Liberia: ‘Pres. Weah Not Opting for a Third Term’ – Nat McGill Clarifies Referendum
Paynesville – Amidst growing concerns about President George Manneh Weah alleged intention to use the pending referendum to seek a third term if he is re-elected, the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel F. McGill has clarified that the President has no intention of administering the country for more than two terms.
Addressing the Executive Mansion regular press briefing on Tuesday, Minister McGill said if President Weah had an intention of such, he would not be pushing for a reduction of the President’s years of service from six to five years.
“I can assure you that the President will only go for two terms,” Minister McGill said. “This is the reason why President Weah is pushing for the reduction of presidential tenure from six to five years in the referendum.”
Recently, Senator Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba County, a staunch supporter of the Weah’s regime says the President would be able to run for a third term after the December 8 referendum, which also has a proposition to amend the presidential tenure.
“I tell you the truth, President Weah will be there twelve years – and when the referendum passes – the first six years would be zero years for us – that will make it two more terms, that’s a third term,” Senator Johnson said while delivering a sermon at his Faith Chapel Ministries church on Sunday.
According to him, President Weah would win a second term in the current six-year tenure to complete his 12 years of rule but would be granted another opportunity to contest presidential elections when the proposition calling for the reduction of the presidential tenure is given a yes vote comes December 8, 2020.
Under the current Constitution, Article 50 reads, “The Executive Power of the Republic shall be vested in the President who shall be Head of State, Head of Government and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. The President shall be elected by universal adult suffrage of registered voters in the Republic and shall hold office for a term of six years commencing at noon on the third working Monday in January of the year immediately following the elections. No person shall serve as President for more than two terms.”
If amended, the law will now read: “The Executive Power of the Republic shall be vested in the President who shall be Head of State, Head of Government and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. The President shall be elected by universal adult suffrage of registered voters in the Republic and shall hold office for a term of five (5) years commencing at noon on the third working Monday in January of the year immediately following the elections. No person shall serve as President for more than two terms”.
There have been several calls for the postponement of the December 8 Referendum with many calling for appropriate civic education on the propositions.
Recently, Representatives Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis and Francis Saidy Dopoh, along with a consortium of women called on the House of Representatives to intervene in halting the National Elections Commission (NEC) to postpone the referendum scheduled for December 8, 2020.
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 Six 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 were 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 just before they could leave for their constituency break, 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, they 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.
Also, an advocacy group, the Grassroots Alternative Movement (GAM) in August petitioned the 54th Legislature of Liberia to postpone the upcoming December 8, 2020 Referendum.
In a communication to the Legislature through House Speaker Bhofal Chambers and President Pro Tempore Albert Chie, GAM said if the Senatorial election and the referendum are held together, the senatorial elections will take away the meaning and enthusiasm of the referendum as the Senatorial Election is the single highest subject of national discussion at the moment.
“The Referendum will definitely become a side issue with very less interest. In that case, one does not have to be a Rocket Scientist to know that there will be a very low turnout for the referendum as we saw in the last Referendum that was held in 2011,” GAM said in the statement.
However, in his live address, Minister McGill said he sees no reason while the referendum should be postponed when it is in the best interest of Liberians; especially those who are opting to take over the seat of presidency.
Long before the National Elections Commission officially declared campaign open, President Weah, through the Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) embarked on a massive campaign, calling on the electorates to vote yes to all of the four propositions including the one calling for the reduction of tenure of the President.
Large billboards and paintings depicting the President’s images and messages in support of all of the four propositions were erecting across Montserrado and its surroundings amid huge criticism from opposition lawmakers and lawyers.
In defense, Minister McGill said that the President’s support in favor of all of the propositions geared towards avoiding huge financial waste and to enable the electoral process to become more democratic.
“This decision will enable the electoral process to become more democratic and avoid huge financial wastes,” Minister McGill asserted.
Decision to Import Teacher Canceled
At the same time, McGill said the Liberian Government has rescinded its decision to bring in 600 foreign teachers into the country to help strengthen the education system.
According to him, the decision is currently unnecessary because the students’ performances in public exams are positive and it shows that the teachers are now up to the task.
“It was then and not now, we wanted to bring 600 teachers then, but it’s not necessary now,” McGill averred.
Cllr. Nwabudike Not Be Dismissed
The Presidential Affairs Minister was also blunt about the government‘s position not to dismissed the Executive Chairperson of the Liberia Anti -Corruption Commission, Cllr. A. Ndubusi Nwabudike.
His comments come amid President Weah’s refusal to bow to public pressure to dismiss the embattled LACC boss over his questionable citizenship status that was unearthed during his confirmation hearing at the Liberian Senate following his nomination as Chairman of the National Elections Commission.
However, Minister McGill, duped the Prime Minister of Liberia owing to his huge influence over the President, rebuffed the calls to dismiss the LACC boss on ground that he occupies a tenured positions and has not been found guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction for wrongdoing. “The president will not fire Nwabudike because he has not been charged with any act of corruption. The President cannot dismiss someone who has a tenured position.”