The Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), Liberia’s largest opposition political party has announced that it will be boycotting the pending national referendum on the amendments of certain portions of the 1986 Liberian constitution that was considered troublesome by the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the 52nd National Legislature.
The CDC Standard Bearer, who is a constitutional Lawyer solidified arguments that the pending referendum is a gross violation of the Liberian Constitution, and the party will not form part of anything that is said to be a wanton violation of the organic laws of the country.
The positions of the 1986 constitution that are supposed to be amended if the Referendum which is currently suffering a court injunction survives include: Articles 83 (a) and (b), 52 (c), and 72(b).
The proposal for the amendment in these constitutional provisions came on the heels of series of controversies and what the country’s electoral body (National Election Commission-NEC) had said was followed by consultations across the Country.
“CDC will not participate in referendum because it is against our laws and the interest of our people. Therefore, we call on all partisans of the Congress for Democratic Change not to vote, because if they do they will be honoring an unconstitutional process”, Tubman said of the pending Referendum.
“The business of any constitution is to protect the people against the government, how can anyone say that amending a constitution now, which in itself is a violation of the very people’s rights, will protect their rights. For now no one knows the date of the elections because it depends on the results of the referendum. That is a violation of the Liberian constitution.” Cllr. Tubman, Standard Bearer of CDC told a News conference over the weekend.
Ambassador Winston Tubman said the pending Referendum is a stage Managed process intended to suit the incumbent and support it in power: “Why are they carrying on the planned referendum anyway? Ambassador Tubman wondered.
“It is because they want to keep the current government in office. Who told the government that a referendum was needed at all costs to amend certain portions of the constitution, the people didn’t do so; then who made the call for the change of the constitution, especially the domicile clause, this government did.” The Former UN envoy to Somalia told a crowded news conference on Saturday.
Ambassador Tubman said the referendum does not have any constitutional backing at this time, due to the time to the holding of elections.
He said of it 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 Elections commisson for announcing a referendum just three months before the holding of the 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 says: “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 law of the state.
Further solidifying his argument against the upcoming referendum, the Liberian Lawyer quoting Article 92 of the 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 said 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, 2011 to August 1, 2011 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. as the periods for campaigning for the National Constitutional Referendum in Liberia.
The magistrates were identified from 19 magisterial areas in the country thereby identifying August 23, 2011 as the official date for the conduct of the National Constitutional Referendum which is in keeping with the Joint Resolution passed by the 52nd National Legislature.
“This is required under Section 4.3 (1) and (2) of the 1986 New Elections Law directing the Elections Magistrates to proceed with the conduct of a National Referendum,” NEC Co-Chairperson Elizabeth Nelson had said of the pending extraordinary media event.
Pursuant to this Article, members of the Legislature on August 17, 2010 passed a Joint Resolution No. LEG-00 1/2010 containing four (4) propositions that the 1986 Liberian Constitution be amended.