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Special Feature

“Legislature Cannot Pass a Statute”…

“Legislature Cannot Pass a Statute . . . , Protest Demonstrations Planned:   A Response

In a Commentary on the debate regarding the CBL Amendment, Mr. Kullie K. Kennedy declares   that the nation’s “Legislature cannot Pass a Statute that disagrees with the Constitution” (FrontPageAfricaonline, February 28, 2014), while a “Conglomerate of Civil (society) Organizations are planning a protest (march over the amended, CBL Act) at the National Legislature on Thursday”, March 6, 2014 (FrontPageAfricaonline, March 5, 2014).

Indeed, the analysis of and intervention by Mr. Kennedy and the Civil Society Organizations of the CBL Amendment is yet another demonstration of the citizens’ interest and participation in debates of issues concerned with public policy that impact on our nation and people; this is an “encouraging phenomenon and a learning process in public affairs”, we wrote recently, elsewhere. However, an understanding of the policy or law, in terms of the reason for which such a public policy or law is made.

In his Commentary of disagreement with the CBL Amendment, Mr. Kennedy provided several constitutional citations, ranging from the doctrines of “Separation of Powers” to “Constitutional Amendments” and others, including United States Supreme Court decisions, with applications of US law. The Civil Society Organizations, in their strong condemnation of the Amendment, generally verbalized, but cited only Article 18 of the Constitution in support.

For the benefit of the “learning process” based on cordial, civil exchange of views, we offer, hereunder, our contrary argument to Mr. Kennedy’s and the Civil Society Organization’s protest march.

First, Article 3 on the doctrine of the “Separation of Powers”; as Mr. Kennedy rightly pointed out, that article says that “Liberia is Unitary, sovereign State divided into counties for (efficient) administrative purposes. The form of government is republican (representative) with three, separate, coordinating branches – the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. Consistent with the (or this) principle of separation of powers . . . no person holding office in one of these branches shall hold office in or exercise any of the powers assigned to either of the other two branches . . . .” (italics mine). With the functions/responsibilities of each and every branch clearly defined with precision by the Constitution – Legislature to makes laws that every citizen in all the branches are obligated to observe and obey; the Executive to enforce or implement all approved policies or laws made by the Legislature; and Judiciary to decide guilt or innocence of all citizens accused of law violation (including members in all branches) and to interpret constitutional validity of all laws passed.

Now, in the case of an amendment repeal, etc. of laws made by the Legislature (as in the case of the CBL Amendment), the Legislature, performs its functions consistent with and in obedience to constitutional provision of Article 29; besides, Article 3 refers to persons, individuals forbidden to perform functions outside of their branch or exercise any of the powers assigned to either of the other two branches. Therefore, there is no violation of Article 3.

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Second, Article 56(a) is irrelevant and does not apply, because it describes whom (the individuals or officials of government) that the President may appoint and the conditions to be satisfied. The CBL Amendment makes or made no appointments. Therefore, Article 56(a) is irrelevant.

Third, Article 43 says that “The power to prepare a bill of impeachment is vested solely in the House of Representatives, and the power to try all impeachments is vested solely in the Senate. When the President, Vice President or an Associate Justice is to be tried, the Chief Justice shall preside; when the Chief Justice or a judge of a subordinate court of record is to be tried, the President of the Senate shall preside”. There is nothing in Article 43 that restricts impeachment as who should or must be impeached.

Fourth, Article 91 provides that “This Constitution may be amended whenever a proposal by either (1) two-thirds of the membership of both Houses of the Legislature or (2) a petition submitted to the Legislature by not fewer 10,000 citizens which receives the concurrence of two-thirds of the membership of both Houses of the Legislature”.  There is, absolutely, nothing in Article 91 that forbids repeals and/or amendments of provisions of this Constitution by the Legislature, as was done by the Legislature. For your information, the Constitutional Review Commission is engaged the process leading to constitutional amendment. Therefore, there is no violation of Article 91.

Fifth, Article 11(c), on Fundamental Rights, provides that “All persons are equal before the law and are therefore entitled to equal protection of the law”.

This Article, as indicated, is one of the bills of fundamental Rights guaranteed of all Liberian citizens, including prominent citizen, Dr. Mills Jones. However, not only that Dr. Jones was not and is not in a court of law charged commission of an offence deemed to be denial of his Rights, but also that RIGHTS are not absolute; enjoyments thereof, are conditional to defined performance in obedience to prescribed law. For example, the right to operate (drive) a motor vehicle is conditional to or requires an operator’s (driver’s) license; one’s very life and liberty (freedom of movement) are conditional to abstention from commission of dangerous crimes, such as murder, etc., obedience to law.

Moreover, given the prevailing condition of the nation’s economy and guarding against abuse of public trust that could lead to or result in massive public dishonesty (corruption), it is reasonable for the National Legislature to review and debate some provisions of the law that created Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), amend and pass such amendment into law. Therefore, the action was not, is not directed at nor a “denial of equal rights before the law”, but applicable to all persons who are similarly positioned as the CBL Governor, Dr. Mills Jones.

Sixth, Article 21(a) provides, as stated by Mr. Kennedy, that “No person shall be made subject to any law or punishment which was not in effect at time of commission of an offense, nor shall the Legislature enact any bill of attainder or ex post facto law”. There is no violation of Article 21(a) provision or any section thereof, because the CBL amendment passed in 2014 takes effect in 2018, four years hence. Moreover, no one, including Dr. Jones, is in court today (February, 2014), charged under the passed amendment. Therefore, there is no violation of Article 21.

Seventh, US Supreme Court Decisions/Law and application of Liberian Law:

Nations, like individuals, are not similarly-endowed with natural abilities/capabilities, nor are they located on the face of the globe in or under like conditions, etc. That is, Nations, like persons or individuals are unlike and unequal in their natural endowments; that that they are unequal and dissimilar in their mental and physical abilities; that they are dissimilar in their earthly locations; therefore, their needs and desires for socio-economic well-being, etc. are dissimilar and unequal; and that in the context of nations, the critical issues are that nations are unequal and dissimilar in socio-cultural homogeneity, education, information, politics, economics/technological development, national unity and security (military capability), etc.

Therefore, recognized, sovereign nations enact and enforce domestic laws and pursue socio-economic and political plans and programs designed to promote, protect and defend their peculiar needs and vital interests. It is for this reason, we belive, that nations may not subject suspects to trial in their courts of law for offenses committed, allegedly or not, NOT within their territorial jurisdiction, because laws made by recognized, sovereign nations are applicable only to the jurisprudence – body of laws, rules of evidence, interpretation, etc. – in the given, sovereign nation.

Eighth, Article 18. This Article provides that “All Liberian citizens shall have equal opportunity for work and employment regardless of sex, creed, religion, ethnic background, place of origin or political affiliation, and all shall be entitled to equal pay for equal work”. However, the passed Amendment is concerned with or in violation of none of the areas indicated. If so, the Civil Society Organizations failed to state.

And finally, if opposition to the CBL Amendment/Repeal of the original provisions of the CBL Act is based on the argument that one of such provisions authorized the CBL to engage in making loans (micro-financing), knowing that a central is not organized and positioned, in professional, conventional and legal terms, then the National Legislature was and is within its constitutional power and authority to amend and repeal the Act, as was done.

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