“Referendum on Course; Vote Yes to All Propositions” – McGill -As NEC Relies on Supreme Court Ruling for Dec. 8 Referendum
In the wake of calls from opposition politicians and cross section of Liberians to halt the December 8, 2020 referendum, Liberia’s Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel F. McGill, says the referendum which remains on course is an expression of the will of the Liberian people, while calling on Liberians to vote “Yes” to all propositions on the referendum because doing so will mean “victory for our country”.
Minister McGill’s statement also supports the National Elections Commission who in a November 25, 2020 presser noted that the Supreme Court of Liberia prohibited the printing of ballots with three propositions instead of the original eight propositions.
“In compliance with the Supreme Court’s November 18th decision, the NEC will print the eight propositions separately so as to permit the Liberian People to exercise their choice as to each of the proposed amendments; and in compliance with Joint Resolution #003/2020, the Referendum will be conducted on December 8th, along with the Special Senatorial Elections,” the NEC stated.
It can be recalled that the Supreme Court in its November 18, 2020 Opinion noted that the Legislature presented eight proposals for amendment to the Constitution. “However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while publishing the Official Gazette, condensed the eight proposed amendments into three ballots measures,” NEC stated.
While the Supreme Court prohibition prevented the NEC from relying on the Gazette to print the said three ballot measures, the prohibition is not against the holding of the Referendum, nor does it prevent the NEC from printing the ballots by presenting each proposition separately so as to permit the people to exercise their choice as to each of the proposed amendments.
According to Section 1 of the October 8, 2020 Joint Resolution #003/2020 passed by the Legislature, the National Elections Commission is required to conduct the Special Senatorial Elections and Referendum on December 8, 2020.
The joint resolution further mandates the National Elections Commission to conduct a referendum in the impending election, with proposed amendments including the ‘reduction of the Presidential tenure from 6 to 5 years; reduction of the Senatorial tenure from 9 to 7 years; and reduction of the Representative tenure from 6 to 5 years.
Other proposed amendments are ‘Dual Citizenship’ which could cause a change to Article 28 of the Constitution on Citizenship’; and the ‘Changing of General Elections date from the 2nd Tuesday in October to the 2nd Tuesday in November, shifting the holding of elections from the rainy season to dry season for convenient electoral activities.
Addressing the media during the week, Minister McGill said the President has already started the issue of awareness. “Please note that the Referendum is on course. The Referendum is coming from the people of Liberia,” Minister McGill noted, terming individuals who don’t want to see the tenure of the presidency reduced as greedy.
He clarified that “People holding dual citizenship in Liberia can only contest for elected posts if they relinquish their foreign citizenship or hold both but not contest.”
Minister McGill maintained that it is the responsibility of the Government to continue to create awareness among the people of Liberia, but urged all political actors including opposition politicians to create awareness about the Referendum as they campaign.
He said five years ago, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appointed a Constitutional Review Committee, headed by Gloria Musu Scott, which toured the country and had expensive consultation with citizens. At the conclusion of the Committee’s work a meeting was held in Gbarnga, Bong County, where it was agreed that key propositions of the Constitution needed amendment.
He furthered that the President also proposed, which is not part of the CRC resolution, Dual Citizenship amendment of Article 38 of the Liberian Constitution.