Liberia: Civil Society Council Urges Government to Heed Calls and Postpone Referendum
MONROVIA – The National Civil Society Council of Liberia (NCSCL) is calling on the Government of Liberia to listen to calls of many Liberians and postpone the national referendum slated to take place alongside the midterm senatorial elections on December 8.
There has been an avalanche of urges from a number of people, civil society organizations, political parties and interest groups, highlighting the need for postponing the referendum over the lack of public awareness and public information. NCSCL, the conglomerate of civil society organizations in the country with over 2,000 member-groups, said in a statement Saturday that listening was the best option the Weah-led administration had.
“If we must live up to the true meaning of democracy which calls for leading according to the will, safety and happiness of the people, then it is only appropriate enough to call off the referendum and reschedule it for a better time,” said Loretta Alethea Pope-Kai in the statement. “Unless the people are fully aware and intoned with the process, voters’ apathy would be high and participation low.”
The council further noted that citizens preparedness to participate in the referendum, which will lasting or long-term effect on the country, was too crucial to be overlooked. “Anything short of this would simply be a superimposition meant to impose the thoughts and will of the ruling class on a helpless population,” Mrs. Pope-Kai added. “And so, please listen to your people.”
NCSCL welcomed the Supreme Court of Liberia’s recent annulment of the referendum. The court in a unanimous opinion on Wednesday ruled in favor of the opposition Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), which filed a writ of prohibition against the proceedings.
CPP had argued that the Government of Liberia’s official gazette on the referendum was inconsistent with Article 92 of the Constitution. That article states, “….If more than one proposed amendment is to be voted upon in a referendum, they shall be submitted in such manner that the people may vote for or against them separately.”
If the referendum would have been allowed, all three prepositions—to reduce the tenures of the President and representatives from six to five years, and the senators from nine to six years—would have one “Yes” or “No” voting option. There would have been no way for a voter to cast a their ballot individually on each preposition.
But four days after the high-court ruling, the National Elections Commission (NEC) announced the printing of the needed ballot papers for the referendum.
If it goes on, it will be the 19th referendum since the creation of the Liberian state in 1847.