By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
Since the report that the Supreme Court of Liberia granted a Writ of Prohibition filed by some Liberians, members of civil society and political parties against the holding of the Special Senatorial Election for health reasons, there have been discussions in some quarters for a national “Sovereign Conference “ in keeping with Article One of the Liberian Constitution. The idea of the proponents of this is that such conference that could involve all stakeholders could culminate in establishing an interim arrangement like the ones the country had previously because of the civil conflict. They are arguing that interim arrangement is also necessary now because the Ebola outbreak has made it impossible to hold the special election on time in keeping with the Constitution, and as such, this could render the government illegitimate.
ARTICLE ONE of the Liberian Constitution under Structure of The state, ‘states“All power is inherited in the people. All free governments are inherited by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require. In order to ensure democratic government which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the right at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments.”
Using this provision as their reliance for this sovereign conference, the proponents believe that it is this provision that gives the people the power to decide on issues of national concern, and that it was based on this provision that this country experienced many interim arrangements during the many years of conflict. In their arguments, the outbreak of the Ebola virus has created similar situation that makes it mandatory for the setting of the former interim governments like that of Dr. Amos sawyer, the late Prof. David Kpomakpor, the late Wilton Sankawulo, Madam Ruth Perry and the recent one of the late Charles Gyude Bryant.
While it is true that this provision of the constitution recognizes the power of the people in deciding their own destiny, I feel that it is being misconstrued, based on the recent circumstances. No one can rule out that fact that the Ebola virus thus exists in this country, and as such, it is a threat to the survival of the people, but this cannot be equated to reasons and circumstances that led to the establishment of interim arrangements in the past. Logically, there is no correlation between what led to those interim arrangements and what is obtaining today with the uncompromising virus.
In the past, the issue of interim arrangements became necessary because of the state of anarchy that characterized the years of conflict. The conflict stratified, or in some instances, atomized the country that led to different administrative structures. In short, there was no central leadership, as it is not today, even with the Ebola virus. And so to relate those circumstances and conditions that gave rise to those arrangements is fallacious, far-fetched and has no lace in the realm of logic for which anyone should be speaking of interim arrangements.
Let me say that I respect the rights of those individuals to speak out on national issues; my point is that I differ with them by trying to unrealistically and illogically equate those things that led to interim arrangements in the past to what is obtaining today. I maintain; this country has a central government and is not ungovernable, for which there should be an assemblage of its people to decide any interim arrangements.
Again, like in the past, the civil conflicts or war undermined the governance system, as those conflicts incapacitated seating administrations to exercise control and power in the affairs of the entire country because of the occupation or existence of former warring factions in parts of the country, making it impossible for a cohesive administration. As such, it became necessary to call for interim arrangements. However, today, this is not the same facts and circumstances for which there should be any call for sovereign conference for interim arrangement.
There can be no argument that Ebola has caused setbacks in many of the country’s programs, as well as the decimation of some of its citizens, notwithstanding, it has not affected the governance system, as the three branches are still functioning, with local administrations still intact. With this, why then is the reason for any sovereign conference for interim arrangements?
Conversely, I would be a supporter of sovereign conference to reinforce the health measures to curtail the spread of Ebola, and subsequently get it out of this country, and not a sovereign conference to replace this democratically elected sovereign government by the people in keeping with the rights of the people to choose their leaders. We should not do anything to thwart the democratic process, as interim arrangement is completely diametrical to the democratic process.
As I conclude, let me emphatically state that those conditions and circumstances that necessitated interim arrangements do not exist now, therefore, there is no ground for advocating this, when there is no threat to the governance system.
Yes, Ebola is here and is killing citizens; nevertheless, its existence should not lead to change in government; more so, when the war against driving it out is seemingly gaining ground, with less reported cases, as compared to the last two months.
By now, we should be patting ourselves on the back for making efforts against Ebola, rather than talking about sovereign conference for interim arrangements. Those involved in such campaign should rethink and direct all efforts to kicking Ebola out of Liberia.
Until we realize that Ebola is still resolute and adamant, we must therefore combine all efforts collectively to defeat it; I Rest My Case.