Liberia: Senate Sets Restriction on Sitting Lawmakers’ Eligibility to Contest By-elections
Monrovia – The Liberian Senate Tuesday voted to restrict sitting lawmaker(s) who might want to contest for a vacancy in a by-election. The law, if passed, will not affect the pending by-elections in Bong and Montserrado Counties to be held on the 31st of July this year.
Report by Henry Karmo, [email protected]
The bill, sponsored by Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County, received majority vote even though there were some lawmakers, who had a reservation on how its wordings were been coined. The motion that facilitated the bill was filed by Senator Milton Teahjay of Sinoe County.
Part of that motion is for the law once concurred upon by the House of Representatives and signed by the President to be sent to the National Elections Commission (NEC) to be enshrined into the country’s elections laws to strengthen existing elections law.
The law will also call for sitting lawmakers to resign their positions in the Senate or House of Representatives if they desire to contest for a vacant position in by-elections.
The idea behind his bill, according to Senator Sherman, is that it will save the government some money that it should have spent on unnecessary by-elections. He believed the act by some lawmakers, who have tenure positions and want to contest in by-elections is too much of economic burden on the government that is struggling to achieve its challenge of obtaining a huge wage bill and carries out social and infrastructure development.
“This is a waste of money; these lawmakers who get elected and a few months later want to contest for other vacant positions in either the House of Representatives or the Senate.
The Senator said those lawmakers who participate, could win thereby creating another by-election; adding: “These are unnecessary spending for government and partners who help sponsor elections in Liberia.”
Weighing in on the proposal, Senator Thomas Grupee of Nimba County, said it would make a good. He described lawmakers who do not end their tenure and want to contest in a by-election as greedy. “If you are elected by your people serve your term. Go for reelection if necessary.”
Like Grupee Senator Peter Coleman of Grand Kru County, described the eligibility of sitting lawmakers to participate in a by-election as critical.
“Our international partners don’t have money to waste that every time we want election they will fund it and also help with basic social services. This law is timely and will save money for other activities such as health care, infrastructure and other development.
“It is important that our partners take us seriously we cannot be making request for money to fund by-election for people already in the Legislature; it will save us unnecessary expenditure.”
Unlike his colleagues, Senator Gble-gbo Brown of Maryland County warned that while it is a good thing to reduce cost on the state, they should be mindful of not violating provisions of the Constitution, which provides for the rights of all citizens qualified to contest.
“Given the experience of the Code of Conduct, I am wondering whether the Legislature can pass a law that would restrict fundamental rights in our Constitution. I am worried whether this law if passed can stand the test of time as was seen with the Code that was challenged by citizens and it was defeated.
“I know this law sounds good but we are not here to pass laws that sound good but in line with our Constitution. If we hastily pass this law, it could be challenged in court in the future. I think we need more consultations,” the Maryland County Senator warned his colleagues.
However, Maryland County Senator Dan Morias thinks that the Code of Conduct was treated the way it was because the Legislature passed a law to affects others and shielded them.
Sen. Morias’ comment was in response to what his colleague from the same county had said earlier.
“We wrote the Code of Conduct and passed it and shielded ourselves. This is an opportunity to prove to the Liberian people that we can be self-righteous. If we make laws to govern people, we, too, should be governed as Legislature,” Morias stressed.