Members of the House of Representatives have boycotted a constitution review retreat organized in Ganta City, Nimba County in demand of allowance.
The retreat was organized by the Constitution Review Committee or CRC and sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme or UNDP. The exercise started last week Tuesday with an understanding to have ended on Saturday, but was boycotted by members of the House of Representatives on grounds that allowance promised them by the UNDP was reportedly reduced without prior notice.
The chairman of the retreat, Nimba County Representative Larry Younquoi, said the leadership of the House had agreed that Speaker Alex Tyler should receive US$125.00 as daily allowance, while chairpersons of three committees: Good Governance and Reconciliation, Judiciary, and Internal Affairs were to receive to US$115.00 per day and all members of the House of Representatives that attended the retreat to receive US$100.00 daily plus US$64.00 for gasoline.
Representative Younquoi said after the lawmakers arrived in Nimba for the retreat, UNDP informed them through its account department that delegates present would instead receive US$70.00 and US$64.00 for gasoline each.
But apparently the message did not go down well with the lawmakers so many of them packed left the retreat hall on Thursday for Monrovia in protest of cut in the allowance.
Due to the boycott, the retreat which was intended to give the lawmakers broad knowledge about 25 propositions that are expected to be voted upon in a national referendum in 2016, ended in deadlock is.
However, insiders who represented the UNDP in Ganta confided in this paper that Daily Sustenance Allowance or DSA for all UN staffers, including Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is US$70 per day so it is impossible for anyone to demand more than US$70.00 per day.
Of the 25 propositions, the lawmakers discussed only five inclusively and boycotted the exercise. Two independent rights campaigners – Cllr. TawianGongloe and Atty. Alfred Brownell failed to show up for the retreat, leaving the entire expert opinions aspect of the exercise with the Louis Arthur Grimes of Law School at the University of Liberia, Dr. Navalie Ricks and Madam Ruth Ceaser, a former lawmaker, to serve as panelists.
Though Speaker Tyler and his team abandoned the retreat but Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott, Chairperson of the CRC and workforce remainedon the ground. Members of the House of Representatives received the report on the CRC process in Gbarnga through the Office of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
In the wisdom of the Joint Committee, it was agreed that a retreat be organized to enable the committee provide more information or report to Plenary. In the process, they were able to get the willingness of one of the partners of the CRC process – the UNDP, to sponsor what it would take to host the Joint Committee’s retreat. And this came to the attention of the Leadership of the House of Representatives, which agreed that this broad-based consultation is needed.
On August 18, 2015, the National Constitution Review Committee submitted its report to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. With support from UNDP and other key development partners, Liberia embarked on a Constitution review process, completing 73 consultations locally and in the Diaspora (Ghana and USA). Over 10,000 Liberians from the 73 constituencies in all 15 counties and Diaspora participated in these public consultations. 35 percent of these were women. Over 16,000 views were collated which produced over 52,308 suggestions.
25 of these propositions were taken to the National Constitution Conference (NCC) and voted upon by over 500 delegates from various sectors of the Liberian society.
Despite heated debates during the 5-day national conference, delegates voted for example, on the reduction of Presidential tenure from six to four years term; Senatorial tenure from 9 to 6 years; Representatives from 6 to 4 years and of course, the most controversial suggestion legislate Liberia a Christian State as opposed to a secular State.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Edited by Jonathan Browne