Fourteen political parties have boycotted voting exercises of the ongoing weeklong National Constitutional Conference in Gbarnga, Bong County in demand of secret ballot.
The conference, being hosted by the Constitutional Review Committee, is aimed at amending several provisions of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
Its outcome is expected to be forwarded for legislative action that will finally have to go through a national referendum.
But The NewDawn’s staff covering the conference in Gbarnga says 14 participating parties, excluding the ruling Unity Party, walked out of the hall Tuesday where they had assembled for the past few days to debate suggestions proffered by citizens at home and abroad, due to disagreement over the open voting method implored by the CRC.
As at press time Tuesday, March 31, 2015, The NewDawn gathered that the CRC Chairperson, Cllr. Gloria Scott, did not announce any plan by the Committee to halt the process, but she was seen negotiating with 2011 presidential candidate and former CRC member, Rev. Kennedy Sandy, apparently to reach a common ground as political parties have vital role to play in the ongoing process.
So far, religious tension did not disrupt the exercise, except that the Muslim Community of Liberia raised concerns that their demand to have the observance of Ramadan legislated as a National Holiday, was not out for discussion, as some members of the Christian Community on the other hand, demand to have a provision in the Constitution, declaring Liberia a Christian State.
Liberia’s main opposition party Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) and the breakaway Alternative National Congress (ANC) are leading dissenting views against the CRC’s open vote exercise.
ANC chairman Gould, and the CDC’s Vice Chair for Operations Mulbah Morlu, and the rest of the parties are saying they cannot vote in open by raising hands, but they want a secret ballot.
Having walked out of the hall yesterday, the parties’ representatives addressed reporters in Gbarnga and said they will not participate in the process until their demand for secret ballot is settled.
The conference is expected to make decisions on key suggestions coming from a nation-wide consultation that as well as include diaspora citizens’ view.
Among others, Liberians are opting for election of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, reduction of representatives and presidential tenures from six to four years, respectively; reduction of tenure of senators from nine to six years, and also amendment of constitutional provisions to specify age requirements for people seeking the Presidency, Vice Presidency and legislative offices.
Issues of property rights, women and children’s rights, rights for the disable persons, are among roughly 25 counts summarized to be decided at the national conference.
The last time Liberians gathered in the centrally located county to revise the Constitution, was in 1984 when the then leader of the military junta, Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe, constituted a body headed by ex-interim president, Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, which heavily altered the 1847 Constitution, giving birth to the current one.
By Winston W. Parley