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Liberians Hold Constitutional Review Conference

  • James Butty

FILE - Gloria Scott of Liberia.

FILE - Gloria Scott of Liberia.

A National Constitutional Review Conference opens Monday in the central Liberian city of Gbarnga.

A committee charged with reviewing the country’s 1986 constitution has been soliciting suggestions from the public for possible amendments.

They include the terms of office for the President, Vice President, legislators and justices, as well as superintendents of the country’s 15 political subdivisions.

Under the current constitution, the president and vice president serve six-year terms, senators serve for nine years, and members of the House of Representatives six years.

Counselor Gloria Musu-Scott, chairperson of the Constitution Review Committee, said many Liberians want changes in the terms of office of their elected officials.

“One of the proposals to be considered is where the people had said nine years are too long for a senator to be in office. So, it should be reduced to six years, the senators from nine to six [years], members of the House of Representatives from six to four [years] and the president and the vice president from six to four years. That is almost a national consensus,” she said.

Scott said Liberians also want their local government officials, including county superintendents, district commissioners, and mayors to be elected and accountable to the people they serve.

Under the current constitution, much of the power to appoint resides in the hands of the president.

She said Liberians also want traditional leaders, or chiefs, elected according to the tradition of their respective areas.

Liberian women are also demanding equal representation in “all elected, selected or appointed positions in both [the] public and private sector,” said Julia Duncan-Cassell, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection.

“Under the appointing authority of the president, the president should ensure that no one gender is less than 40, or more than 60, in terms of the total number of persons appointed. So, the principle there is equal participation and representation in governance, especially in the executive branch of government,” said Scott.

Some Liberians believe the constitution should protect every citizens irrespective of gender and that employment should be based on competence.

Scott said some Liberians have told her commission the number of political parties in the country should be no less than two and no more than four because it is too easy under current constitution to form a political party.

She said Liberians also want their socio-economic rights protected under the constitution. For example, traditional Liberians want to reclaim their land taken by the government.

The deliberations of the conference would be submitted to the national legislature for its approval and then put to a referendum a year after.