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Lawmaker Apologizes to Liberia, Blames Legislature for Referendum Debacle

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Margibi County Senior Senator Clarice Alpha Jah has apologized on behalf of the Liberian Legislature for the referendum debacle unfolding in Liberia. The Margibi  Senior Senator made  her apology on Monday night when she appeared  on the popular  Radio Liberia , a  US based online radio station.

Senator Jah told the radio station that she had just come  from voting in her constituency in Magibi County but accepted the invitation to appear on the station’s “Open Mic ‘ program on the referendum.

In response to a question from a caller who confronted the Senator on the fialure of the legislature to do due dilligence in the processleading to the referendum, the Margibi Senator apologized to the Liberian people on behalf of  the Liberia National Legislature for not doing due diligence. She also said the legiislature failed and was not  thoughtful in  seeking outside and professional help in understanding the  ramifications  and complexities characterising the referendum process. She said  “I will take the whip on behalf of the Legislature for the problems characterizing the referendum”.

Senator Jah said the Legislature didn’t d a good job in soliciting expert as well as the general opinion of the Liberian people while it was formulating the bill seeking amendment to the Constitution. The civic education process, she said, was very poor.The lawmaker said when she got to her constituency to vote Monday morning, the turnout was not only very poor but  the people told her they did not know about the referendum. “I have to talk to some of them and explain what the referendum was about.”, Senator Jah said.

The Margibi lawmaker told  Radio Liberia that she could not provide answers to many troubling questions posed to her by some people who had serious concerns on some issues regarding the entire referendum process..  The lawmaker said some of the complex questions the people asked her were, if they voted in the referendum,could they vote in the regular elections slated for October?  Another issue the lawmaker said that some ot her constituents brought up was the believe that the referendum was only for President Sirleaf’s Unity Partyand Cllr. Brumskine’sLiberty Party;  since they were the two political parties supporting the referendum.

Also, the  Margibi Senator  agreed with a caller who faulted the legislature ffor lacking an understandig of the ambiguities presented in the residency requirement for presidential election. What residenciy meant and its attending excusable circumstances were not addressed in the current amendment proposition. The caller told the Liberian lawmaker that the 10- year resident clause in the Liberian constitution that was also on the ballot during the referendum, is  ambiguous, It  did not define what constitutes being a 10- year resident in the country. The clause did not define whether 10 year meant one should not leave to travel out of the country for any second of his life within the 10 year period or even if one escapes as a consequence of  violence threatening one’s livelihood. How does the residency clause affct those who fled  Liberia as a result of  the 14 years’ war? The caller told Senator Jah that the 10 year resident clause as is now  in the constitution and the 5 years residency clause as proposed in the amendment,do not apply to a Liberian citizen because no citizen is a resident of his own country but rather it is foreign nationals who live in a foreign country and acquire a legal status to live in that foreign country legally. That legal status of being a resident  is the second step to becoming a citizen of a country if a foreign national decides to become a citizen the country he has become a resident of.  The caller further informed the Liberian lawmaker that the 10 year resident clause is in fact giving a foreign national in Liberia the legal right to become president of Liberia but all he or she needs to do is resident in Liberia for 10 years, something which is still ambiguous and they can run and become president of Liberia.

Senator Jah acknowledged that even the new  5 year clause on the ballot does not answer those questions as well and this why she accepts the wipe on behalf of the Liberian Legislature for the referendum debacle.

Margibi Senator said her office is opened to all Liberians and is willing and ready to accept expertise advice and help from Liberians at home and abroad as the Legislature move forward. “If you call on a lawmaker to give him or her advice on an issue and that lawmaker does not listen to you, you can call other lawmakers too like me, I am down to earth person and I will be happy to year your input”, the Liberian lawmaker responded  to the caller who also said he called on the Deputy Speaker of the House, Togba  to offer his advice on the 10 year resident clause debate when it was on the floor for debate, advising him on the inherent  problem it could cause the country but the Deputy Speaker bent on his own  understanding of the clause and did not care to listen to the advice that was being given.

   Senator Clarice Davis Jah is represents Margibi County and a member of the Liberty Party. She is Chairman of the Women Caucus of the Liberian Legislature.

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