The pending national referendum expected to produce a few changes in the Liberian constitution, may appear to be a key determiner to the holding of a free, fair and transparent elections in Liberia later this year.
Propositions spelled out in the referendum have already become issues of serious debate across the country, with contrasting views surfacing at various levels of the political divides.
Bong County Senator and Standard Bearer of the former ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) Jewel Howard-Taylor has embarked on a “Say No To All” campaign in Bong County against all propositions advanced by the Liberian legislature.
Senator Taylor, scrutinizing the various propositions of the referendum, described the five-year residency clause as an exclusionary policy against other well-meaning Liberians whose contributions and participation in the democratic process are important to the country’s growth and development.
She also described the proposition as similar tactics used by former military leader Samuel Kanyon Doe to influence the placement of the ten-year residency clause in the 1986 constitution purposely to disenfranchise key exiled opponents to his regime.
The Bong County lawmaker pointed the reduction of the residency clause from ten to five years is only intended to appease a certain group of people currently exerting every effort to have a comfortable advantage in the electoral process for personal political accommodation.
Commenting on the age of judges, Madam Taylor stressed that at the age of 70, there is no need for anyone to keep grip on power when young people are being trained in their numbers to replace these aging lawyers who have become less productive.
She argued that portion of the constitution can only be changed when there is a major factor that affects the lives of the people, but with the situation at hand, most of the issues to be voted in referendum are not that relevant to the well-being of the Liberian people.
The former first lady, addressing a cross section of Bong County citizens recently in Gbarnga, urged them to vote against the various propositions because they were not in the interest of the majority. She vowed to vigorously campaign across the twelve political districts of the county as she interacts with citizens with one common message- “Say no to all” during referendum day.
Senator Taylor is not the only person opposing the referendum propositions in Bong County. The Executive Director of a local pro-democracy and human rights organization in Gbarnga has also raised his opposition to the pending amendments in the constitution.
Attorney James Sibley told this paper that a group of civil society organizations led by him was preparing to file a writ of prohibition against the legislature and National Elections Commission to prevent the conduct of the August 23, referendum in the country.
The Forum for the Restoration of Democracy and Human Rights Executive Director described the passage of the bill seeking the conduct of the referendum by members of the Liberian Legislature as serious constitutional blunder. He indicated that the pending referendum was only intended to satisfy a few individuals at the expense of the vast majority.
Ahead of the October presidential and legislative elections, Liberians will on August 23, 2011 vote in a referendum to make a change on four major issues.
They include the reduction of the ten-year residency clause to five years, the change in the age retirement of judges, Change in the date of the elections from October to November and the use of the simple majority to determine the election of senators and representatives rather than absolute majority.