Liberia: Country Cannot Remain in Shutdown -Sen. Teahjay

Speaking during a debate over the extension of the State of Emergency here following a week long break due to the COVID-19 scare at the Capitol Building,Teahjay said the Liberian economy country is facing serious downturn and that keeping the county in a constant lockdown will cause more economic harm and may increase the already unemployment rate at an alarming level.

President George Weah a week ago extended the State of Emergency (SOE) for an additional 30 days, days after the first 90 days SOE elapsed. His reason given for the extension is that the cases of the virus are sky rocketing in the country. Counties which never had cases have all recorded cases in record numbers.

But Teahjay suggests that instead of locking the country down, the government could take measure to enforce the straight compliance with health protocols and the Public Health laws-that he said could reduce and control the spread of virus here.

But Senator Dr. Peter Coleman who chairs the Senate Health Committee indicated that the increasing rate of COVID-19 cases here are worrisome, adding that it's a signal that more need to be done. Senator Coleman explained that counties that were not affected or did not have cases are now reporting growing number of cases on a daily basis.

Dr. Coleman further that counties including Lofa, Sinoe, Maryland and Bong have recorded an alarming rate in the number of case, which has prompted government to consider the construction of a treatment center in the central region of Bong County to cater to patients in that part of the country and its surroundings instead of bringing them to Monrovia at the #14 Military Hospital.

But Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darious Dillon strongly differed with the extension of the SOE on grounds that government officials are using the SOE to restrict freedom of expression and movement of citizens, an action he insisted was not part of the resolution signed by senators for the enforcement of the initial State of Emergency.

Article 86 (a) states: The President may, in consultation with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, proclaim and declare and the existence of a state of emergency in the Republic or any part thereof. Acting pursuant thereto, the President may suspend or affect certain rights, freedoms and guarantees contained in this Constitution and exercise such other emergency powers as may be necessary and appropriate to take care of the emergency, subject, however, to the limitations contained in this Chapter.

(b) A state of emergency may be declared only where there is a threat or outbreak of war or where there is civil unrest affecting the existence, security or well-being of the Republic amounting to a clear and present danger.

Article 87 (a) Emergency powers do not include the power to suspend or abrogate the Constitution, dissolve the Legislature, or suspend or dismiss the Judiciary; and no constitutionals amendment shall be promulgated during a state of emergency. Where the Legislature is not in session, it must be convened immediately in special session and remain in session during the entire period of the state of emergency. Meanwhile, following arguments and counter arguments, senators voted in favor of an extension of the SOE for additional 30 days.

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