Saturday, August 7, 2010

Joint Resolution: End in Itself or Catalyst

Source: The Analyst

Written by The Analyst Staff Writer

The government of Liberia issued a legislative Joint Resolution reinforcing existing electoral guidelines and constitutional provisions – despite irreconcilable demographic shifts due to war and slow postwar recovery – to apply in the 2011 general and presidential elections.

ICGL Says ‘Catalyst’; Calls for Accelerated Efforts

The resolution is a compromise intended to get around the current impasse between the Legislature and the Executive on the allocation of the population-per-electoral district ratio, a necessary condition for the holding of the 2011 elections, constitutionally.

Proponents say that solves the dilemma between having an election without legal constituent demarcations and having one with a legal guarantor of a sort.

But not many agree – amongst them is the International Contact Group on Liberia (ICGL), a cardinal stakeholder in the Liberian recovery process. This brings to the front burner the question of whether the Joint Resolution should be an end in itself (a temporary substitute for the Threshold Act) or a catalyst for more legislative enactments prior to Elections 2011. The Analyst, reports.

The ICGL, though took note of the signing of the legislative Joint Resolution last week, has urged the National Legislature to move quickly to reinforce relevant portions of the Constitution in time for the holding of referendums required for the legal conduct of the 2011 presidential and general elections.

Intent of Legislative Joint Resolution

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf signed into law a Joint Resolution of the National Legislature, which from all considerations the government intended to be an end in itself – providing the legal framework for the conduct of the 2011 general and presidential elections.

“The issue of setting the Electoral Threshold has dragged on for two long. It may not be the best document but certainly an instrument that can guide us toward an important exercise to sustain our democracy. The National Elections Commission can now begin the process leading to the holding of successful elections next year,” Presidential Press Secretary Cyrus Badio said of the Joint Resolution during a regular press briefing Monday this week.

He then quoted President Sirleaf as saying that those who may have problem with the issuance of a joint resolution instead of a threshold law must consider the greater picture of what the resolution lent to the process and give their support for a smooth and transparent process.

“Among other measures, the Joint Resolution states that the sixty-four (64) Electoral Districts set up and used by the National Elections Commission (NEC) for the conduct of the 2005 Presidential and Legislative elections shall remain constant,” he disclosed.

But he quoted the resolution as saying that for the purpose of the 2011 presidential and legislative elections, each county would retain the existing number of seats it has in the House of Representatives.

From the government’s standpoint, according to observers, that should end the chapter on the Threshold Act debate until otherwise ordered and open the door for preparatory works for the conduct of Elections 2011.

As ICGL Sees It

But for the ICGL, the release of the Joint Resolution is actually the beginning of what must be achieved in order to hold free, fair, and democratic elections in 2011 to which the international community stands ready to contribute generously.

“Members of the ICGL take note of the signing of the “Joint Resolution of the Senate and House of Representatives on the setting of an Electoral Threshold for the conduct of the 2011 Presidential and Legislative elections in Liberia” and encourage all Liberians to remain engaged until the electoral framework for the 2011 elections, as required by the Constitution, is established.

It strongly urges the Legislature to accelerate the passage of the elections-related provisions of the Constitution to facilitate the conduct of the necessary referendum in time for the 2011 elections,” the group said in a position statement issued yesterday.

The statement, which was signed by ICGL, co-chairs Amb. Kenneth Asare Bosompem of Ghana and Amb. Attilio Pacifici of the European Union, did not specify the “election-related provisions” that must be passed, neither did it say what referendum needed to be conducted prior to the 2011 elections.

But the group said it was necessary that the process leading up to the elections was planned appropriately because the 2011 elections were crucial test to the extent of democratization in the country and to the return to normalcy. It said this would be the case because the pending elections were to be handled exclusively by Liberians under the watchful eyes of the international community.

“Therefore, the ICGL urges the National Elections Commission (NEC) to proceed with dispatch all arrangements toward the successful conduct of the 2011 elections,” the statement said.

The statement said once the group was contented that the electoral process was on keel, it would do everything possible to make additional contributions to costs related to the establishment of legal framework for the 2011 elections. It did not say what it would do if the government failed to put into place the required legal framework.

Background to impasse

The current 64-member House of Representatives is based on the on-the-spot registration of voters and existing legislative representation quota in 2005. It was the best solution to give displaced Liberians and returning exiles, who could not return to their original places of abode, the opportunity to take part in the 2005 legislative and presidential elections.

As the result of that ‘solution’, Montserrado and neighboring counties, which were relatively safe for electoral activities, received lion’s share of the house representatives, with nearly half of the representatives coming from Montserrado County alone.

The representation anomaly, plus the conduct of a population census in 2008 in keeping with Article 39, necessitated the review of the population-per-constituency ratio, thus prompting the introduction of the “Threshold Bill” by the Executive Branch of Government nearly two years ago.

The Constitution of Liberia at Article 80 (d) sets the population-per-constituency ratio at 20,000 based on the 1984 national census and authorized the National Legislature to prescribe a different figure “in keeping with population growth and movements as revealed by a national census; provided that the total number of electoral constituencies in the Republic shall not exceed one hundred”.

Since the Constitution came into force in 1986 not only has the populated shifted dramatically, but also the political subdivisions of Liberia have grown from 13 to 15 as the economic withdrew into unrecoverable coma, overshadowing the genuine need to increase in House representation.

The Representative section of the Capitol Building, a parliamentary building constructed sometime in the early 1960s when there were only nine political subdivisions in the country today carries a burden for 15 counties – with a minimum of four lawmakers complete with support staff.

The question that faces the government is how to increase the number of constituencies and representatives without incurring the additional need of expanding the parliamentary building and increasing the legislative wage and incentives bills.

This has been the bone of contention of the Executive Mansion and the Capitol Building – the former arguing on the side of the need to avoid the opportunity cost for increasing representation and enshrining participatory democracy and the latter arguing on behalf of representation of the people.

More than twice the Executive Mansion vetoed a House and Senate concurrence bill favoring a radical increase in representation, arguing that any increase in legislative representation would put additional strain on national resources and undermine the economic recovery process.

It was to get around the stalemate as the 2011 presidential and general election crept silently upon them that the Legislature signed a joint resolution agreeing to disagree and the President immediately signed it into law, hoping that that would put the debate on ice at least until some conditions in the future reawakened it.

Now the question that remains is what would the government – the Executive and the Legislature – do in the few remaining months, in the wake of the ICGL contention for the proper things to be put into place, that it did not do, could not do, in more than two years.

Whatever it finds to do, analysts says, will be a test of nationhood ahead of the elections that many agree will test Liberia’s level of democratization and protection of sovereignty.

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Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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