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National Referendum set for 2017

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The House of Representatives’ Chairperson on Good Governance has announced that National Referendum will be held in 2017 prior to Presidential and Representative elections. The pending national referendum will be the second in less than six years with the most recent conducted in 2011 prior to the conduct of elections.

Representatives Larry Younquoi and Edward Forh of Nimba and Montserrado Counties told a news conference in Monrovia Wednesday their committee is ready to submit its report to plenary before January 25, 2016, with the understanding that both the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate will complete the passage of the Constitutional Review Committee or CRC, report before April 1, 2016.

The committee said, of the 25 propositions submitted by CRC, only 10 will be submitted to plenary for enactment, excluding the controversial ‘Christian State’ and ‘Dual Citizenship’ propositions.

At a validation conference held in Gbarnga, Bong County between March and April in 2015, Liberians rejected dual citizenship, but Christian delegates overwhelmingly voted for Christianity to become a state religion with strong opposition from Muslims here.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf subsequently removed the Christian State proposition, stressing the importance for Liberia to remain a secular country where all religions can be practiced freely.

Representative Dr. Forh said though the CRC presented 25 propositions, but due to time factor, the Committee on Good Governance scrutinized 10. “Though, there were 25 propositions presented to us for vetting and proper scrutiny but we dealt with ten. Also, it is the right of plenary to demand for the rest and also the senate has that right to request for all,” he said.

The committee which will be conducting its first public hearing on the propositions today, January 21, 2016, declared that by the end of March, both chambers are expected to have completed works on them.

With this, the government is expected to make public the propositions for public consumption and better understanding before voting in 2017. Liberians go to the poll next year to elect a new president and 73 members of the House of Representatives, suggesting that the country would be busy for the national referendum, but Rep. Forh noted that Liberia as a country will decide what is important, taking into account economic meltdown.

“We as a country could decide what to prioritize; if we think the referendum is important, we deal with it or allow it to wait. But we legislators must perform the work of the country and its people”, the Montserrado County lawmaker added.

But the Chairperson of the Constitutional Review Committee, Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott said 2017 may not be a voter friendly year for the referendum, stressing Liberia could decide a better or convenience time for smooth conduct of the referendum.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor -Edited by Jonathan Browne

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