TUBMANBURG, Bomi – Citizens in Bomi are calling on lawmakers to reject President George Weah’s reform proposal on reducing the tenure of elected public officials.
The president recently submitted a number of proposed legislation to the National Legislature. Key among them were propositions to amend portions of the constitution through a referendum, such as reductions in the tenure of the president and members of the legislature.
In his submission, the president proposed an amendment to reduce the tenure of the president and members of the House of Representatives from six to five years. He also called for an accompanying reduction in the tenure of senators from nine to seven years.
However, his proposal contradicts an extensive constitutional review process that was conducted across the country and incorporated the views of a significant number of Liberians. The process was headed by the defunct Constitutional Review Committee, chaired by former Chief Justice Gloria Scott.
Following a national consultation across the fifteen counties, the committee held a four-day constitution review conference in Gbarnga to validate the findings from the nationwide consultations.
Liberians from the diaspora and all parts of the country voted on 25 issues to be forwarded as amendments to the constitution, including reducing term durations for political offices.
The delegates voted to reduce the presidential terms from six to four years, senatorial terms from nine to six years, and representatives’ terms from six to four years – with two-term limits for each.
The recommendations were submitted to former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who forwarded them to the legislature.
In Tubmanburg, A. Ballah Dwana said he participated in the constitution review process. He said the president’s proposal is going against the will of the majority of Liberians who already provided their position on the tenure reduction of their officials.
“We are the employers of the president. We are the ones who employed the senators and representatives. We have said the president’s [term] should be reduced from six to four [years], senators from nine to six, and representatives from six to four,” he said.
“If the president came up and proposed a different view, that means he wants to impose his view against our views and our will.”
He said given that legislative decisions in Liberia are often influenced by the executive branch, and that majority of Liberian lawmakers would want to perpetuate themselves in power, most Liberian lawmakers are likely to vote in favor of the president’s proposition, rather than approving what was proposed by the majority of citizens they represent.
However, Dwana called on lawmakers to be conscious of their mandate to represent the interest of the citizens and reject the president’s proposal. According to him, the lawmakers were elected to represent the interest of their constituents and not the president.
Varney Dorley, another Bomi citizen who worked as the country’s focus person during the constitution review process, said 21 consultation forums were conducted through the county. He observed that citizens’ views on the reduction of tenure of public officials from six to four years for the president and representatives, and nine to six years for senators dominated throughout.
He is calling on the president to abandon his proposal and support the citizens’ proposal, which had already been submitted to the legislature for approval following the end of the constitution review process.
“The constitution review process was conducted throughout the length and breadth of the Republic of Liberia. We talked to citizens in the 15 subdivisions of the Republic of Liberia. So, it means that the Liberian people spoke overwhelmingly that the reduction in the tenure of the president should be from six to four years; representatives from six to four years, and senators from nine to six years,” he said.
“So, I am appealing to him to follow suit because, when you reduce the tenure of [a] president from six to five years, it makes no difference.”
Dorley believes that reducing the tenures as approved by the people would push elected officials to work harder for their constituents in order to get re-elected.
According to him, leaders get complacent when they are elected for long tenures.
He threatened that lawmakers who supported the president’s interest instead of the people’s recommendations would be voted out in 2023.
This article was produced with funding from Internews for the Citizens in Liberia Engaged to Advance Electoral Reform (CLEAR) project. Gbatemah Senah contributed to this article. Featured photo by Gbatemah Senah