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CANCEL THE 2005 ELECTIONS AND PLAN FOR THE FUTURE

A sensible proposal to transform Liberia
Presented by: Liberia Contemporees United Patriotic and Strong (Contemp UPS) May 2, 2005

CONTACT: Saa M. McCarthy - USA: (979) 492-5866 / (562) 218-1151; Liberia: 6-524295

If while traveling aboard a train from Monrovia to Voijama it became certain there would be a fatal wreck before arriving at the final destination; would you advise we continue the journey?
Well, "Election" is the train some believe will take Liberians to lasting peace, stability and economic prosperity after more than 20 years of political and social turmoil. But from all indications, this train seems headed for a disaster. Therefore, the current election activities must stop now before they reach the point of no return.

Rather than battle one another in a desperate effort to win an election that is likely to create more division and hardship for the Liberian people and perhaps cause the loss of additional lives, why don't we sit as a family and create a road map that will lead to a relatively smooth transition and a successful recovery? We are talking about a road map that brings relief to the victims and justice for the perpetrators of the atrocities that maimed and killed tens of thousands. Why must we rush into an election when it is clear the country is not yet at peace with itself?

Let us agree to cancel the elections and instead inaugurate on October 15, 2005 a true People's Representative Government (PRG) designed in part to calm the tension and restore harmony amongst Liberians. This partisan, faction-neutral transitional government shall include foreign experts and strive within a period of four (4) years to reform Liberia's current social, political and economic culture. More importantly, it will place emphasis on reconciliation and prepare the country for peaceful elections in 2009.

We strongly recommend this cancellation having taken into account the following issues:

1. Attempts within the past 22 months at stabilizing Liberia and laying the groundwork for a smooth transition to full sovereignty have failed because the warlords and politicians generally were unwilling partners in the peace efforts, and the international community did not act decisively. The current contentious political climate, the fragile security situation, as well as the possibility of weapons hidden throughout the country, do not bode well for holding elections.

2. No one can say for certain whether the person who is elected president in October will not stress sovereignty following the elections, or even demand an early exit of the United Nations Mission, thereby frustrating the efforts of the international partners. This was done in 1998 when the elected government caused the hasty departure of the ECOWAS/ECOMOG. If the international partners are again forced out, which is possible, Liberia will return to the position where human rights abuse, secret killings, rampant corruption, and other criminal acts are seen as internal matters. This could lead to another outbreak of violence which is bound to affect the neighboring countries. What's the likelihood of 15,000 UN troops returning to Liberia anytime soon?


3. Stability will depend to a large extent on the international community infusing huge amounts of cash into the Liberian economy. Considering entrenched corruption and the patent lack of accountability and transparency associated with almost all Liberian governments, including the current administration, will the international community give Liberia the desperately needed cash just because a new government was elected? Or, will the lack of accountability and transparency again prevent reconstruction?

4. Issues of reconciliation and impunity have yet to be addressed. Liberians generally believe justice is the single most important step toward lasting peace. And this can best be achieved through an unbiased legal entity backed by the international community similar to the Special Court in Sierra Leone. The international partners must help in fostering deterrence because it would be impossible for an appointed, or a constitutional government to oversee the adjudication of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Liberia without risking its own survival.

5. With the rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-combatants incomplete and the real possibility of weapons hidden throughout the country, the risk of election-related violence is extremely high. In the absence of a professional army, and with the UN troops in a defensive posture, any armed uprising resulting from the elections could easily spin out of control placing ordinary citizens in grave danger, particularly those residing in areas still under the control of ex-combatants.

6. Evidently, the very same individuals responsible for Liberia's collapse are now dominating the political landscape. Having impoverished the highly illiterate electorate, these individuals are now using their ill-gotten wealth to purchase votes. Should the elections proceed as scheduled, it is likely leadership of the country might again fall into the hands of persons eager to maintain the status quo. As it was in 1997, money, rather than qualification or character, will determine the outcome of the October 2005 elections.

Much has been said about the "coalition of the unwilling" -those unscrupulous individuals with selfish motives bent on destroying the future of all Liberians. But where does one find the "coalition of the willing" -- patriots willing to put aside personal interests and work for the common good? These are the people we are calling upon to rescue our common patrimony. Because an objective assessment of the prevailing conditions in Liberia shows that healing and reconciliation is more pressing than elections. Therefore, it is imperative we seize this moment and start anew rather than continue building upon sinking sand. Liberians need not engage in an election unless the proper structure upon which a viable nation could be built has been installed.

For more than a century, past generations ignored structural defects within the Liberian society. Finally in 1979 there was a major eruption. A year later, the country experienced a bloody coup, as well as the public execution of 13 senior government officials. Neglect and denial by a succession of leaders also contributed to the brutal civil war that maimed, killed and displaced more than a million men, women and children. Liberian institutions must be overhauled as the first step to correcting the inadequacies. With patience and discipline, the current generation of Liberians, in partnership with the international community, could make significant progress in transforming the nation.

