Liberia: Lawmakers, Women Consortium Want Referendum Postponed over Lack of Civic Education
MONROVIA – Representatives Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis and Francis Saidy Dopoh, along with a consortium of women are calling for the House of Representatives intervene in halting the National Elections Commission (NEC) to postpone the referendum scheduled for December 8, 2020.
The referendum, seeking to amend portions of the Constitution of Liberia was scheduled by the 54th Legislature in a joint resolution to be held together with the Special Senatorial Elections in December.
However, with less than two months to the polls, there have been mounting calls for the referendum to be postponed due to inadequate civic education.
Reps. Dennis (District #4, Montserrado County) and Dopoh (District #3, River Gee County), in their communication said the referendum, if held, will be a landmark event and must “therefore go along with voter and civic education, mass media coverage, facilitating dialogue, debate and discussion between masses and policymakers and elected officials.”
According to them, effective information dissemination is one of the major pillars of democratic elections, and must effectively be implemented before the referendum, especially where the citizens’ faith in the system needs to be reaffirmed over the daunting levels of illiteracy and poverty.
The lawmakers, writing further, stated that their move is also in line with Article 6 of the Liberian Constitution which calls for equal access to education opportunities and facilities for all citizens to the extent of available resources.
The lawmakers are also being joined by several civil society groups, under the banner ‘The Liberian Women Can Lead Consortium.
The group, in a statement delivered to the Legislature and read in plenary on Friday, pleaded for the referendum to be postponed to the last Tuesday in March 2021.
According to the pro-women group, it is making the request because most of the propositions including dual citizenship are gender-sensitive, and as women should be given ample time to be well educated to make informed decision during the referendum.
Conducting the referendum on December 8, the group noted, will be a rich soil for denying the Liberian people of the right to information and will subtly divest the Liberians of the most sacred constitutional power of the land.
The group called for the increased and sustained public awareness on the referendum through the information services and increased funding to the National Elections Commission.