our constitution says:
“This constitution is the supreme and fundamental law of Liberia and its provisions shall have binding force and effect on all authorities and persons throughout the republic. Any laws, treaties, status, decrees, customs and regulations found to be inconsistent with it shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void and of no legal effect. The supreme court pursuant to its power of judicial review is empowered to declare any inconsistent laws unconstitutional.”
In any situation there are two sides: The causes and effects. The causes lead to effects. Without cause or causes there can never be any effect or effects. Death, resignation and expulsion are causes of vacancy in the Legislature. Otherwise is not known or mentioned. Whether mentioned or not it can never be consistent with the three mentioned causes responsible for creating vacancy in the Legislature: death, resignation and expulsion. It clearly means that without any of the three main causes, no Legislator is allowed to take part in any election, as a candidate or leave the Legislature for an appointed position in the Executive Branch.
Therefore, inconsistency is unconstitutional. Let us create and adhere to the causes before election not after election. This is now the time for those legislators using and relying on otherwise causes to resign. Let them go back now to their various Electoral District to declare their intention to resign so that the presiding officer according to article37, can have the required time to notify the Election Commission of a vacancy to be followed by a by- election not later than 90 days to be held concurrently along with the December 8, 2020 upcoming senatorial election across the country.
This is now the time to reduce our ignorance and increase our knowledge about any issues of a serious constitutional violation. Under article 31 the Legislature is constitutionally required to uphold and depend the constitution.
The Executive and the Judicial Branches are equally required to preserve, protect and defend the constitution. This is a serious Legislative and Executive constitutional issue. Has the Executive seen what the Legislature is doing to article 37 or has the Legislature seen what the Executive is also doing to Article 37? Is this how to uphold, defend, preserve, protect our constitution? Should the Supreme Court tell both branches of government what is constitutionally right? This should not be allowed to happen by any means in the nearest future. Let them act now or never or otherwise be declared failures to uphold defend, protect and preserve as per article 31 and 53 respectively of our constitution by the two branches of government.
Again and in view of the dictionary meaning and explanation of the word otherwise all those law makers who have decided to run in the mid- term senatorial election must resign now. Otherwise means to adhere to resignation as a cause for a vacancy to be announced by the presiding officer to the Election Commission. The dead or the late can never resign or face expulsion. Only those alive or the can do.
This grave issue of blatantly violating article 37 of the Liberian constitution by the Legislature (the first branch of government) and the Executive branch ( the administrative head of government) whose executive power is vested in the president and also Head of Government, started since then. There are glaring and practical examples heard and seen ahead of the upcoming Senatorial elections in Liberia, particularly in Bong, Nimba Grand Bassa, Montserrado and other counties that I am yet to hear about.
At this concluding stage of this good constitutional message to all of us Liberians, I want to leave with you all a few words of good advises from two of Liberia’s prominent citizens for a deep reflection:
- “Liberia needs a new generation of leadership that has the moral commitment and integrity to lead the nation to prosperity.” He further went on to emphasize this: “Liberia needs leaders with new visions that can lead the nation to a new and prosperous direction.” Said Dr. James S. Guseh, a presidential candidate 2011.
- “Using the same formula over and over to do an experiment and cannot always get the expected results, there is a need to change to a new formula.” Said: Mr. Alexander Cummins, a presidential candidate 2017 and also political leader, Alternative National Congress or ANC.