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President Sirleaf Not Bound by Timeline on TRC Report, Says Minister

  • James Butty

President Sirleaf Addressing the 52nd National Legislature of Liberia

President Sirleaf Addressing the 52nd National Legislature of Liberia

The act creating the TRC calls for the president to report to the legislature 90 days after the commission has submitted its report

Tuesday this week marked 90 days since Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) submitted its final edited reported to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Under Article 10, Section 48 of the TRC act, the president is to report to the national legislature within three months after receiving the TRC report and on a quarterly basis after the implementation of the commission’s recommendations.

Information minister Cletus Sieh said while President Sirleaf is concerned about the report being implemented, she is not bound by some timeline.

“All we are saying is that the TRC has submitted her report and let’s forget about timeline. Those recommendations that are implementable will be implemented; those of course that have constitutional implications, definitely the courts or whatever institutions available will be the ones to make such a determination,” he said.

Sieh said President Sirleaf has taken some steps towards implementing the TRC report, including the appointment of a Human Rights Commission.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

But Sieh said the Liberian legislature has yet to approve members of that commission.

He also said members of the Liberian legislature have been hearing from their constituencies on the way forward about the TRC report.

“Town hall meetings had been held by members of the legislature; the reaction has been mixed but we think overwhelmingly from most quarters they are saying that they prefer restorative justice and the maintenance of peace,” he said.

Sieh said President Sirleaf would not be in violation of Liberian laws if she fails to implement the TRC report.

“Our constitution says any law that contravenes the constitution of the Republic of Liberia such laws are none and void. Our supreme law of the land is the constitution of the Republic of Liberia. So any law or act passed by the legislature that seems to contravene the constitution, the constitution will be maintained,” Sieh said.

He said President Sirleaf is not invoking technicalities as a means to avoid implementing the TRC report.

Instead Sieh said some of the Truth Commission’s recommendations are unconstitutional.

“It’s not a matter of technicality. It’s a matter of doing what is proper under our constitution. For example, if the TRC is calling for people to be banned for 30 years, our constitution says the only penalty or crime that carries banning from public office is treason. And it calls for five years. So there’s no where in our laws that calls for 30 years. So you see clearly this is in contravention of our constitution,” Sieh said.

Newly elected Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff of George Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change said President Sirleaf is under obligation to inform the national legislature about her plans to implement the TRC report.

“As far as we are concerned the TRC act which said that within 90 days after the final draft has been done with and presented to the president within 90 days the president shall report to plenary. I think the three months are enough and it’s incumbent on the President in this month of March to make a presentation to the plenary. We hope she will do that within the shortest possible time before the month ends,” Doe-Sheriff said.

She said the Liberian Senate passed a resolution calling on the President to begin implementing the TRC report.

But Doe-Sheriff said a member of the senate has filed a motion for reconciliation which she said is holding up the process.