The Liberian Senate on Monday descended into repeated rounds of spontaneous outbursts as Senators bitterly debated a proposal by President George Manneh Weah for the reduction of Presidential tenure from six to five years. President George Weah, amongst other things, recently submitted a presidential bill in which he preferred several recommendations to the amendment of the Liberian constitution, but some Senators strongly disagreed on grounds that the inception of the proposal falters on procedural error and directly contravenes Article 91 of the 1986 constitution of Liberia, The ANALYST reports.

Intense disagreement ensued on Monday amongst members of the Liberian Senate on the presidential tenure proposal by President Weah in which he calls for the reduction of the tenure for the Presidency, in a recent Presidential bill, from six to five years contrary to Article 91 of the Liberian Constitution which provides three steps upon which the Constitution can be amended.

The Liberian constitution explicitly requires two-thirds of the Liberian Senate or two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives or in Legislative Assembly; or 10,000 citizens presenting a formal petition to the Legislature for such amendment. After a two-thirds of the Legislature agrees for such amendment, a two-thirds vote must also be acquired through a national referendum.

Read Article 91: The 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 referendum conducted by the Elections Commission not sooner than one year after the action of the Legislature.

Margibi Senator Oscar told a team of legislative reporters in Monrovia during an interview that the President’s proposal to amend the constitution should not be granted by the Senate in the first place because, it is a complete violation of article 91 of the Liberian constitution.

“The constitution is clear on how we can [carry out amendment] and also [is clear on] the procedure upon which it can be carried out. I think this is complete procedural error, and we are waiting to see what the judicial committee will come out with,” the Margibi Senator said.

He pointed out, “If the committee makes any recommendation that will contravene Article 91 of the Constitution, we are prepared and ready to take the Senate to the Supreme Court of Liberia, which is the final arbiter of justice in the land.”

Senator Cooper warns, “I am saying that the Senate is proceeding wrongly on this issue. We continue to make mistakes at this Legislature, which are very detrimental to the future of the unborn generation.”

Monday’s Senate deliberation on the crucial electoral reform law to affect the term presidential term of the country also witnessed huge emotional display by lawmakers who exchange some harsh words as Presiding Officer, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, who is President of the Liberian Senate struggled to contain a noisy Senate chambers.

“You are not a constitution lawyer; and therefore I will not allow you to give constitutional interpretation on this issue. We’ll run to the Supreme Court for interpretation if we do not have clear understanding here,” Senator Cooper said to fellow Senator Varney G. Sherman of Grand Cape Mount, who is also Chairman on the Senate’s Standing Committee on Judiciary.

“You are reading the constitution wrongly,” Senator Varney Sherman, an internationally acclaimed corporate lawyer, replied swiftly.  Senator Sherman continued, “The interpretation of Article 91 does not suggest that an individual cannot present a proposal on this. What it simply means is that even you as a Senator can present a proposal for amendment.”

But the Margibi County Senator insisted, on the provision of Article 91 of the Constitution, termed fellow Senator Varney Sherman’s assertion as misleading and counterproductive.

Meanwhile, the Senate Plenary in special sitting referred the President’s propose presidential tenure reform bill to its committee on judiciary to make speedy report on the way forward on what has seemingly appeared to be a huge controversy on the issue which is now spinning across the length and breathe of the country.

In a separate development, the Senate Plenary is also expected to cross-examine Liberia’s Finance Minister Samuel Tweah tomorrow. Minister Tweah’s invitation is said to have stern from the MFDP latest payment of government employees from its newly introduced salary harmonization scheme in which hundreds of GOL employees claimed huge salary cuts.

His appearance before the Senate had earlier been scheduled for today, but was deferred to Tuesday, September 3, 2019, in order for him to make adequate preparation to face members of that august body.

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