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Following House rejection: Senate decides on ‘Extra Powers’

The Liberian Senate is today expected to determine whether or not to concur with the House of Representatives in rejecting President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s request for more powers, including her desire to place restriction on the civil liberties of Liberians.

On last Thursday and Friday, the senators greeted the request  for more emergency powers during the ongoing State of Emergency with stern uneasiness  and deadlock.

A State of Emergency was declared on August 6, 2014 by the Liberian Chief Executive across Liberia- an action subsequently approved by the Legislature, in consonance with Article 86 of the Constitution, with the purpose of battling the deadly Ebola virus.

On October 1, she reminded the Senate of her declaration and recommended with request that certain restrictive measures were to be taken on keen Articles, including the alteration of election time and manner.

“Under the Constitution and the mentioned Declaration of the State of Emergency, the President is vested with the power and clothed with the authority to suspend, during the period of the State of Emergency, any and all rights ordinarily exercised, enjoyed and guaranteed to citizens and residents of the Republic in normal periods, limited only by specific exceptions stipulated by the Constitution”, the Proclamation adds.

President Sirleaf reiterated her recommendation, amidst public outcry, that her request was vague regarding all the restrictions as the Constitution was clear, and that there was no need for amendments, but she was provided clarity to the Legislature on the Articles of the Liberian Constitution for which she was seeking restrictions, in another communication dated October 8.

The President’s request seeking more powers to restrict the civil liberties of Liberians in keeping with the State of Emergency was, on Friday, October 10, overwhelmingly rejected by the House of Representatives on grounds that the President had failed in dealing with the crisis, and was still seeking more powers.

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“The first one we granted has not been effective. We all saw what happen in West Point and Dolo’s Town. Now she wants more powers to restrict movement, gatherings and free speech? To come back for more powers and restrictions is very much unbearable. When I made the motion to deny my colleagues all agreed that it was not necessary,” Grand bass County (District #4) Representative Byron Brown  told reporters last Friday.

The House, in its extraordinary sitting last Friday, rejected President Sirleaf’s request for more powers to restrict freedom of Movements, speech, religion, assembly and of the press, as well as property rights, through a motion filed by Representative Brown. Both Houses, in a Joint Resolution passed on Friday, October 10, 2014, unanimously voted to overturn a President Sirleaf’s decision to indefinitely cancel the October 14 Mid Term Senatorial elections:

“Now, therefore, be it resolved, that the 53rd National Legislature through its special session during its extraordinary sitting mandates the National Elections Commission (NEC) to set a date in consultation with stakeholders for the conduct of the 2014 Mid Term Senatorial Elections not later than December 20, 2014.”

The Senators and Representatives said their joint decision to postpone the elections was in consonance with Article 86(a) and (b) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia. The Joint Resolution was overwhelmingly signed by members of both Houses.

October 4, 2014, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf issued a Proclamation, suspending the October 14, 2014 Mid Term Senatorial Elections, in consonance with the powers vested in her by both the 1986 Liberian Constitution and the Declaration of the State of Emergency.

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