Rabbi Prince Joseph Tomoonh-Garlodeyh Gbaba, Sr., Ed. D.
Liberian Playwright & Scholar
The results of the recently held quasi-national ‘referendum’ must be declared null and void due to breach of constitutional guidelines and lack of adequate voters’ education. According to the midterm and special senatorial elections timetable of the Liberia National Elections Commission, December 23, 2020 was the date set to provide the results of the so-called ‘referendum’. Note that the referendum was held despite numerous calls from professional Liberians (including myself) to halt the process based on reasons provided supra.
And, instead of following its own timetable to communicate with the Liberian electorates and the international community, there have been scanty unofficial reports from some so-called ‘advocates’ who have personal interests and gains in the conduct of the referendum. Up to press time, the NEC has not provided a full official report to the Liberian nation and people and the international community regarding the reasons for the delay to announce the final results of the ‘referendum’ it conducted against the will of the Liberian people.
Further, I assume that the NEC’s prolonged silence to announce the final results of the referendum may be due to the massive failure of the referendum process and the outright rejection of the proposals the government submitted (particularly the one regarding the change of the tenure of the presidency).
Consequently, it appears the NEC is finding it difficult to officially break the news to President Weah and the Liberian people with respect to change in the tenures of office of the President, Senators, and Representatives.
What makes the long silence more alarming is that propositions submitted in the referendum are contrary to the recommendations of the Liberian people submitted in the Constitutional Review Commission’s final report from which the referendum propositions were drafted. Between the Executive and Legislative branches, some changes were surreptitiously made with in the proposed tenure of the presidential term from four to five, and the senatorial term from five to six. Therefore, the content of the referendum was corrupted to please the whims and caprices of Liberian lawmakers and the executive branch of government against the wishes of the Liberian electorates.
In this text, my aim is to advise the Liberian government not to tamper with the Constitution of Liberia. It should not forcefully make changes to this sacred body of laws without the express consent of the electorates. Also, this communication aims to emphasize the need for the balance of power among the three separate but equal branches of our republican form of governance to ensure equality and transparent justice under the law, especially as it pertains to the judicial process in Liberia. Consequently, I strongly argue that if the legal procedure required by law to conduct and implement a referendum was not adhered to, as was the case of the recently held ‘referendum’, any results deriving therefrom are fraudulent and unconstitutional and should therefore be declared null and void!
The Constitution of Liberia must be protected like a chicken egg!
The purpose of a Constitution is to guide the nation and people, to set a parameter within which the people can be governed based on the concept of rule of law. Here, the expression “rule of law” informs that no one, not even the president of Liberia, is above the law. It manifests that the law should be blindly administered to ensure transparent justice and equality for all, irrespective of race, creed, social and political status in society. Unfortunately, Liberians opted to evade the Constitution of Liberia but embraced so-called ‘peace accords’ that landed perpetrators as victors over their victims!
International negotiators and Liberian warlords and belligerent warring factions did not use the Constitution of Liberia as a source to investigate the Liberian crisis because it would have landed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Charles Taylor behind bars for inciting insurrections and committing treasonous acts than to have them elected as Presidents for causing the deaths of over a quarter million people. Additionally, most of Liberia’s current lawmakers and some in the executive and judicial branches would not be in government if we abided by the dictates of the Liberian Constitution. Yet, still not satisfied, perpetrators of war crimes in Liberia still want to tamper with the Constitution to create more chaos, destabilize the lives of Liberians for their own selfish benefits.
No, we must not allow that to happen again. Moving forward, we must abide by the Constitution of Liberia to make national decisions that affect our lives. We must defend and protect the Constitution of Liberia so that those who violate the constitution can be brought to justice. We must no longer avoid the Liberian Constitution to adhere to ‘peace accords’ that subjugated the Liberian people to perpetual slavery on Liberian soil, while rewarding the trophy of national leadership to those who perpetrated heinous crimes against Liberians and humanity. Of course, we all now realize the fruit of putting criminals in positions of public trust. What you get in return is rampant corruption, lawlessness, and disregard for the sanctity of human lives and properties.
Where in Europe or America has this ever happened but in Liberia and on the continent of Africa! Where in Europe and America do individuals receive Nobel Peace Prize for murdering hundreds of thousands but in Liberia and Africa? This could happen in Liberia because we did not protect the Constitution of Liberia like a chicken egg! Those who perpetrated the acts of violence in Liberia know that what they did was treasonous, inciting insurrection is a capital crime under Liberian law. As a result, to continuously escape from being prosecuted under the laws of Liberia, Liberian war and economic criminals have formed a cartel to continuously tamper with the Constitution of Liberia to perpetuate the suffering of the Liberian people. This must stop now!
The role of the Supreme Court in the judicial process in Liberia
Democratic and republican structures are put in place in a modern civilized society not to be ignored but to be adhered to, to defend and protect the constitution and safeguard the nation and its people, and to maintain law and order. These structures are also put in place for check and balance purposes. Here, I would like to make specific reference to the request for prohibition submitted by the opposition parties regarding the condensation of the propositions on the first ballots of the referendum, the Supreme Court’s verdict, and the subsequent manipulation of the referendum process by the Executive branch without fulfilling the constitutional requirements.
In a previous article, it was clearly argued that it was wrong for the office of the President to attempt to overturn the mandate of the Supreme Court without fulfilling the legal requirements that rendered the referendum document fraudulent and unlawful. However, in making hasty corrections to the document, the President of Liberia did not authorize the publication of a second National Gazette as required by law, to explain the new changes that were made on the ballots almost a couple of weeks prior to the casting of ballots for the referendum.
Despite the absence of a second published national gazette, the government still proceeded to conduct the referendum, which once again renders the process fraudulent. Furthermore, how much education could the NEC have provided to an electorate population 90% of whom are illiterate, unable to read and write, speak and understand the English language? Hence, in this instance, it is safe to say that the process was fraudulent and results therefrom must be declared null and void due to breach of constitutional guidelines and lack of adequate voters’ education.
The petition of Lofa citizens must be reviewed by the Full Bench of the Supreme Court
The final legal issue I would like the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to explain to the Liberian people is the case involving Lofa citizens submitting a petition requesting that a certain candidate vying for the senatorial position in Lofa be denied the right to participate because he was convicted for felony in a lower court. I understand the part where the Supreme Court argued that the citizens’ petition was denied because Lofa citizens did not submit their request in a timely manner based on constitutional provisions.
However, what is not clear in my view is that even if the timing is not right, is the Supreme Court not aware of the verdict of the lower court regarding the individual in question? Was it constitutional and legal to permit someone who is a felon to contest for public office when the individual has not been cleared of the crime he or she was convicted of in a lower court? Based on the decision made by the Supreme Court to permit a felon to participate in an election, does the decision not send a wrong signal to the world that even our Supreme Court has deserted its constitutional duty to interpret the law properly and to the letter?
I am asking these questions because I strongly believe, there cannot be transparent justice if the judicial branch of government does not exercise its equal-right status and freedoms to interpret the laws of the land in a fair and transparent manner. Thus, equal protection under the law cannot be guaranteed if the laws are not interpreted correctly and/or when people are denied their rights due to the social or political stature of an individual. Therefore, I request that the petition of Lofa citizens must be reviewed by the full bench of the Supreme Court.
Also, based on the fraud and breach of constitutional guidelines that occurred during the recently held ‘referendum’ Liberians anxiously await the announcement of the results soon. It is my ardent hope if there are any discrepancies the Supreme Court of Liberia will act in the best interest of the State in accordance to the Constitution of Liberia.
Happy New Year to all!