Wednesday, August 10, 2011

European Federation of Liberia Associations (EFLA) on Liberia 2011 Referendum

Sweden Liberia Cooperative 6:42am Aug 10

The European Federation of Liberia Associations (EFLA) is calling on Liberians not to participate or vote in the so-called August 2011 Constitutional Referendum organized by the National Elections Commission (NEC). If however you have to participate in exercise of your right to vote, then EFLA urges you to VOTE NO on all of the four (4) propositions submitted by the Government of Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

EFLA notes that it is important for Liberians to abstain from taking part or voting in the Referendum for the following reasons:

1. The Referendum is illegitimate. By voting in the referendum we legitimize a flawed and premature process which does not represent the interest of the Liberian people;

2. The Referendum is unconstitutional because all the requirements of Articles 91 & 92 of the Constitution of Liberia have not been met. The constitutional requirements are a) the propositions should be published in the National Gazette and circulated in the mass media throughout the Republic-this was never done; b) the Referendum must be held not sooner than one year after the action of the Legislature(i.e. after the Gazette is published and disseminated) to allow for one full year of mass education and debate-this was never done; c) the government must give reasons (pros and cons) or justification for all the proposed amendments to the constitution; d) the referendum violates Article 7 of the constitution which requires the maximum feasible participation of the Liberian people in all workings of the government but this was never the case because the Liberian people did not participate in the formulation of the so-called four(4) propositions.
The people have not been adequately informed about the legal implications of amending the constitution and there is no sufficient time for the Liberia people to be told why the referendum is essential at this crucial juncture in our national history.

3. The Referendum is illegal because there is no law or statute that authorized the NEC to conduct the referendum. The NEC is established by the Constitution (Art 89) but derives its powers and authority from the Legislature (Art 89) and not the Constitution. Without a statute or enabling Referendum Law, the NEC cannot conduct a legitimate and legal referendum. Absent such law there will be a serious confusion over 1) How to know and determine that the referendum is approved and 2) When should the result of the referendum come into effect? Now, before the 2011 Elections or after the 2011 Elections? And many more serious questions/issues that can only be legally addressed by the Legislature under its law making authority.

4. The Referendum is imposed on the Liberian people and is therefore undemocratic because the government used the top-to-bottom approach instead of the bottom-to -top approach which gives all powers to the people (Art 1) and calls for their involvement and consultation and participation at all levels of the public policy formulation process like the referendum (Art 7). The people could have preferred removing the residency clause entirely; reduce the term of office for elected officials; propose the reduction of presidential powers, election of local officials, etc. and no other time is better than now after a violent conflict when the root causes of the conflict in Liberia is now documented history through the work of the TRC. In a genuine democracy you serve the interests of the people first before yours.

5. The Referendum serves no real national interest, objective or program. It benefits no one except the incumbent president (Proposal #1 Residency Clause); the incumbent judges (Proposal #2 Retirement Age); the NEC itself to buy time because the referendum and elections are too close just as the NEC said previously it was impossible to hold the referendum this year (Proposal #3 Election date moved from October to November) and incumbent Legislators who are unpopular with the people and want to be re-elected by hook or crook (Proposal #4 Simple Majority vote without second round).

6. The Referendum ignores the socio-political history and reality of Liberia where the clamor for participation and majority decision making based on popular consensus have been at the core of root causes of violent conflicts and war in Liberia to overturn minority rule of "so say one, so say all"(Proposal #4). Proposal #4 is the most significant proposal in the referendum not because of anything good but because it seeks to undermine and reverse our democratic progress which began with majority rule and universal adult suffrage for all in Liberia enshrined in the new constitution after the 1890 military coup d'état.

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