As Legislature Presses for Constitutional Amendments
The National Legislature yesterday ratified four forest management contracts forwarded to parliament by the President of the Republic of Liberia. The contracts, including Atlantic Resource Ltd., Geblo Logging Ltd., Euro Liberia Logging Company and International Consultant Capitol (ICC) were on the 21st day of September 2009 sent to the Legislature from the executive branch of government through the office of the president for consideration.
A report submitted to the office of Speaker J. Alex Tyler by the Committee on Investment and Concession, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Contracts and Monopolies and Judiciary on the four forest management contracts said “In line with legislative traditions and practice, the contracts were referred to the committee on investment and concession, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, contracts and monopolies and judiciary to scrutinize the four draft contracts and appropriately advise plenary for action.”
In the report, the committees further said in furtherance of this mandate, the joint committee convened on the 22nd of September 2009 to begin its scrutiny of the four contracts. At the conclusion of the first session of the joint committee, it was resolved that the joint committee seeks the input of public by inviting stakeholders both from the government and civil society.
Hence, the report said the joint committee conducted a public hearing on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 with eh following persons and institutions appearing and making presentation; Ministry of Finance represented by Assistant Minister Andrew Paygai and the Ministry Justice represented Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs, Sam Russ by; Sustainable Development Initiative represented by Silas K. A. Siakor, Forestry Development Authority represented by its Technical Managing Director one Moses Woabeh , Boakai Sirleaf who is the Deputy Minister of Agriculture representing his Ministry While Loggers Association of Liberia represented by Mulbah Willie , National Investment Commission and the civil society,” the report contained.
It said during the almost three hour public hearing, which was broadcast live, the Executive Branch, represented by National Investment Commission, Forestry Development Authority, Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Finance as well as the Civil Society represented made presentations, requesting the Legislature to ratify the four contracts.
“They justified that the contract were in line with the Poverty Reduction Strategy of government and will purposely jump start the logging section in the forest region the country by providing jobs and contributing revenues to the national budget,” the report said, adding that representations made during the hearing maintained.
Representatives of these institutions furthered that the agreements were negotiated in good faith, and to ensure the welfare of the country particularly taking into consideration the interests and social benefits of the communities hosting the forests.
“On the other hand, the Civil Society organization represented by Sustainable Development Initiative (SDI) made the presentation on diverging fronts. The SDI maintained that the contracts were not accompanied by bidding documents to show various offers and how the winners were selected and that the contracts were not also accompanied by due diligence report to show whether the companies selected during the bidding process have the capacity to manage the portion of the Liberian forest given them under the 25 years contract.
The SDI representative at the hearing, Mr. Siakor, then called on the House of Representative not to ratify the contracts until the four documents are presented to the legislature.
As for some of the loggers associations, they maintained that the bidding process was conducted in free, fair and transparent manner and that document are available and indicated that the companies selected have overwhelming capacity to manage the various forests sector was long overdue and as such was requesting the House of Representative to swiftly ratify the contract so as to revive economic life in the forest region of Liberia.
After a careful and thorough scrutiny of the four forest management contracts and taking into consideration all of the issues raised by the actors, the joint legislative committee established that the revamping the forest sector through logging is belated considering the time interval between the enactment of the Forest Reform Law of 2006 and submission of the second forest contract in September 2009.
According to the findings of the joint committee on the issue of due diligence and bid submission document, Committee held that the bid submission documents clearly established that the amount bided for are exactly the amount stipulated in the contracts, saying that as for due diligence, two key issues were considered in selecting the winners.
The Committee named the two issues as the offer and the financial capacity to execute the offer. “From the documents presented to the committee followed by the joint committee’s evaluation of the all documents, it was established that the four companies selected and awarded the contract met all requirements under the law and have the financial capacity,” the committee said.
The joint legislative committee the submitted its recommendation, taking into consideration that the four forest contracts which also seek to address issues of unemployment, contribute to government revenue generation and build the capacity of local community through the provision of social benefit.
The joint committee having being satisfied with the content of the agreement coupled with the all necessary clarification made, recommended that ratification of the four forest management contracts by the Honorable House of Representative which Plenary endorse.
Meanwhile With the House of Representatives of the Liberian Legislature amending several constitutional articles, the House Committee Chairman on Elections, Representative Gabriel Smith says the amendments made in the Liberian Constitution by the House of Representatives are subject to referendums.
Principal among those provisions amended is Article 83 (b) which by the amendment, states that “all elections of public officers shall be determined by a simple majority of the votes cast except for the president and Vice President” Others constitutional articles amended Tuesday by members of the Lower House of Parliament pending national referendum are Articles 78, 50, 83 (a) and 83 (b) following several weeks of consideration.
The amendments in Article 83 further provided that in the case of the Senate, where applicable, the senatorial candidate who obtains the second highest number of valid votes shall be declared the second winner.
Concerning presidential election in Liberia, the House’s amendment states that if no candidate obtains absolute majority on the first ballot, the two candidates with the highest number of votes on the first ballot shall be designated to participate in a run off.
The House made the amendment on the September 21, 2009. Accordingly, the House’s Committee on Election and Judiciary met in conference with the Senate’s committee on Autonomous agencies with the sole purpose of harmonizing the house’s version of the amendment.
According to the Committee Chairman on Election and Inauguration Representative Gabriel B. Smith, after a length consideration of the following constitution provisions, namely: Article 78, 50, 83 (b). He said the conference is pleased to recommend the following for timely consideration and endorsement by this plenary the attached amended version of the proposals.
Representative Smith noted at the House’s Plenary Tuesday that in keeping with the original version of Article 78, a political party shall be an association of hundred qualified voters in each of at least six counties within the Republic of Liberia, further saying that the article provides that a political party shall be an association with a membership of not less than 10,000 registered voters in a county.
Mr. Smith said Article 83 (a) says voting for the President, Vice President, members of the Senate and Members of the House of Representatives shall be conducted throughout the Republic on the second Tuesday in October of each election year. He said Article 83 (b) all election of public officers shall be determined by an absolute majority of the votes cast.
The Chairman Election and Inauguration Committee noted that if no candidates obtains an absolute majority in the first ballot, a second Tuesday following, the two candidates who received the greatest number of votes on the first ballot shall be designated to participate in the run-off Election. He said the amended version of Article 52 (c) original version say resident in the Republic ten years prior to his election, provided that the President and Vice President shall not come from the same county.
Representative Smith said the Amended version of Article 52 (c) no person shall be eligible to hold the office of the President or Vice President, unless that person is: domiciled in the Republic for ten years immediately prior to his election, provided that the President and Vice President don’t come from the same county.
Mr. Smith noted that the original version which Article (b) which say there shall be election of paramount, clan and town chiefs and mayors by the registered voters in their respective localities, to serve for a term of six years, and they may be re-elected and may be removed only by the President for proved misconduct, and the Legislature shall enact laws to provide for their qualification as may be require.
According to Representative Smith, the amended version states Article 56 (b) there shall be election of paramount, clan and town chiefs and mayors by the registered voters in their respective localities, to serve for a term of six years, and they may be re-elected and may be removed from officer for cause by resolution of two-third majority of members of the council of chiefs and elders at their respective level of office; in keeping with due process of law.
Similarly, Article 56(b), by the amendment, provides that “there shall be elections of paramount, Clan and town Chiefs and mayors by registered voters in their respective localities, to serve for a term of six years. They may be re-elected and may be removed only by the President for proved misconduct. The Legislature shall enact laws to provide for their qualification as may be required.”