REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA
Hon. J. Alex Tyler
Speaker and Honorable Members of the
House of Representatives (In Session)
Dear Mr. Speaker,
I refer to my letter of October 1, 2014 outlining measures to be undertaken restricting/suspending certain fundamental rights of the Liberian citizens and residents under the declared state of emergency which you accordingly approved on August 8, 2014. Accordingly, it is my pleasing duty to revert to you providing clarifications on measures in the said letter under reference.
Article 1 of the Liberian Constitution (1986). Alteration of Election Time and Manner. The President may, by proclamation, alter the period and manner provided for under the Constitution of elections, by which the people cause their public servants to leave office or fill vacancies. Provided, however, that no deviation from the constitutionally prescribed period shall cause the extension or reduction of any term of office therein prescribed;
In March this year, there was an outbreak of the Ebola Virus disease in our sub-region Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. As a result of the continuous spread of the virus with enormous loss of lives, human tragedies and an impairment of health, safety and security of the citizens of the Republic and the grave risks posed to the existent and sovereignty of this nation which present a clear and present danger, we declared, with your approbation, a state of emergency. Under the State of Emergency, certain rights were suspended including the rights of freedom of movement, rights of assembly, and large public gathering, the closure of schools and public entertainment centers. All of these measures were taken to combat contain and eradicate the spread of the virus.
As a consequence of these measures taken under the state of Emergency to contain the spread and eradicate the virus and self-surviving measures taken by the people and resident of Liberia, in restricting their travel and contact, the necessary environment for free, open and transparent political atmosphere became impossible. Today, such condition and state of affairs continue. As a result, the National Elections Commission (NEC) has informed of its inability to undertake several of the process that are pre-requisite to conducting the 2014 Senatorial elections.
The scores of death in every village, town and city in our country daily makes it impossible for the holding of political rallies and campaign. Further, the spread of the disease makes the deployment of electoral staff and polling workers impossible. Under these conditions, I am under the constitutional duty to alter the times and manner of the Senatorial election slated for October 14, 2014 thereby affecting Article 1 of the Constitution and the provisions of Article 83 (a);
The NEC will be so instructed and directed to hold immediate consultation and discussion with all recognized political parties, Independent Candidates, Civil Society Organizations and groups and other Stake Holders as well as National and International health authorities on a new date of the holding of the Senatorial election.
Article 12 of the Liberian Constitution (1986). Labor. The President May, by proclamation, procure certain labor or services during this state of emergency;
In this fight against Ebola, we will be requiring services and labor from each and every community in Liberia for the combat and eradication of the disease whenever and wherever necessary and possible. Accordingly, the privileges, freedom and requirement of services and labor provided for in this Article will be affected whenever and wherever possible and necessary.
Article 13 of the Liberian Constitution (1986). Free Movement. The President May, by proclamation, limit the movement of certain individuals, groups or communities as the case may be to prevent the further spread or contain the epidemic in certain areas;
As you are fully aware, the movement of our citizens and residents from place to place is a key factor for the spread and transmission of this deadly and dreadful Ebola virus. To stop and contain the spread of this virus, the movement of individuals, groups or communities and the case may be is a manifest necessity. Accordingly, the guarantees and safeguard provided for in Article 13 of the Constitution will be affected.
Article 14 of the Liberian Constitution (1986). Religious Restriction. The President May, by proclamation, restrict certain religious practices, generally or specifically, if she finds that such practice further endangers the public health and contributes to the spread of the virus.
In many of our counties, where certain religious and tribal practices such as the bathing and worshipping of dead bodies is religiously observed, the spread, transmission of the disease have been prevalent and the death tolls have been enormous. To prevent the death and spread of this disease, these practices will be restricted whenever and wherever it becomes necessary.
Article 15 of the Liberian Constitution (1986). Restriction on Speech. The President May, by proclamation or executive action, prevent any citizen, groups of citizens or any entity protected under Article 15 of the Constitution from making any public statement in person by print or electronic, which may have the tendency of undermining the State of Emergency, confusing the public on the nature of the health care threat, otherwise causing a state of panic about the health care or security condition of the nation;
Because falsehood and negative reporting on the state of affairs is likely to defeat the national effort on the fight of the Ebola virus, it is important that such be discouraged and prevented. Accordingly, the Government of Liberia will restrict speeches that will confuse the citizens and residents including the raising of false alarm thereby creating fear during the state of emergency.
Article 17 of the Liberia Constitution 91986). Assembly. The President May, by proclamation, limit the right to assembly for any reason;
Article 24 of the Liberian Constitution (1986). Expropriation of property. The President May, by proclamation, appropriate any private property or prevent the use of thereof in order to protect the public health and safety during the state of emergency without payment of any kind of any further judicial process. Provided, however, that the property will be released to the rightful owners upon the end of the state of emergency and that the Government pays for any damages thereto.
The death tolls brought about by this disease have been overwhelming particularly in counties like Lofa, Montserrado, Bong, Margibi, Nimba, Bomi among others. We are advised by both national and international health authorities that victims of the Ebola virus must be buried and laid to rest in isolated places and not in any ordinary public graveyard or cemetery. Such a number of deaths we have seen and experienced, present a problem as public cemetery are very few and inadequate. Therefore, the Government of Liberia will use any available land in any town, village or city conducive for the burial of Ebola victims whenever the safety of the people or dweller of such community demands. Such land to be used will be released or returned to the rightful owner upon the end of the state of emergency. The provision of Article 24 of the Constitution will therefore be affected or suspended whenever and wherever necessary.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf