Liberia: Weah, Legislature Brainstorm

19 August 2019

... On Constitutional Amendment at Retreat

President Dr. George Manneh Weah held a two-day special presidential legislative retreat with members of that body during which they discussed constitutional amendments.

Lawmakers and the President dialogued on the need to undertake a review of the Constitution, a process initiated by his predecessor, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

During her administration, former President Sirleaf established a Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) consisting six members with specific mandate to review the Constitution and identify provisions to determine whether they require amendment.

The Committee completed its work and submitted to the former President 25 propositions. She forwarded them to the Legislature. These propositions are yet to generate the necessary legislative mandate to prepare the process for referendum and in order to further advance the constitutional review process.

As his way to get the process back on course, President Weah believes the best way is 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 President pointed out that it was time to review the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia to further strengthen the democracy thereby redefining some laws of the country in the interest of all.

President Weah said he now wants to accelerate the debate that can see the constitution translate into concrete action on the part of the Legislature, suggesting that the two-day roundtable talks and brainstorming was the great start that could erase the bottlenecks.

"The constitutional review process is lacking the necessary approval of the Legislature in order to advance to the referendum stage. It is my belief that this may never happen, if we do not spearhead the initiative to get this done.'

"It is for this purpose that I have invited you here on seven of the revised prepositions at this retreat. Another reason for which we are here is to appeal to you to consider legislations pending before you, because, as you know; legislation is one of the most important instrument of government organizing society and protecting its citizens in determining, among other things, rights of individuals and authorities to whom the legislation applies," Pres. Weah said to the lawmakers.

The prepositions include call for amendments of Article 28 of the Constitution to provide for dual citizenship for persons who are Negros or of Negro decent; Article 45. to provide for filling vacancies created by death, resignation, expulsion, or otherwise of Senators; Article 46 to provide for the reduction tenure of Senators of the first category to be reduced to seven years, and the second category, to six years; and Article 48 which seeks to limit the term of Representatives to five years instead of six.

Other proposals from the prepositions from the President's desk point to amendments of Article 49 to enable the election of a Speaker, Deputy Speaker and other officers of the House of Representatives once every five years instead of six years; while Article 50 provides for the reduction in the tenure of the President from six to five years; and for an amendment of Article 66 to provide for the establishment of Regional intermediary Appellate Court in the country with appellate jurisdiction above circuit courts and decisions by these courts shall be final excerpts in cases where the Supreme Court has jurisdiction.

The President also used the occasion to welcome into government Sen. Darius Dillon, who was inducted a day before the retreat.

Senate Pro-Tempore Albert Chie expressed hope that while the Farmington Meeting is focused on constitutional amendment, members of the legislature look forward for an opportunity for another gathering of same nature to discuss issues of governance, peace and unity, the state of the economy and other pressing issues of national concerns.

"This meeting is in the spirit of constitutional inherent. Our people will not forgive us no matter which branch of the government we find ourselves for failing them. They will conclude rightfully that young people are incapable of leading this nation."

In remarks, Senator Pro-Tempore Chie said it is always important for Branches of the government to meet and deliberate on issues in the interest of the country.

He said the need to amend several articles in the Constitution is necessary to ensure that it meets present day reality.

Pro-Tempt Chie assured the Senate cooperation to work with the Executive in the interest of the people and country.

For his part, House Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers, like Pro-Tempt Chie said it is important for the two branches of government to work together for the good of the country.

He stressed the need to reform the constitution especially considering the present reality, unlike in the past.

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