Home Economy 2023 Elections: “We Will Pass The Test” …Weah Expresses Resilient Optimism

2023 Elections: “We Will Pass The Test” …Weah Expresses Resilient Optimism

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President George Manneh Weah says the moment is now for Liberians to continue to demonstrate to the world that “we are a peace-loving nation, and that we are capable and ready to undertake elections that include all Liberians in a free and credible process.”

“Perhaps most significant is that these elections are the first to be primarily organized and administered by Liberia, since the drawdown of the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in 2018. This is our moment, therefore, to continue to demonstrate to the world that we are a peace-loving nation, and that we are capable and ready to undertake elections that include all Liberians in a free and credible process,” the Liberian leader emphasized.

“Not only will our individual patriotism be put on trial, but our institutions of democracy will also be tested. I am of the strongest conviction that this is a test that we can – and will – pass. As you may be aware, I have continuously reaffirmed my commitment to free, fair and transparent elections, and to respect the democratic will of the Liberian people. I remain committed to that pledge,” President Weah assured.

Delivering his Annual Message to the Sixth Session of the 54th National Legislature on January 30, 2023, at the Capitol Building in Monrovia, the Liberian leader, while applauding Liberia’s development partners, chief among them, Sweden, Ireland, ECOWAS, the EU, the UNDP, and the UN Peace-building Fund – for their technical and financial assistance to the electoral process, and for their partnership and collaboration to support the National Elections Commission (NEC), political parties, other national institutions, and civil society organizations, underscored the need for Liberians “to be ready for this defining moment in our history.”

The President’s Sixth Annual Message delivered on January 30, 2023, was in in keeping with the tenets of Article 58 of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, which mandates the president to present his Administration’s Legislative Program for the ensuing session; and report to the National Legislature on the State of the Republic, covering the economic condition, including expenditure and income.

Aggregating the total number of bills passed during the first six years of his constitutional term in office, President Weah pointed out that the 54th Legislature has enacted almost two hundred (200) Acts, covering all aspects of “our national endeavor.”

Among these numerous pieces of legislation, he highlighted a few, which, in his view, were particularly significant. These include, but are not limited, to the following: the Land Rights Act and the Local Government Act in your first session in 2018. According to the Liberian leader, the Land Rights Act has been considered by many as the most progressive pro-community land reform law on the African continent, as it recognizes and protects customary land tenure, as well as women’s rights to land.

He narrated that the Local Government Act has established a system of governance consisting of locally appointed and elected officials, and grants them authority and resources to enable them to cater directly to the care and needs of the citizens in their respective counties, in the areas of health, education, roads, agriculture and other development needs.

“No longer must our people always have to come all the way to Monrovia to get better services, because most of the things done in Monrovia can now be done in the counties,” President Weah told the Nation.

“You passed the Revenue Sharing Law in 2022, to enable revenue-sharing between central and local governments in Liberia. It was designed with the main objective of promoting domestic resource mobilization through fiscal decentralization for local empowerment. In 2019, during your second session, approximately fifty-four (54) pieces of legislation were passed, amounting to the second highest number of bills passed during a single session under this Administration. This is highly commendable, and we applaud you for that achievement,” Weah told the National Legislature.

He mentioned the passage of the Power Theft Law, the Domestic Violence Act, and the Kamara A. Kamara Press Freedom Act of 2019. The Power Theft Law seeks to address the increasing theft of electricity through illegal connections, tampering with meters and with transmission and distribution lines, as well as theft of LEC’s assets, including light poles, wires, and transformers. It establishes a system of prohibitions and penalties to deal with electricity theft, for which, he said, Government intervention and protection is appropriate.

Weah: “Thank you also for the passage of the Domestic Violence Act, which is expected to promote gender equality and protect women and children from domestic violence. This law is intended to reduce the entrenched gender inequality practices which were on the increase in our country. Let me assure you that these laws will continue to be fully and appropriately enforced under my Administration.”

“Let me also congratulate you for the enactment into law of the Kamara Abdullah Kamara Act of Press Freedom, which is a very historic piece of legislation that codifies and decriminalizes free speech, as enshrined in the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.

“With the passage of this new law, we have cast into the dustbin of history all outdated criminal statutes that once restricted freedom of speech. Today, we are proud to see that dozens of newspapers exist, unhampered and unrestricted, along with numerous radio and TV stations that are now flooding our airwaves,” President Weah further indicated.

The Liberian Chief Executive stressed that while there were other significant bills enacted in 2020 and 2021, in the interest of time, I would like to draw your attention only to some of the bills passed last year, which is the year under review.

