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Special Feature

LOOKIN’INSUDE FROM OUTSIDE: The August 23, 2011 National Referendum

A referendum (also known as a plebiscite or ballot question) is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of direct democracy. In the case of our country, Liberia, there are four propositions for which thousands and thousands of us would be voting on Tuesday, August 23, 2001 throughout the country.

The reduction of the ten-year residency clause to five years, simple majority votes, the extension of the age of Supreme Court Justices and Lower Court Judges, as well as the change of date of the general and presidential elections from October to November are the propositions to undergo Constitutional amendment or not in the upcoming national referendum.

These, in the opinions of the crafters of the foregoing issues, may be the flaws in the 1986 Constitution of Liberia. Besides, it is very glaring that our Constitution is clouded with a number of flaws, as well as laws that are not compatible with present-day realities, and to suggest that we go through such national exercise is something worth-wide and commendable.

In actual sense, the idea of conducting a National Referendum in Liberia at this time is in the general interest of all us, but when there are selfish motives at the core of such democratic exercise, eye-brows are raised. Such is the case with the current exercise scheduled for August 23.

While the idea may be welcomed, many are already harboring the belief that it is designed to suit a certain group of people, including those currently at the helm of political power in our country.  It is no secret that the issues we are about to vote for or against are actually non-issues.

Many desirable Liberians would have been very excited had there been such issues as the reduction of the presidential, Senatorial and representative terms, as well as the residency clause not in the current manner and form as being presented to the people of Liberia. This is complete selfishness on the part of those who raised and legislated them, as well as those “bending behind backs”  in total desperation to ensure that the four issues are voted YES.

And sadly for a few young people to allow them to be “cash-driven” towards flimsy justifications for the four propositions, it’s actually unfortunate. These are some of the same young fellows who had always negatively criticized the older folks for “spoiling this country”; and now they are same ones at the forefront carelessly supporting what a few of the older folks have selfishly coined leaving put the most essential constitutional issues, probably under the guise of “no enough funding to do all”.

Though there may be voter apathy in this process due to so many factors, the National Referendum is still a show case. It is expected that many Liberians will indeed turn out on August23, 2011 to vote YES or NO. This, we are assured. But again, the BALLOT PAPER—printed to confuse voters, especially those who do not read or write in our country.

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If one took a keen look at the sample ballot paper, he/she would notice only a box for a proposition on top of which is YES on the left and NO on the right, when, in fact, there should have been two boxes-yes/noes for each of the propositions to make voting easier and problem-free.

It would be of no surprise for us to have so many invalid votes/ballots and many yes votes, if the necessary awareness is not created by all political parties and those of us who have vested interest in the entire process. This is why the call by the Standard Bearer of the Congress for Democratic Change, CDC, Cllr, and Winston A. Tubman must not be headed by all well-meaning “CDCians.

Cllr. Tubman, a lawyer, diplomat, administrator and elderly person must be a political role model other than a bad pace-setter. His foremost concern must be to ensure that CDCians and other supporters of his vote NO to all propositions, since his party has the “number.”

But to ask his partisans to boycott the exercise was very unfortunate and unpatriotic, as well as a complete misrepresentation of the Liberian Presidency. Many Liberians are quite aware of the motives of those who designed the current exercise just as the CDC Standard Bearer.

This is why Cllr. Tubman and George Weah must begin to publicly persuade and motivate their supporters into CDC’s winning spirit to defeat all of the propositions at the ballot box, and not by a boycott. We must all see it as a patriotic duty, in line with the Constitution of Liberia, to turn out on August 23, 2011 to support the National Referendum by voting NO or YES.

Since the National Elections Commission is now telling Liberians that “placing No” in the right box is the same as voting to retain the previous provision of the Liberian Constitution, let give it a trial.

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