-Referendum is not to be like Cote D’Voire & Guinea
President George M. Weah on Wednesday fired several salvos at the opposition community, dismissing speculations that his administration is pushing a hasty referendum to enable him extend his stay in office for a third term.
“Some people say (we are pushing) the referendum because the President wants to act like Cote D’Voire and Guinea to go for third term. But I can assure you, if I were the president who wants to go for third-term and fourth term, then I was going to insist in 2005 that the election result was for us,” Weah told a cheering crowd of supporters in the northern Liberian city of Ganta, Nimba County.
Mr. Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) has always claim that it won the 2005 election that ushered President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf first term in office.
More so, this was President Weah’s first public statement on the heated debate that have greeted the proposed referendum. His Minister of State Nathaniel McGill had been the one debunking such speculations.
His comments come just in days as Liberians are expected to head to the polls on Tuesday December 8, the same day they will be electing 15 new members of the Senate to decide on the future direction of the country through a referendum. Each of the preposition being proposed for a decision is intended to amend different articles within the country’s 1986 Constitution.
The prepositions seek amendments to Article 28 to allow dual citizenship, Article 45 and 48 reduction in Senatorial tenure from the current 9 years to 7 years and reduction in the tenure of Representatives from 6years to 5years respectively. Both Senate Pro-tempt and House Speakers will also see a reduction in their respective tenures from 6years to 5years.
The changes in the Constitution also seek an amendment to Article 50, to have a reduction in the Presidential and Vice Presidential tenures from 6years to 5years. It further seeks to amend Article 83 (a) to change the date of the General Elections from the 2nd Tuesday in October to November.
As good as the prepositions appear, they have not been void of controversies, especially from the opposition bloc, which filed a prohibition before the nation’s highest court last month and are now calling upon their supporters to boycott the referendum.
The opposition have accused the president of breaking the laws and imposing a referendum on a population majority of whom are yet to understand the various propositions or their symbols. These criticisms have not passed the president’s ears without him taking a barbs at them.
“I was on my way this afternoon, I listened to an opposition person. I don’t know his name and even if I knew his name, I will not call his name but I will quote him,” Weah went on. “He (opposition person) said we are breaking the laws of the Republic by proposing a referendum to our people.”
“Now this is the person that wants to be president of a country, goes on radio and says the president is breaking the laws because he is proposing a referendum. Now what is the referendum?” he queries.
This was in direct reference to the chairman of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) Alexander B. Cummings who has accused the National Elections Commissions (NEC) of being in violation of the Liberian Constitution.
President Weah told the crowd that his administration was in no way breaking the laws or in violation of the country’s constitution. Rather, his administration is proposing instruments it believes can help move the country forward and that these were just proposals and it is left with the citizens to decide if it is in their best interest and if that is so to make sure they vote as such by voting “yes”.
He argues that what is lacking in the oppositions criticisms of the referendum is their failures to explain to the citizens what voting “Yes” or No” would mean to them.
For him, the referendum gives citizens the opportunity such as the issue of dual citizenship which would allow Liberians to maintain their citizenship and still hold onto another foreign country’s citizenship.
According to President Weah, the referendum would give citizens the opportunity to reduce the presidential, senatorial and representative tenures.
He argues that a shorter term limit, would challenge the president, senators and representatives to work faster rather than a longer term limit that would make them to be lackadaisical. By Othello B. Garblah