-Accuse of Major ‘Constitutional Breach’
President George M. Weah’s request for the Legislature to pass a resolution confirming the newly suggested date (July 31, 2018) for the conduct of Montserrado and Bong Counties’ Senatorial by-elections has annoyed several lawmakers with some Senators accusing the Liberian Chief Executive of breaching Chapter one Article three (3) of the 1986 constitution of Liberia.
Chapter One Article three (3) of the Liberian constitution gives clear description as to the application of the powers assigned to each of the three coordinate, equal, but distinct branches of the Country’s Republic form of government.
President Weah’s latest request to the Liberian legislature came in the wake of the country’s electoral commission (National Elections Commission-NEC) failing to meet the three months’ space for the conduct of the by-election as prescribed in Article 37 of the constitution.
The NEC has since failed to meet its initial May 8 deadline for the conduct of the by-elections in the two counties (Montserrado and Bong), claiming limited financial resources for the effective conduct of such polls.
NEC Commissioner Jerome Korkoya presented a budget of US$3.9million for the holding of the by-elections, but the government failed to meet the Commission’s initial financial ceiling. However, a compromised was later reached between the NEC and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning’s (MFDP) authorities that US$1.8million would be provided instead.
President Weah’s letter to the Liberian Senate: “Dear Honorable Tempore, as you may be fully aware, following the General and Presidential Elections in 2017, two (2) vacant seats were created in Montserrado and Bong Counties, as a consequence of our election as President and the election of the Vice President.
“The National Elections Commission (NEC) has informed us that by-elections for the vacant seats have not been held within the constitutional required period of three (3) months, as provided by Article 37 of the Constitution (1986), due to numerous reasons beyond the control of NEC and the Government of Liberia, including financial institutions.
“Despite these constraints, it is important that we do everything we can to strengthen our democracy and adhere as closely, as possible to the timeframe provided in the constitution. The NEC has already informed us that it is prepared to hold the by-elections no later than July 31, 2018.
“Consistent with the powers conferred on the Legislature by Article 34(i) of the Constitution, and the fact that you are the direct representatives of the people, we request that you pass a resolution confirming the holding of the by-election no later than July 31, 2018, in Bong and Montserrado Counties, so that this process can proceed without undue delay.”
Following the reading of the President’s communication on the floor of the Liberian Senate, some Senators got intensely annoyed and accused him of breaching the Liberian constitution by simply attempting to exalt an illegitimate authority over another branch of government in direct contravention of Chapter One Article three (3) of the Liberian constitution.
“This is not good. This communication is in violation of the constitution, and we must discuss this issue to the fullest because we have three separate and equal branches of government with constitutionally spelled out powers. We cannot have the head of one branch of government instructing the other on what to do,” angry Margibi Senator Oscar Cooper babbled in loud tone as the President’s letter was being read on the floor.
In the view of Senator Cooper and others, the President’s instructional letter for the Senate to approve a resolution confirming the July 31 date for the holding of the two by-elections directly disobeys chapter one Article three (3) of the 1986 Liberian constitution which states that: “Liberia is a unitary sovereign state divided into counties for administrative purposes. The form of government is Republican with three separate coordinate branches: The Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary. Consistent with the principles of the separation of powers and checks and balances, no person holding office in one of these branches shall hold office in or exercise any of the powers assigned to either of the other two branches except as otherwise provided in this constitution, and no person holding office in one of the said branches shall on any autonomous public agency.”