This Referendum Is Not A Matter of Life and Death; No Need to Conduct It Hastily at the Detriment of Liberians

0

NATIONAL ELECTIONS Commission, do you need a rocket scientist to tell you that even citizens living in the vicinity of your headquarters do not know the propositions and symbols of the referendum that you have adamantly decided to hold on December 8? 

IS THE REFERENDUM a matter of life and death that it should be held at all cost on December 8? How many times haven’t you adhered to the flouting of the Constitution by the Executive in changing constitutional dates set for elections for reasons they find compelling? Why now, you don’t see the compelling reason, though not a violation of the Constitution, to postpone this referendum?

FOR THE EXECUTIVE to assume that citizens and political parties calling for the postponement of the referendum are basing such call on political motives is sad. You were not baffled when the Liberia National Bar Association (BAR) whose members are supposed to help citizens understand some of the constitutional issues surrounding the propositions of the referendum admit that even some of its members are not conversant with the propositions and their intents; isn’t that evidenced enough that the public isn’t ready for a referendum.

AMENDING THE Constitution is a sacred matter and must be done with the full understanding and involvement of the citizenry.

THIS REFERENDUM is crucial, it’s a major amendment to the 1986 Constitution which was never tested. Introduced in 1986, the country broke into turmoil just a few years later – denying Liberians the chance to realize the faults with the Constitution.

AMENDMENT of the Constitution should not be viewed as the prerogative of the ruling establishment – it is the prerogative of the people. The people must be fully aware and have a clear understanding of the propositions they are going to vote for. The NEC will be doing the nation no good if it should go ahead with the referendum under the command of the Executive.

THE FORMER CHIEF Justice and head of the Constitution Review Committee, Cllr. Gloria Musu-Scott, who travelled the lengths and breadth of Liberia to solicit the view of citizens on the amendment of the Constitution is also bewildered by the rush of the National Elections Commission. This is what she said of the Commissioners”

“These are seven persons who I expected to be wise, well trained, who are grounded, who, irrespective their various ages, they have now become elders of this Republic. So, you don’t want the Supreme Court to put you under their thumb.  You don’t want that, and I think the Supreme Court respected them by giving them that leverage to think. I don’t think you want to reduce the office of the Board of Commissioners of the National Elections Commission. So, the National Elections Commission must respect itself and rise up to what it is, as per the law and Constitution.”

SHE WENT AHEAD to say, “National Elections Commission to respect itself” and abide by the Constitution of Liberia.”

IN ITS NOVEMBER 18, 2020 ruling, handed down by Associate Justice Yussif D. Kaba, the Supreme Court upheld the Collaborating Political Parties’ argument that the government of Liberia was deviating from the clear language of the Resolution of the Legislature by combining and condensing the eight propositions into three categories which was quite contrary to the provision of Article 92 of the Constitution which specifically mandates that each of the eight propositions be stated separately on the ballot to afford voters the opportunity to exercise their right of choice. The Bench agreed that the Government of Liberia proceeded wrongly and therefore, put a halt to the printing of only three propositions of the ballot paper.

HOWEVER, the High Court ruled that “Article 92 of the Constitution is devoid of any timeframe for the dissemination of information and awareness on the Referendum. This being the prerogative of the respondents, this Court is not in the position to determine what constitutes sufficient public awareness and information, especially where the petitioners have admitted in their petition that indeed, some public awareness was undertaken by the 1st Respondent [National Elections Commission] on the Referendum; consequently, the first respondent is not proceeding by wrong rule; hence prohibition will not lie.”

BUT THE FORMER Chief Justice Musu-Scott, joining several Liberians including lawmakers, lawyers and civil society groups said, the court’s ruling was a caveat to the NEC to correct all of its missteps and conduct a credible referendum.

“This means whatever the National Elections Commission printed was illegal, whatever it put out was unconstitutional,” she said.

“The second thing, it means that National Elections Commission should go and reprint. All of that is for transparency purposes. You need to take them to design the ballot… Public education for 12 months. Whatever is in there has been declared null and void by the Supreme Court. You have to come back and start all over.”

According to her, the breakdown of the positions into eight as mandated by the court was not sufficient to go on with the referendum because majority of the electorates have not been informed of the new developments, just as they were left in the dark earlier.

THESE COMPELLING arguments coming from a seasoned lawyer, a former Chief Justice and one who headed the review process for the amendment for the referendum is more than sufficient to give the NEC a rethink of the hasty conduct of the referendum.

AMENDMENT of the Constitution should not be viewed as the prerogative of the ruling establishment – it is the prerogative of the people. The people must be fully aware and have a clear understanding of the propositions they are going to vote for. The NEC will be doing the nation no good if it should go ahead with the referendum under the command of the Executive.

A hint to the wise!!!

Comments
Loading...