Why Dec 8 Referendum is Disservice to Liberians -Former Chief Justice Gives Expert Opinion

As the clamor heats up mainly from the Executive Branch of the Liberian Government to have the voters say ‘yes’ to the three main propositions of the National Referendum slated for December 8, 2020, former Chief Justice of the Liberian Supreme Court  Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott, has taken serious exception to what she perceives as manipulative attempts by functionaries of the Executive branch of government to undermine the hard work of the Constitution Review Committee (CRC), in especially altering recommendations from the people who participated in the Constitutional Review process.

Referencing Minister of State Nathaniel F. McGill’s recent media foray in which he tried to justify why Liberians should vote ‘yes’ to all propositions of the pending Referendum, and why there should be no need for additional public awareness on the referendum because the CRC had already gone around the country explaining the process to the people, Madam Gloria Scott, speaking Thursday via telephone on a popular talk show in Monrovia, said the attempt by Minister McGill to undermine the work of the CRC was a complete disservice to the presidency.

“This morning I saw a video where the Minister of State, and in between, he was joined by the Solicitor General, and he made reference to the work that CRC did. And to justify the presidency coming with a campaign to say vote yes, and to also explain that sufficient public education had been done because CRC went around the country and CRC say that the tenure should be changed, I see that as a manipulation of our work. I see that as a disservice to the office of the presidency. That’s very unfair to the Constitution and very unfair to the Republic. What did the people say as far as the tenure for the president, the senator and the members of the House of Representatives? The people said, for the presidency, it should be reduced to 4 years. For the senators, it should be reduced to 6 years. For the members of the House of Representatives, it should be reduced to 4 years. They were clear on that. Even if you want to take your argument to say that the people already said it, the people didn’t say 7 years, the people didn’t say 5 years. The people were clear. Now if the Legislature came back and said 7 years for the Senators and 5 for the President, and 5 for members of the Representatives, they are under a Constitutional duty to go back to the people and explain that instead of 4 you said 5, instead of 6 you say 7. You can’t stand on the premise that the CRC went around, so in conclusion they have had sufficient public and civic education. I take exception to that. That is not what the Constitution Review process was about. I am saying it because we convinced our people in this country that what they said will be put forth, and that’s what we put forth. I take exception because I am not speaking for the other members of the Committee. I take exception when you’ve changed what the people said and want to use the work of CRC to justify not educating them. I take exception because the people trusted me individually, and they trusted the Committee collectively to express that they wanted to express to us and we put it forth,” the former Supreme Court Chief Justice stated.

Madam Scott further said that the constitution is far above and beyond political machinations. “So to drag the amendment of the constitution to political party theatrics or drag the presidency into it is a disservice to the office of the President. And those who are around the president should not use the office of the president for something else. This is about the future of our country, and this is sacred; so party politics, all of the theatrics and shenanigans should be far removed from amending the constitution,” she averred.

Madam Scott also frowned on the National Elections Commission not exercising its fiduciary duties as enshrined in the Constitution of the Liberia, especially as it relates to protecting members of the Commission, “because it is within the contemplation of the framers of the Constitution that members of the Commission will make tough decisions for this Republic, not only for today, but into the future.”

She further opined that where the issue of the Referendum has reached, the responsibility falls entirely with the Elections Commission, and they need to do the right thing, considering the mandate from the Supreme Court.

“If the Supreme Court has determined that prohibition will lie as far as the work they have produced about the Referendum, clearly, the Supreme Court says they are in error. That is grave. They should be strong enough to say that we don’t have enough time to correct this error, to reprint and to be within the contemplation of the Constitution; that the public education should continue, and last no sooner than 12 months before the date of the Referendum. They should be able to say that it’s not possible. It’s not about being legalistic. It’s about the transparency, the integrity and the credibility of the Referendum. It is about this Republic, which is almost 200 years old. It is about time that our national experiences and individual experiences from the war by now should be strong enough to say when something is not feasible that has national implication. If the Supreme Court says you’re not within the contemplation of the Constitution as far as what you placed within the public domain, you need to do the right thing and say, we don’t have enough time,” Madam Scott said.

Scott is a member of the Liberian National Bar Association and a co-founder of the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia. She was an assistant professor at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia.

Scott was appointed Chief Justice of the five member Supreme Court in 1997, after the court was reconstituted following the civil war and the election of Charles Taylor. She served on the court until August 2003, when the transitional government took effect.

At the 2005 elections, Scott became the Junior Senator for Maryland County, representing the Alliance for Peace and Democracy. In 2008, she spoke to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission about the need to look further beyond the events of 1979. She lost her Senate seat in the 2011 election.

Scott was the chairperson of the Constitution Review Committee which convened from 2013 until 2015. The CRC visited all 73 electoral districts and collected a total of 56,729 views from citizens. In this role, Scott advocated for the participation of women as well as for the education of girls. Scott presented the Committee’s final report to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in August 2015.

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