The year 2022 saw the passage of fifty-six (56) bills, the highest number of bills passed thus far in a single session under his Administration.

Among these were several judicial reform Bills, including a Bill to provide conditions and authority to arrest; a Bill to provide for a new standard on preliminary examination in cases above the trial jurisdiction of magistrates and justices of the peace; a Bill to provide for plea bargaining; and a Bill to provide for the appointment of additional relieving judges.

Together, President Weah said, these Bills have instituted major reforms to our judicial system, and will help to establish trust and give credibility to the judiciary.

Weah: “As our fight against corruption and financial crimes remains paramount, we applaud you also for passage of bills seeking to strengthen our integrity institutions, such as the Amended Central Bank of Liberia Act, the Financial Intelligence Agency Act, the Anti-money Laundering Terrorist Financing, Preventive Measures, And Proceeds of Crime Act, 2021, the new Internal Audit Agency Act, and the Amended and Restated Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission Act.

“Together, these laws will strengthen our anti-graft institutions and minimize the vices associated with corruption and financial crimes in our country. They will also further strengthen our financial sector and make it consistent with international best practices, and will also ensure secure financial transactions in support of our monetary and fiscal policies. Thank you also for the ratification of several agreements with our international partners to provide development financing in support of our budget and infrastructure needs,” President Weah stressed.

He told the Nation that “one of the most significant achievements in support of our call for national unity was the passage of the Dual Citizenship Bill last year, which was the year of our Bicentennial. The moral significance of restoring citizenship rights to our brothers and sisters in diaspora cannot be overemphasized. We now call on the nation that our families from the diaspora must come home and join us in the noble and patriotic task of nation-building, so that we can all continue to enjoy our Sweet and Glorious Land of Liberty, which was given to Liberians by God’s command.”

“Thank you again, Members of this Honorable Legislature, for codifying the 23rd of December 2019 Opinion of the Honorable Supreme Court, making more true the saying that … “Once a Liberian – Always a Liberian.”

While applauding the legislature for the record-breaking passage of these various bills, he reminded members of the Legislature about some “important bills” that are still pending before you, including the following: Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area; An Act to Establish the West African Police Information System; The Statute of the International Renewable Energy Agency; The Legal Aid Act of 2022; The Liberia Corrections Service Act; An Act to Establish the Civil Service Commission; A Revised Public Health Law of Liberia; The Revised and Restated Charter of the University of Liberia; and the International Solar Alliance (ISA) Framework Agreement; just to name a few.

According to the incumbent Liberian leader, these Bills are very significant to the success of our Pro-Poor Agenda Prosperity and Development (PAPD), and we therefore urge you to consider their urgent passage in this Sixth Session.

Weah: “It is our understanding that an affirmative action bill, aimed at increasing women representation in the National Legislature, is being introduced under the sponsorship of the Women Legislative Caucus and our Vice President. We wholeheartedly support this endeavor in our quest to achieve gender parity in our political space, in keeping with international best practices. We therefore urge speedy passage to enable it be signed into law.”

The President further disclosed the he will be submitting additional bills to the National Legislature for its consideration and that the Bills seek to “improve our overall governance systems and structures, enhance our economy, protect our business environment, and create jobs for our people.”
“Under this Administration, a total of twenty-two (22) Executive Orders were issued by me (from Executive Order 93 to Executive Order 114) in order to meet exigencies that could not await the lengthy legislative processes. More specifically, however, during the year 2022, I issued eight (8) executive orders, as follows: Executive Order #107 Suspending Tariffs on Off-Grid Solar Renewable Energy Products; Executive Order #108 Supporting Integration and Access to Social Services and Safety Nets for Refugees and other Vulnerable Populations in Liberia; Executive Order #109 Extending Executive Order #100 Exempting the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC) from Customs Duties on Selected Items. Other Executive Orders issued by me were Executive Order #110 Extending Executive Order #101 Repositioning the National Food Assistance Agency; Executive Order #111 Exempting the Liberia Electricity Corporation from Customs Duty and GST on Generation, Transmission and Distribution Equipment, Materials & Fuel; Executive Order #112 Establishment of the National Railway Authority; Executive Order #113 Suspending Tariff on Rice; and Executive Order #114 Establishing the West African Police Information System,” President Weah recounted.

He further told the Legislature: “As you go through the Sixth Session of this august body and the final year of the first term of our Administration, let us be reminded that, although we have worked hard, there is still a lot more to do together. We must now recharge our energies and re-double our efforts to complete what we started five years ago, in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration, so as to fully realize the goals and objectives of the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development.”

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