Why must we rush into an election when there are major unresolved Constitutional issues? Before casting a vote, why not collectively decide on a reasonable length of time the president and legislators should stay in office, and perhaps resolve the issue of decentralized political power? What steps must be taken to ensure Liberia becomes a nation of laws? Must citizenship be granted only to people of color? What is the best approach to tackle corruption? What plans are there to rebuild the security apparatus? How do we properly equip the large youth population, especially in the areas of education and psychological counseling? Have we a plan for national reconciliation? How can we be certain the government elected in October will not perpetuate itself in power? Why the rush when this time around our friends within the international community are committed to help us succeed at nation building?

As a member of the "coalition of the willing", we believe efforts expended on creating a wholesome functional nation will in the long run produce greater benefits for the Liberian people rather than focusing all our energies on an election.

Therefore, we urge those of like minds to join in calling for the cancellation of the October 2005 elections, and let us together draft a comprehensive proposal for Liberia's transformation.

The "coalition of the willing", must at the earliest, notify the international partners of our desire to extend the current transitional period under a new leadership and a new set of arrangements. And we must request assistance, financial and otherwise, to organize national conferences in Liberia in the coming months to develop the framework for a new transitional government which will include representatives of the international community.

Collectively, we must request the immediate halting of all election activities and ask that funds earmarked for this purpose be redirected toward creating an aggressive agenda for a radical transformation within the next four (4) years.

Below is a draft proposal for review, discussion, debate and expansion by the stakeholders. Hopefully, it will serve as a guide in creating a master plan for the nation's revival. This proposal is intended only to provoke thought and explore ways in which we could heal, unite and forge an agenda for reconstruction. We pray that the international partners will assist in organizing national conferences and bringing together Liberians from around the world to participate in this meaningful endeavor.
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PROPOSAL

THE PEOPLE'S REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT OF LIBERIA (PRG)

Based on a careful assessment of the prevailing conditions in Liberia, we have concluded that the interest of both the citizens and the international partners would be best served by not holding presidential and legislative elections in October 2005. Hence, we propose that all resources be redirected toward creating a road map for establishing a transitional government that will be accountable only to the people of Liberia and the international partners.

This transitional government named and styled The People's Representative Government of Liberia (PRG) shall be inaugurated on 15th October 2005. It shall govern the country for a period of not less than four (4) years; after which time, it shall hand over power to a democratically elected government in January 2010.

With the signing of the Monrovia Comprehensive Transitional Accords (MCTA), the people of Liberia, through their chosen representatives, shall enter into a unique partnership with the International Community (IC) to restore security throughout the country, revive the economy, rebuild the infrastructure, reform all relevant institutions, and install systems that will facilitate a smooth transition to a wholesome functional nation.


MANDATE OF THE PEOPLE'S REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT (PRG):

1. Prepare the country for presidential and legislative elections in October 2009;
2. Conduct elections before July 2009 for all elected positions with the exception of the president and legislators;
3. Commence the restoration of electricity, piped water, and the sewer systems;
4. Commence rebuilding of the economy with full documentation of strategy, goals and objectives;
5. Create fully functional national police and immigration services;
6. Dissolve the existing Army and produce a plan for a modernized ethnically-balanced Armed Forces (Army, Air Force, and Navy);
7. Demilitarize the country: complete the rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-combatants, as well as the resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs); and,
8. Draft a new Constitution to be ratified at a national convention.

The People's Representative Government, as envisaged, shall be structured as follows:

LEGISLATURE
A unicameral legislature consisting of seventy-five (75) members representing the 15 counties of Liberia, as well as fifteen (15) foreign veteran legislators ("Friends of the Legislature") representing the International Community

EXECUTIVE
A Chairman and Vice Chairman shall head the PRG. They shall be assisted by an "Executive Council" -- a team of not less than fifty (50) highly trained foreign technocrats representing the International Community

JUDICIARY
Supreme Court justices and lower court judges recommended by the "Council of Jurists" and approved by members of the People's Legislative Assembly (PLA). The "Council of Jurists" shall consist of twenty-five (25) foreign veteran legal experts representing the International Community


LEGISLATIVE BRANCH: The People's Legislative Assembly (PLA)

The People's Legislative Assembly (PLA) shall have 75 (seventy-five) members representing Liberia's 15 counties, as well as the "Friends of the Legislature" -a team of fifteen (15) veteran foreign legislators representing the International Community.

Each county, regardless of its size, shall be represented in the PLA by five (5) legislators chosen by the citizens. The list containing the names of persons chosen as county representatives shall be presented to the National Elections Commission (NEC) on or before a designated date.

The "Friends of the Legislature" shall serve as instructors, advisors, mentors, consul and colleagues of the Liberian legislators. As a group, the "Friends of the Legislature" shall have one (1) vote, which may be cast at their discretion.

Persons accepting the position of county representative may not seek the chairmanship of the PRG.

County representatives shall not be excluded from participating in the 2009 elections or any earlier election. However, those who wish to run in an election must resign at least six (6) months prior the official start of campaigning.


