OPERATION WE CARE FOR LIBERIA WANTS A “REFERENDUM-FREE SPECIAL ELECTIONS”!
Bernard Gbayee Goah President, Operation We Care for Liberia
Due to the nature of the prevailing political circumstance in Liberia surrounding the residency clause requirement stipulated in the constitution of Liberia for persons wanting to run for the presidency, and given the status of Liberia’s economy and others factors that have the propensity to evoke unimaginable chaos; we call upon all Human right groups, the International community, the Liberian government through its Supreme Court, the NEC Elections commission of Liberia, Senators and representatives of various counties and districts, elders and Zoes, as well as all peace loving Liberians wherever they may reside, to declare the 2011 elections (referendum –free), as such “SPECIALELECTIONS” taking the TRC final recommendations into serious considerationin the interest peace.
We are fully aware of the current clause within the constitution of Liberia which requires that anyone wanting to contest the presidency must have lived in the country 10 years prior to the holding of elections. While we acknowledge the supremacy of the constitution, we are also only too aware that it makes no sense for any intelligent person knowing full well that he or she wants to continue to live, to have willingly remained in a war-torn country such as Liberia for 10 unbroken years.
While we agree that the 10 years residency clause is constitutional and that it could be amended, we are very concerned about the volatility of Liberia which is susceptible to renewed conflict, as such; the avoidance of situations that provoke war should be considered the highest priority at this time.We see neglecting the TRC final recommendationsand reducing the residency clause to five yearsor maintaining it at ten yearsvery troubling because the civil war has greatly compromised parts of the constitution.If either of the two issues in the current referendum is to be considered, the question remains when does one start to count continuous residency in Liberia? From the date of birth or from the time the civil war started?
We recommend that all Liberians who are not recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)for prosecution that arevying for the presidency who own current real estate property in Liberia and are currently paying taxes on said property from the date of entrance on the Liberian soil be considered to run in the 2011 elections. We ask the supreme court of Liberia to consider the fact that the residency clause as stipulated in the constitution of Liberia should not mean being physically present in the country for 10 years without any interruption.We are also aware that as a result of war, Liberians have had several transitory residences around the world and therefore should not be deprived of original legal residency (Liberia). Our reason stems from the fact that Liberia has almost always been unstable for the past 20 years making it impossible for a good number of Liberians to have lived in the country for 10 years in series. We call on the Supreme Court to interpret the clause within the context of “legal residency” rather than “physical residency”. It would seem to us that every candidate vying for the current presidency of Liberia has been a legal resident of Liberia for more than 10 years even though they may have had temporary residency elsewhere as long as they were able to demonstrate that they intended returning to Liberia after their stay.
In the interest of peace, We therefore plea with the Liberian supreme court that a Liberian being absent from Liberia for any given period shouldby no meansmake an individual a non-resident Liberian.
We agree that the constitutional referendum of 23rd August as regards the 10 years residency clause prescribed by the constitution of Liberia is valid under Liberian law. However, Liberia has experienced an unprecedented circumstance for almost 20 years which turned the entire country into a fragile state. Massive loss and displacement of its population as well as unimaginable burdensome demands on its meager infrastructure have taxed the people of Liberia. Instead of a marathon of political maneuverings, we ask the Supreme Court of Liberia to declare 2011 as a ‘Special Election’, thereby allowing all the prospective candidates whose names are not mentioned in the TRC final report to contest. Declaring a special election at this time will save Liberia money, and allow Liberians ample time to submit to the Provisions of the Constitution, particularly Article 91of the referendum processunder the caption:AMENDMENTS
“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”.
We look forward to getting public response from individual institutions mentioned in this publication.
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