-Over Sen. Varney Sherman’s Bill
By Jackson C. Clay, Jr.
A split Thursday ensued at the Liberian Senate when Grand Cape Mount County Senator, Cllr. Varney Sherman submitted a ‘controversial Bill’ for passage by that august body.
The strong, but intriguing deliberations on the Bill, amongst its stated objectives, to give automatic senatorial post to the loser of the nation’s presidential race in future elections (second placer), as well as giving automatic Representative seat to the vice-presidential candidate on the losing ticket that comes second in the presidential race.
Following the reading of the report in plenary, several senators including Senators Thomas Grupee, Francis Paye, Daniel Nataahn, Henry Yallah and Gbleh-Bo Brown of Nimba, River Cess, Gbarpolu, Bong and Maryland Counties all expressed serious frustrations over the lawmaker’s Bill.
Senator Thomas Grupee of Nimba County said he believes the Bill would cause serious confusion in the minds of the people, thus, wondering over the role of those two persons within both the Liberian Senate and the House of Representatives.
Senators Armah Jallah, Henry Yallah and Stephen Zargo of Gbarpolu, Bong and Lofa Counties respectively voiced that the Bill needs more consultations and proper cleaning so as to provide a clear understanding of its aims and intent before its passage into law, thereby describing the Bill as a ‘shock’ to the Liberian people.
For his part, Senator Gbleh-Bo Brown of Maryland County indicated that he believes the Bill when passed into law, would create more chaos in the country; noting that there would be a power struggle between the President and Vice President elect and the two second winners in an election.
“These two persons are going to rival power with the elected President and vice President. This proposal if passed will have the propensity to create chaos in the country. Pro-Tempt and colleagues let’s understand the implication of the Bill, these persons are opposition to the government in power. I think what we need to do is to encourage political inclusion but not in such form it needs to be explored properly but to make them Senator and Representative automatically, I think it’s a recipe for chaos,” Senator Brown stressed.
“Honorable Presiding, fellow Senators, ladies and gentlemen, I plead with you to kindly consider amending these provisions within our constitution so that we can build an inclusive society and that will bring peace, security and development,” Senator Sherman accentuated while presenting his case to fellow senators.
He said the Bill is largely bordered on inclusive governance in the country which, in his thinking, would produce a space for big losers to have their say in the country’s body politics, moving forward.
“I plead with you to consider this proposal because, take for example; the second placer in a presidential race obtains more than all of us elected here. He or she possesses a huge constituency in the country. Should we just allow these people to go and wait for six years and languish in our society? This is something that I think we should consider very seriously because, our democracy and our nation must evolve and, the only way it can evolve, is for us to begin thinking out of the box. We must think of new ideas that will promote peace, inclusive, security and national development. It will bring stability and development in our country.”
Senator Sherman’s proposition also backed by one group of senators including Sinoe County legislator Jonathan Milton Teahjay who, for his part, argued that: “We have seen democracy evolved in many countries around the world. I believe that it’s a good idea that this Bill proposing, and I want to thank Senator Sherman for this Bill. I can assure you that you have one vote on the passage of this Bill.
“One of the good things about this Bill is that it seeks to provide avenue for major players in our body politics to have a common sense of nationalism,” Margibi Senator Jin Tornorla said while giving his support to the new legislation. Adding: “In this country, there’s a general concept that once a party loses an election, that party sees everything as bad. Often, the opposition never looks at positive things of the government in charge. We must change this negative perception around because this Bill, as I see it, is good in a sense that it will unite the country, and that both opposition and the ruling party will begin to think Liberia hence, we must encourage the proponent of this bill for putting this brilliant idea together.”
After nearly an hour-long deliberation on the Bill, plenary of the Senate voted that more consultations be done on the Bill in order to allow the Liberian Senate takes the appropriate decision on the matter. If agreed and acted upon by the Senate, the Varney Sherman’s Bill will have to go for national referendum for Liberians to vote and make a determination on the proposed constitutional amendments. Already, credible reports gathered by indicate that the Bill may receive overwhelming support from Senators in their next debate, but may face several hitches at the level of the House of Representatives, where it is needed to be concurred with before sending it over to the President for approval.