EXECUTIVE BRANCH: The People's Representative Administration (PRA)

A Chairman who shall be elected by the People's Legislative Assembly (PLA) shall head the People's Representative Government (PRG).

Selection of the Chairman shall be as follows: Persons wishing to serve as the Chairman of the PRG must by a designated date submit to the National Elections Commission a letter stating their intention. The NEC shall publish the list of applicants. And members of the PLA, excluding the "Friends of the Legislature", shall vote for the Chairman. Each county shall have one (1) vote. The person who receives greater than 51% (fifty-one percent) of the votes shall be declared the winner.

The Chairman shall be permitted to choose his or her Vice Chairman who will not be subject to approval by the PLA. However, the Chairman and Vice Chairman must not originate from the same county. Also, the Chairman, with the advice and consent of the PLA shall appoint qualified persons to all positions in government, as stipulated in the Liberian Constitution.

The "Executive Council" --a team of not less than fifty (50) foreign technocrats representing the IC -- shall work within the Executive Branch helping to manage and augment government operations as well as ensure transparency at all levels.

County Executive: In addition to selecting the five (5) legislators, the citizens of each county shall also select a county executive (Superintendent) who shall report directly to the Chairman of the PRG. The name of the person selected as county executive shall be forwarded to the NEC on or before a designated date.

The Chairman and Vice Chairman of the PRG must not be excluded from seeking elected office in the 2009 elections or any earlier election. However, they must first resign their position at least six (6) months prior to the official start of campaigning.


JUDICIAL BRANCH: The People's Supreme Court and lower courts

Person wishing to become a Supreme Court Justice must by a designated date submit to the Nation Elections Commission a letter of intent along with his or her curricula vitae. Upon receiving these documents, the NEC shall be required to publish the list of applicants and submit same to the "Council of Jurists" for screening.

The "Council of Jurists" -- a team of not less than twenty-five (25) veteran foreign legal experts -- shall vet each applicant and select the persons most qualified to serve as Supreme Court Justices. In an up or down vote, members of the PLA shall approve or reject the Council's recommendations. In the case of a rejection, the Council shall submit an alternate. However, should three (3) of its alternates be rejected, the Council may over-ride the PLA.

Apart from screening and recommending Supreme Court justices, the "Council of Jurists", in collaboration with the serving Justices and other Liberian legal experts, shall vet and recommend judges for the lower courts. In an up or down vote, members of the PLA shall approve or reject the Council's recommendations. In the case of a rejection, the Council shall submit an alternate. However, should three (3) of its alternates be rejected, the Council may over-ride the PLA.

For the life of the People's Representative Government, the "Council of Jurists" shall assist in restructuring the Liberian legal system and provide training as well as other related services.

STRUCTURE: the People's Representative Government (PRG)

The PRG shall be structured such that the number of Ministries, Agencies, Bureaus, and Commissions are reduced to ensure a more efficient and transparent operation.

For the life of the PRG, only the following Ministries shall exist:

Ministry of Executive Operations
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Finance
Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Health and Social Services
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development
Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs
Ministry of National Security
Ministry of Labor and Recreation


Ministry of Post and Technology
Ministry of Mineral and Natural Resources
Ministry of Internal Affairs and Information
Ministry of Youth and Gender Affairs
Ministry of Commerce and Transportation
Ministry of Infrastructure Development


For the life of the PRG, only the following Agencies, Bureaus, and Commissions shall exist:

National Police Service
Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization
Office of Budget and Audit
Liberian Electricity Corporation
Liberia Telecommunication Cooperation
Liberia Petroleum Refinery Corporation
Liberia Water, Sewer and Waste Management
Liberian Ports Management
Liberia Broadcasting Services
Commission on Trade and National Investment
Corporate Registry and Licensing Commission
National Procurement Administration


STABILIZATION MEASURES

The UNMIL troops must remain in Liberia at full strength for a period of not less than two (2) years following the seating of the People's Representative Government (PRG); after which time, the force shall be gradually downsized, as the newly trained, fully equipped personnel of the National Police Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Agency are deployed throughout the country.

The PRG shall expend the necessary resources for the creation of a super modern, well equipped, highly effective National Police Service, as well as an Immigration and Naturalization Agency. The existing Army shall be dissolved, as planning begins for the building of the modernized National Armed Forces (Army, Air Force, and Navy), which shall be constituted in 2010 following the seating of the newly elected government.

The national intelligence agencies and related entities must be restructured and equipped to perform at current international standards.

Food production and distribution must be given the highest priority. New roads must be built and the existing road network reconditioned.

The nation's telecommunication systems must be brought up to international standards within the shortest period possible. And the country's borders must be properly secured.

The health delivery system must be modernized and made accessible and affordable. And the national health care strategy must emphasize prevention.

Law enforcement personnel and members of the arm forces must be taught respect for human rights. And the civilian workforce must be sensitized to the issue of sexual harassment. There must be zero tolerance for human rights abuse and sexual harassment.