MOVEE Proposes Reforms
- Wants Constitutional Amendment, ZOGOS Rehabilitated
The Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) has issued a statement over the weekend calling for the amendment of Article 37 of the Liberian Constitution and the rehabilitation and subsequent training of less fortunate youth, famously known as ZOGOS. During a Press Conference at its Headquarters over the weekend in Monrovia, MOVEE acting Chairman Dan Saryee said his party was submitting a public policy suggestion that it believes when implemented properly could greatly shift national development agenda and create new political dynamics. He said the submissions aim at dealing with the financial burden government incurs for the too many by-elections and transforming Zogos into productive citizens.
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Fellow citizens, partisans and members of the fourth estate, we have come to introduce a reform and submit a public policy suggestion that the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) believes when implemented properly could greatly shift our national development agenda and create new political dynamics. These submissions aim at dealing with the financial burden government incurs for the too many by-elections and transforming Zogos into productive citizens.
Firstly, let me extend profound thanks on behalf of the Executive Committee of the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) for the overall conduct of the public by the ruling Coalition Government, ranging from the hot but peaceful exchanges between government and the opposition, public opinions and assessment of government performance and the overall attitude of tolerance in these new political dispensations. This speaks highly of the irreversible growth in our democratic sojourn and we like to salute all actors particularly, the government headed by H.E Dr. George Manneh Weah.
Fellow movers and compatriots, this country was restored to democracy in 2006, about a decade and half ago. Dozens of by-elections have been held alongside with general and midterm elections. These elections are part of the testimonies that can be showcased as success stories for democratic consolidation in Liberia. Over the years, our experiences and lessons learned in the consolidation of electoral democracy has come a long way and has, in fact, placed MOVEE in some revised mood towards by-elections financing. The truth is by-election financing has become a burden on scarce state resources and its handling, poses threat to multiparty representation in the legislature. MOVEE exists to promote not only economic empowerment of Liberians, but to also ensure the prudent management and utilization of scarce resources.
Article 37 of the Liberian Constitution mandates the National Election Commission to organize bi-election when a vacancy is created in the Legislature upon the death of a legislator. In as much as this provision allow for democratic competition among parties, its economic burden on state resources is grossly stressful thus threatening the constitutionality of bi-elections in some cases.
Notable also is the weakening effects Article 37 continues to have on multiparty representation in the legislature – a situation that manifest through elected officials carpet-crossing from one party to the other in between elections. When a candidate contests on the morale, emblem and sometimes the resources of a political party, which translates to an unwritten but moral political contract to serve and represent that political party for the tenure of the post being contested. Carpet-crossing in-between election is not only a bridge of contract, but also contributes to weakening multiparty representation thus undermining this young democracy.
Amid disturbing economic downturn, government is faced with the financing of four bi-elections within the space of four to five months. While MOVEE believes in the democratic competition of candidates, it is unwise to keep spending hard cash on by-elections when there are more compelling socioeconomic issues that could be addressed for the immediate good of the Liberian people.
Since the inauguration of the Coalition Administration, about 7 by-elections have been conducted. These elections may have cost the government close to US$10 million. For example, the recent Montserrado Senatorial and the District 15 by-elections, the government of Liberia invested some US$2.3 million – thus underlining the enormity of financing bi-elections. MOVEE is of the conviction that investment in bi-elections could be redeployed to finance investment in social programs such as youth skill development, economic empowerment that could help to scale up marketers from informal to formal, construct clinics or provide needed medical supplies to prevent curable diseases that are killing our people by the day. To remedy this situation, we should consider reforming that part of the constitution obligating national government in a manner that is prohibitive, either through suspension or referendum.
MOVEE intends to petition the National Legislature for the Amendment of Article 37, which is the ultimate urgency to relieve the state of the attending financing burden of bi-election as well as the threat it poses to democratic development. MOVEE shall recommend in the proposed amendment that any political party that wins a seat should retain that seat for its tenure. When a vacancy is created, under the watch of the National Election Commission, said party should organize an emergency convention to fill the vacancy. If the vacancy was created by the death of an independent candidate whether in the Senate or House of Rep., sub-communities in the District will conduct primaries and the shortlisted candidates will participate in the select/election of the candidate to fill the vacancy; in the case of an independent vacancy in Senate, the sub electoral districts in the county will convene to select/elect a candidate to refill the vacancy. The National Elections Commission will prescribe the procedure and oversee the refilling of the vacant seats.
MOVEE believes that, the revocation /amendment of Article 37 will ultimately strengthen multiparty representation because this will curtail political carpet-crossing in between elections and discourage one party dominance while helping to genuinely consolidate and institutionalize multiparty democratic politics.
Fellow citizens, partisans and members of the fourth estate, the absence of violence doesn’t suggest the presence of a stable society. Our society and the peace remains grossly threatened insofar as affirmative programs and actions are not put in place to address the condition of young women and men who have fallen to the “drug trap”. The “Zogos” as they are famously called, represent a growing segment of lawless population roaming streets and penetrating all of our primary and secondary cities – using every illegal means to make life. Temporary subsidies or a token is not the smartest way to sustainably mitigate this menace.
MOVEE calls on national government to prioritize Zogos skill development in two key areas in the short term. Rehabilitate and train Zogos in tailoring and carpentry and organize them into cooperatives for job creation in all fifteen counties. In line with the Pro Poor Agenda, a legislation should be introduced to direct that all public schools’ uniforms and public offices furniture MUST be produced by Cooperatives of Zogos Tailors and Carpenters groups in each county. MOVEE recommends that government work with friendly governments such as China to secure tailoring machines and machineries for woodwork. If done properly, Zogos would be transformed to productive citizens and empowered to contribute to state building.
Finally, MOVEE is of the conviction that in these times where resources are scarce, governing of the political community can only be impactful unless smart options are made in the manner and form human capacity, and socioeconomic programs are developed.