Liberia: Senate’s Discussion on Constitutional Amendment Suffers Setback
Monrovia – The Senate has failed to commence discussion on the amendment of constitutional provisions for the 3rd session during its extended sitting. They say there was a procedural error in the submission of the provisions to the august body.
Report by Henry Karmo, [email protected]
Article 91 of the Liberian Constitution calls for constitutional amendment whenever a proposal by either two-thirds of the membership of both Houses of the Legislature or a petition submitted to the Legislature, by not fewer than 10,000 citizens, which receives the concurrence of two thirds of the membership of both Houses of the Legislature, is ratified by two-thirds of the registered voters, voting in a referendum conducted by the Elections Commission not sooner than one year after the action of the Legislature.
The area of contention for many senators has been the procedure used to introduce the document on the floor of the Senate. As it is, the document is being presented by President George Weah, which some senators see as the “wrong procedure,” for the submission of such document to that body.
In their interpretation of the Constitutional provision of Article 91, the proposal for constitution amendment to the Legislature should be initiated by 10,000 citizens or if the President wants to do it he or she should go through some senators, who may serve as sponsors to the amendment.
“If we will do it let us do it right,” Senator Daniel Naathen of Gbarpolu County stated while making his argument. Like Naathen, Senator Gble-Gbo Brown of Maryland County also believes the procedure used is “unconstitutional” and there is a need to “redo it the proper way.”
Cllr. Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County and Chair on the Senate’s Judiciary Committee advised his colleagues that the best way to go about it is to for them to set their own guideline(s).
He recommended that provisions for constitutional amendment be submitted to the Joint Committee on Judiciary and Good Governance of both the House of Representatives and Senate so that the amendment document can be placed into what he termed “proper language.”
Constitutional provisions forwarded for amendment include, the tenure of President, Vice President, Representative and Senator.
Senators are also expected to recommence discussion on whether to scratch tenured position for officials in the Executive Branch of Government.
Last August, members of the Legislature and Executive had a two-day retreat at the Farmington Hotel to discuss constitutional amendments and the need to pass some bills that are already in committees’ rooms of the Legislature. The retreat was initiated by Pres. Weah.
Lawmakers and the President dialogued on the need to undertake a review of the Constitution, a process initiated by his predecessor, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Former Pres. Sirleaf had established a six-member Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) with specific mandate to review the Constitution and identify provisions to determine whether they require amendment.
The Committee completed its work and submitted to her 25 propositions. Before she left office, she had forwarded the 25 proposals to the Legislature. These propositions are yet to generate the necessary legislative actions to prepare the process for referendum and in order to further advance the constitutional review process.
To get the process back on course, Pres. Weah believes the best way was to call for a roundtable discussion between the Executive and the Legislature.
“I have decided that it is now timely to undertake a review of the Constitution. You may recall that the previous constitutional review process was initiated by my predecessor. It is for this purpose I have invited you here to deliberate on seven of those propositions.”
The propositions include, the amendment of Article 28, which provides for Dual Citizenship of a persons, who are of Negroes decent; Article 45, which provides for the vacancies created by death, resignation, expulsion or otherwise of Senators, and Article 46 which also provides for the reduction in the tenure of Senators.
Other amendments include Article 48, which calls for the reduction in the tenure of Representatives; 49, the election of a Speaker, Deputy Speaker and other Officers of the House of Representatives and 50, which calls for the provision for the reduction in the tenure of the President, as well as 66, which calls for the establishment of Regional Intermediary Appellate Courts.