Monday, 18 April 2011

United Battle

Opposition Politicians Strengthen Talks on the illegality of a Referendum, ahead of October Elections 

 David B. Kolleh,, (231 631 0032)

Heads of major Opposition Political parties in Liberia are meeting in an apparent attempt to pen their signatures on a resolution expressing a unanimous opposition aganist the pending national referendum, expected to be conducted by the National elections Commission (NEC) less than two weeks from today.
At a meeting which lasted for more than two hours on Saturday evening, the opposition Politicians, giving no full detail of their meeting to the Press, discussed among other things the illegality of the upcoming referendum to be conducted throughout the Country, and the failure of the country’s electoral body, the NEC,  to adequately educate the citizenry about the process.
Following the meeting, Ambassdor Dew Mayson of the National Democratic Alliance (NDC) who is said to be the brain behind the meeting, told Journalists that Opposition Politicians were meeting to discuss a chain of national issues, but paramount on their agenda was the upcoming National Referendum.
“Oh yes, there are many issues about the referendum as you may know. There are issues about it being an illegal and an unconstitutional document, but I will wait for our press confrence at which time we will be making a joint statement about the full details of our position.” Amb. Mayson said of the planned referendum.
Amb. Mayson, who is a former Liberian Ambassador to France, expressed fears of the effects of a quashed referendum: “In-fact,  if the Referendum is quashed, we will return to what we call the status-quo-anti. That is, we will reverse to what used to be the original postion before the referendum itself was proposed.”
This call from the opposition block ahead of the much anticipated elections has finally taken a dramatic over-turn, as they appear more united over the last two months, holding meetings on the elections and the pending referendum.
In an exclusive interview with this paper last week ,Cllr. Tubman who was also  part of the Saturday meeting, referred to the planned referendum as a stag-managed process by the incumbent administration, intended to maintain state power.
 “Why are they staging the planned referendum anyway?” Ambassdor Tubman wondered. “It is because they want to keep the current government in office. Who told this government that a referendum was needed at all costs to admend certain portions of the constitution? It wasn’t the People. Who then, made the call for a change in the constitution, especially the domicile clause? It was this government’s idea.” The Former UN envoy to Somalia told FPA.
Ambassador Tubman had also said that the referendum does not have any constitutional backing at this time, due to the time the elections will be held.
He referred to the referendum as being a total violation of the constitution, which is the organic law of the state. Cllr. Tubman is among several opposition politicians who have criticized the National Elections commisson for announcing a referendum just three months before the holding of General and Presidential elections, contrary to the constitutional provision that calls for one year before the holding of the elections.
Article 91, According to Cllr. Tubman,  states:  This Constitution may be amended whenever a proposal by either (1) two-thirds of the membership of both Houses of the Legislature or (2) 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.”
This portion of the constitution, according to the former UN envoy, shows a wanton violation of the organic laws by the state.
 Further solidifying his argument against the upcoming referendum, the Liberian Lawyer, quoting Article 92 of the Liberian constitution, said: “the proposed constitutional amendments should have been accompanied by statements setting forth the reasons therefore, and shall be published in the Official Gazette and made known to the people through the information services of the Republic. If more than one proposed amendment is to be voted upon in a referendum, they shall be submitted in such manner that the people may vote for or against them separately.”
The Liberian Politicians intoned that the people have not been adequately informed about the legal implications of amending the law, adding: “there is no time for the people to be told, all this is happening because someone wants to hide behind the elections to push the Country to a referendum without properly telling the Liberia people why”. 
Amidst public outcries, the National Election Commission (NEC) seems set to proceed with the planned referendum. Almost three weeks ago, the commission issued a Writ of Referendum to elections magistrates, announcing May 1 to August 1, 2011, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. as the periods for campaigning for the National Constitutional Referendum in Liberia.