COS Issues Joint Statement, Deeply Concerned About The Insincerity Of Liberian Legislature

The Naymote Partners for Democratic Development, and Institute for Research and Democratic Development are deeply concerned about the decision-making skills and insincerity of the Liberian Legislature, which should be considered as the fulcrum of Liberia’s democracy; given its constitutional responsibilities to enact laws, represent citizens’ interests and oversee executive policy implementation and performance.

The Liberia legislature recently passed into law, “An Act to Amend Section 1 of an Act Fixing Day for the Annual Adjournment of the Legislature of the Republic of Liberia.” And to establish in lieu thereof “An Act Setting the Calendar of Adjournment for the Legislature.”

According to the Act, there will be three adjournment and recess periods (also known as constituency visit/break). “The first constituency visit/break shall commence on the third Friday of March of each year and end on the second Friday of May of each year; the second constituency visit/break shall commence on the third Friday of July of each year and end on the third Friday of October of each year.”

While the third constituency visit/break shall commence on the second Friday of December of each year and end on Friday immediately preceding the second working Monday of January of each year to satisfy the new Public Financial Management (PFM) Law who set the budget year from January 1 to December 30 (replacing July 1 to June 30).

These new schedules of THREE Adjournments in a single calendar year, unfortunately, violate Liberia’s Constitution under Article 32 (a) of the Liberian Constitution of 1986 which states ‘The Legislature shall assemble in regular session once a year on the second working Monday in January’.

While lawmakers are paid to work for 12 months, with these new changes, they will work for 6 months every year. Sadly, this will undermine the governance process, and we, therefore, call for reconsideration of these changes.

The Legislature cannot do what the constitution didn’t mandate them to do until it’s done through a constitutional referendum. It has been noticed that members of the legislature have taken upon themselves to regularly violate the Liberian Constitution based on self-interest, changing electoral dates, postponing national census, and their total lack of accountability and responsiveness to the Liberian people.

Poor leadership has engulfed the Legislature, heralding themselves into champions of bad governance.

To date, there are no voting records of lawmakers, no website to monitor or track members’ activities, and coupled with their inherent failure to audit what is considered the nation’s “First Branch of Government.” It has become imperative to remind Liberians of some of these national vices that led to the country’s fratricidal civil upheavals, where thousands were brutally maimed and killed.

It is time for the Liberian legislature to ensure adequate representation, oversight, and lawmaking to improve governance and strengthen better leadership through prudent decision-making, instead of undermining the constitution for their self-aggrandizements.

During these very critical periods leading to national elections, increased number of unexplained deaths, rapes, lack of basic social services (water and electricity), massive corruption, and the national airport being in constant darkness, least to mention citizens surviving at the mercy of a dehumanizing electricity-shedding, our elected officials are using national resources to flagrantly violate the Constitution and undermine the peace and security of the state.

While the country is confronted with all of these critical national concerns, the majority of lawmakers seeking re-election have embarked upon serious political campaigns ahead of the set dates by the Electoral Management Body (EMB). This is frustratingly closing the civic space for growth and national development.

The flagrant disregard of the constitution and marginalization of the citizens by the few fortunate so-called elites are key contributing factors to our civil unrest.

Theunilateral and illegal change of constitutions in Africa has triggered the increase of military takeovers because of poor leadership and bad governance, as we see in Liberia daily, where elected officials only care for themselves and not those who elected them.

We are reminded of April 12 and 14, over four decades ago, when citizens’ demands for better leadership, good governance, and the provision of basic social services led to a bloody national crisis.

Those chaotic bloodlettings eventually culminated into the nearly fifteen (15) years of barbaric killings and massive destruction of lives and properties, of which the Liberian people witnessed one of the shortest but bloodiest wars on April 6, 1996. T

Legislature must begin to soberly reflect and guide its actions against allowing itself to be used to plunge this country into another period of devastating conflict leading to full-fledged war.

We wish to call on electorates from all fifteen (15) political subdivisions to call on their lawmakers to, in the supreme interest of Liberia, take a break and retrospect on their responsibilities and functions.

Failing to do so will have Liberia and Liberians continually brought to shame and humiliation by these leaders. Recently, it can be recalled that the United States Ambassador accredited near our Capital, Monrovia rebuked members of the House of Representatives for requesting a Liberian American lawmaker to assist with the electronic voting system.

This is so shaming and disgraceful, to say the least. As the Ambassador recounted, we who follow the work of the Legislature do certainly recall USAID’s assistance to the House of Representatives through NDI with electronic voting equipment and installation.

Also, USAID assisted the Legislature with website availability for two years. Ten (10) years, since 2012, at the end of the two-year website assistance, the Legislature is yet to run a functional website. If these are not shameful and disgraceful, then one wonders what it is. The Legislature needs to be more serious with the Liberian people.

Fellow Liberians, our nation has trodden the tragic path from civil war to a fragile peace.  We need to build upon what our collective efforts have achieved to date.  To do this, the RULE OF LAW must prevail. IREDD and Naymote as members of the Parliamentary Monitoring Organization (PMO) call on the legislature to respect the sacredness of the constitution and abide by their oath of office to always protect the constitution.     

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